We’re excited to introduce the first writer from our new WRAG Journalism Fellows program!
The writer is an author of Voces Sin Fronteras: Our Stories, Our Truth, a graphic memoir collection by teen immigrants of the Latin American Youth Center. Books were produced in partnership with Shout Mouse Press, a local nonprofit writing and publishing program. Proceeds from book sales support a scholarship fund for immigrant youth in Greater Washington. Learn more here: shoutmousepress.org/layc.
By Looking Owl
WRAG Journalism Fellow
This piece was originally published in the Daily WRAG.
My name is Looking Owl. That is my whole name, and I am 16 years old.
I am from El Salvador, from a rural community with huge hills and steep mountains and deep rushing rivers. I lived there with my mom. She is adorable and eloquent. My grandmother and cousins lived there, too. The moments that I spent there, in my hometown with my family, I will always remember and cherish.
But it was also hard to grow up in my hometown. Young people like me did not have access to higher education. The only opportunity we had was to work in the fields, just as our parents did, and our grandparents. I wanted more. I was studying, doing well, and had dreams of going to university to become a doctor. But some days those dreams seemed impossible.
My town was infested with bad people who tried to force us to get into drugs and crime. We felt threatened. Every time I heard about young people being beaten, or assassinated, I felt the fear that I could be next.
One day, everything changed. My father decided to go to the U.S., and he wanted me to go with him. He told me that in the U.S. I could study and accomplish my goals. He said it would be good for me, to escape the challenging situations of our country.
I had never thought about leaving. But the circumstances gave me no other choice.
After that, suitcase in hand, we left behind our dusty rural town. We were on our journey, chasing the so-called American Dream.
From time to time along the way we called home to chat with my mom. She always sounded like she was crying, and that was understandable. Miles and miles separated us, and I am her only son. When I said goodbye, though, she did not cry. She knew how excited I was about opening this new door. She told me, “I will be crying of happiness when you, my son, accomplish your goals. I will be so proud.”
That was over 2 years ago. I have not seen her since. But every day I tell her good morning in my mind. The only thing I know is that I have to do my best to be a good man, to make my mother proud.
I am in school here in Washington, DC right now, on the path to my goals. I am really happy with the people I have met, and I am learning English. I would rather embarrass myself every time I speak than to face again the danger I left behind. My graduation year is in 2020. I will be full of joy on my graduation day, because I will know that all I have been through has been of benefit.
You may wonder: What is it like to be an immigrant here, now? From my experience, it is not easy. You feel the financial pressure, even when you have family who work three jobs. It is not easy when you are a student who does not speak English. You are running against a clock to enter university while also just trying to survive. You are always wondering, What’s next for me, tomorrow? It is not easy.
It is painful, too, when you feel discrimination by people. Sometime I wonder if perhaps those people did not receive love themselves, and so they have grown a rock in their hearts. In their minds, a cloud reigns. Our pain seems to be the product of not understanding.
I ask myself: How can we remove the impediments to understand each other? Can we talk about the reasons we had to migrate, and seek solutions so that people everywhere can be safe? Can we help the children of the world, like me, have opportunities to improve our quality of life? None of us want to be separated from our families. Our world is wounded. Can we talk about that?