Testimonies

Testimonies about the experiences of refugees can be found here.

An Open Letter to a Costa Rican

Gracia | 11/12/2018


Dear Costa Rican,

I’d like to share about my experience as an immigrant in your country. Perhaps my story can help you understand more about who I am and the differences we encounter:

When you see me, don’t be suspicious of me because I am a refugee (or seeking refugee status). I did not flee
from my country because I did bad things; I left because of what they did to me. If you see that I am frightened
(or even flee) when you or another person approaches me, it is not because I have bad things weighing on my
conscious; it is because I come from a very violent society. I learned, since I was young, to distrust other people.

Don’t be angry with me, because – just like thousands of other refugees – we did not come to take away your
job opportunities. But don’t miss that we have to take the hardest and most poorly paid jobs, because we too
have needs that we must cover. The majority of us left our countries very quickly, without time to plan, without
time to get money outside of what we had at hand.

Don’t discount me when I don’t understand what you say to me. It could be for two reasons: I am learning your
language (which is very different from the one I grew up with); or, although we speak the same language, we
have different local vernacular and idioms (we know the same things, but we say them in a different way; we
can use the same words, but we give them different meanings). It’s not that I don’t understand because I am
dumb; it is that until recently, your cultural context and my cultural context were very different.

Don’t make fun of me because I don’t abandon my traditions; since although I understand that I live here now, I
want to preserve my racial and cultural identity, even if it is just a small piece.

Don’t judge me by the bitterness that fills my soul. It’s that I haven’t gotten over the awful things that I lived
through before leaving my country. If you were to experience all the things that have happened to me, your soul
would also be fragmented into many pieces, so much so that you end up not knowing who you are. It would be
better if you help me find new reasons to get back my hope so that I can begin to be happy here, in your land.

Don’t look at me with revulsion, nor with pity. I did not come to your country in search of an economic dream,
nor to improve my social status. Many people who now are refugees, we had homes, work, and our own
businesses. But they were taken from us – or we had to abandon them quickly – because our lives were in
danger. After having had a full life as a result of our own effort (or our family’s), now we do not even have the
most essential items.

Don’t ignore me when, in the street, I ask you for directions or I don’t understand where you send me. I don’t
have any idea where your reference points are located to orient myself. The streets and buildings that for you
are normal, don’t even exist in the maps in my mind. It is as if you are speaking to me in another language.
Also, don’t reject me just because you don’t understand the term “refugee.” You cannot imagine how hard it is
to live in a strange place; where you don’t understand the traditions, nor the significance of the words. Where
you don’t know anyone who can guide you or direct you on where you should go; or what you should or should
not do; and where people reject you simply based on fear or ignorance.

When you look at me, see in me a human being who is desperate to put down roots, that would allow me to feel
that, once again, I belong somewhere.

Offer me your friendship, so that the loneliness and the longing for my home, and the loved ones that I left
behind, would begin to be less difficult.

But above all, allow me to live in peace in your land.

It is not much that I ask, but my gratitude will be forever. And, when I regain control of my life and the strength
of my heart, I will return your friendship and I will help your nation grow even more. And one day, my descendants
will be strong pillars in your society. Not only will the desire for personal betterment guide them, but so will their
gratitude towards a society that showed them humanity and solidarity.

 

Sincerely,                                                                                                                                                                                                    

 

(a Salvadoran refugee in Costa Rica)

 

 


‘El Deportado’ (The Deported)

La Muna | Corazon Norte | Published 10/12/2018


“This blow that gave me life; I do not know what I’ll be paying, but I think something is paying.

It is a strong blow for me. I think for my wife and my children too.”

Now what do I do if I am deported?
They have shot me twenty times to the heart.
With the mind in pieces, and the feet blistered.
Now what do I do if I am deported?

Now what do I do if I am deported;
and the children ask me where I am.
When does daddy come home?” How will I return?
Now what do I do if I’m deported?

Does God tell me what I am paying, to pay for it?
What should I do? What offense did I commit?
You gave me four children. I’m dad for them.
Tell me then what do you want me to do here?

If I cross the hill, there is the mafia.
If they grab me, they’ll kill me for sure.
If I lose myself, I am without water; or the border patrol reaches me.
If I do not cross, I’m a ‘coward’, ‘mal papa‘.

There is no shame that I have not passed.
I am willing to endure everything.
For me to see my family until life would give.
For the hill I will have to cross.
For the hill I will have to cross.
For the hill I will have to cross.
For the hill I will have to cross.


El Deportado (The Deported) Interview

Kino Border Initiative with La Muna | Published 10/12/2018