Stories from the past

January 19, 2021

Looking back on the ordeal, José realizes that, at the moment of his crossing into the U.S., his subconscious was working against him. Stories of apprehension and deportation near the Rio Grande had made the rounds in Guatemala, and those stories instilled a sense of fear in him that he would be unable to ignore.

In his new community in California, immigrants routinely shared their experiences crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Soon after arriving at his new home in the Bay Area, José learned that his siblings’ crossings had not been without setbacks. 

In an emotional conversation, José’s brother detailed how the pair of siblings crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. José’s brother, an able athlete, struggled with the strong current of the Rio Grande, and due to the rough conditions, he eventually was pushed underwater. José’s brother, gasping for one last breath of air before he was plunged into the watery depths, caught the attention of fellow immigrants, who helped pull the boy to safety. 

After the harrowing river crossing, José’s brother and sister continued their journey to the Bay Area. In a journey that took six weeks to complete, food and water sources were few and far between. The pair encountered appalling conditions during their walk through the desert region of the American Southwest.

“They encountered the corpses of people who had perished on the journey before them. To sleep, they had to huddle together so they wouldn’t freeze to death,” José said.

Once José’s siblings reached the Bay Area, they were reunited with their father, with whom they shared a tearful embrace. José relishes in telling this story, an example of the family’s determination, but he now realizes the dangers he faced during his crossing of the Rio Grande. On that fateful day, he was blissfully unaware of the trials and tribulations his siblings had faced and of the dangers that lay before him.

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