Exile for Yedel

Exile for Yedel

by Ruth Alemu, December 2013

Has it ever boggled your mind why people want to leave their counties and struggle through different cultures just to start a whole new life? Or have you ever wondered why some people don’t just work hard in their own countries and better themselves? Well, people leave their families and countries to find better life, peace, freedom, money or love. A conducted interview with an immigrant named Yedel Sew, who currently resides in the Bay Area, explains why people are exiled to other countries. Yedel Sew is from Ethiopia and grew up in a good neighborhood in the historic city Bahir Dar. He was exiled to the United States to find freedom for himself because he was punished for criticizing the Ethiopian government about forbidding the freedom of speech and the choosing of one’s own political party. For a long time, he had refused to give in to anger or exile; instead, he resisted the government threats.The government accused him of being a terrorist when they found out that he was working with the opposition political parties to bring about a fair democratic government. Despite the fact that no accusation had evidence, many of his friends were imprisoned and killed. Yedel wanted to leave the country when he realized that most of his friends had been thrown in jail or killed. According to Yedel, the torture was extraordinary; for instance, the males were forced to carry and pull heavy weights tied on their genitals until they pointed out one of their political member. For this reason, Yedel left his country and exiled himself to the United States of America (USA), and suffered through lots of misery. He left his good job, family and fiancé behind. His exile to the US was more devastating for his fiancé and his mother, not only because he was their source of income but also they couldn’t flee with him. During his journey, he was hungry, slept in refugee camps, was imprisoned, and almost lost his life while he was traveling on a boat. Although arriving to the US seemed to promise a life with freedom, being an undocumented immigrant made it difficult to find jobs and start a new life all over again. Until he acquired legal papers that allow him to stay in the US, he worked under the table, which was difficult for him because employers often felt free to pay him low wages and ignore dangerous conditions since he had no legal way of complaining. Along with significant language and cultural barriers, exile left him with a lengthy bureaucratic procedure until he established his new legal status. People that are facing political problems in their counties, like Yedel, should exile themselves to other countries in order to gain freedom regardless of encountering multiple setbacks and struggle during the journey because it will help them live better lives.

Being a refugee from third world country was challenging due to the rising of anti-refugee sentiment in many industrialized countries; the journey to the US was not as smooth as Yedel assumed. He started his journey from Ethiopia to Cuba with legal visa (a passport), but from there to the US, his passport was useless not only because he was travelling by car and boat but also because he was coming from a third world country, which didn’t guarantee him a pass or respect. He described how he left his passport in Ecuador: “I threw away my Ethiopian passport since it is no longer helping me to transfer, because I couldn’t get any visa with Ethiopian passport” (Yedel). Having an Ethiopian passport definitely prevented him from getting a visa because most of the people from third world countries are running from their homes scared of war and poverty, like him. His long travel includes the countries Cuba, Ecuador, Colombia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and lastly, the United States. Yedel and his two friends started the big journey together without any knowledge of where or how to go. Eventually, they contacted some smugglers to assist them through their journey. Besides the payment paid to the smugglers, they had to bribe the officers every time they got pulled over. He wrapped a stack of pesos with a U.S. dollar and handed to the police officer to make it look like a lot of U.S. dollars because he couldn’t afford to pay them in dollars every single time they pulled him over. Long drives, walking, staying in refugee camps and being thrown in jail without knowing for how long they would be kept, the journey was extremely distressing. There was a time when Yedel almost lost his life; he was trying to cross the border between Colombia and Nicaragua with a small boat made out of wood that carried around fifty people without any access to restrooms. He says, “The smugglers told us we will arrive in two days, but it took us eight days. We were lost in the middle of the journey and the boat run out of gas, so we put bed sheet to move the boat with the help of wind. The phone inside the boat stopped working; they said no battery. Also, we were moving without any compass and we didn’t eat anything else except one apple a day” (Yedel). It was a life and death situation for him to be in that boat because there was lack of basic survival necessities such as food, water and restrooms in addition to getting lost in the middle of nowhere. The boat was overcrowded, making it potentially dangerous, but they continued with the journey. The trip lasted days; the waves were high and they suffered more when the motor stopped and they began moving through the help of the wind. When they finally reached land, it was like liberation. Even though being from a third world country was a setback on his journey, he felt liberated when he reached the freedom land.

Although Yedel wanted to stay in Ethiopia, the government dictatorship made him run from his country due to the fact that there was no equality between ethnic groups and also political difference was not accepted. While he was in Ethiopia, freedom of speech was like a dream. The dictator leader wouldn’t let him live because he was against the system. He explained his experience in anger: “While I was in Ethiopia I had a very nice job with the field I graduated and I had a good life. But I have been jailed and beaten around three four times only because I was spoken the truth during community meetings. When you say I need freedom, they will look for trouble and beat you up” (Yedel).  The so-called “Democratic Party” controls the country. If a person talks about what is wrong and what is right, that person will end up in jail. That is why an independent and ambitious young man like Yedel could not live in Ethiopia because he believes in speaking out. He fought not only for himself but also for people who can’t fight for themselves as well. In reality, he doesn’t have security or the guarantee of his life because they can throw him in jail any time. Hence, Yedel left his country even though he wanted to stay and do something tangible to improve his country. Before he left, Yedel was becoming wealthy because of his hard work, but the ruling party was not happy with what he was getting and wanted to destroy him. In the 2005 election, Yedel and his friends participated in the opposition political party. The idea was to push the government to have a free and fair democratic election but the government was harassing the opposition parties and was using systematic political control, which made the election difficult. At that time, the majority of the people were supporting the opposition party, so, if the government didn’t want to have a fair election, they wanted them to give up power peacefully but when the government found out about their plan, they put his life in danger. Yedel fought until he couldn’t take it anymore; however, waiting for his death was not possible for him because some of his friends got imprisoned, tortured, were deprived of sleep and food and lastly killed. Given these actions, Yedel left his country in order to flee from extreme and almost humiliating politics.

Knowing his basic rights helped Yedel to gain his freedom, yet many times he was denied it. While crossing a border, there was moment when they put him in jail without letting him know how long he had to stay there. They were caught at the Nicaraguan border by the border police and imprisoned for forty-five days. During those forty-five days staying there caused a lot of suffering; the food was not etable, the hygiene was bad and they were sleeping on the floor. Because of the bad treatment they received, Yedel and his friends planned to do a hunger strike in order to fight for the basic human rights they were denied. The hunger strike went very well as he explained, “We didn’t eat for eight days while we were in the journey and again we did four days food strike, so some of the people got constipated and sick. Normally, they are not allowed to have under age prisoners in the facility but one of the guy that fainted was not even eighteen. They were scared of being sued so they begged us to eat and promised to let us go” (Yedel). This shows that they knew this strike would attract human right fighters’ attention, which in the end helped to free them. Besides, the guy who fainted was not even eighteen years old; thus, he was not supposed to be imprisoned with them. Fighting for their rights allowed them to continue their freedom journey. Then, Yedel and his friends left Nicaragua because the Nicaraguan government asked them to pay for every night they stayed at the camp. As they had planned already, they continued their journey to the United States and left Nicaragua. In the book Underground America, a collection of the narratives of undocumented immigrants compiled by Peter Orner, a storyteller, Abel, was abused by his employer but knowing his rights and fighting for it saved him from abuses. He said, “Some of us are more comfortable speaking up about our rights—we know what we are entitled to. We speak to Americans, people who do have papers, people who work at organizations, people who can do something for us. The bosses of the companies are afraid of these organizations because they support us” (Orner 132). Even though he didn’t have legal papers to stay in the country, knowing his rights helped Abel to fight for himself. Yedel did the same thing too; he stood up for his rights, looked for organizations to fight for his right. Therefore, knowing his basic human rights minimized the suffering during the exile.  

Although Yedel felt ambivalent when he discovered that his expectations about the United States were unrealistic, he was happy because he gained freedom, which was the center of his journey. Life in The United States started out great for him though it was not as he expected. Although the job market and the economy was not as good as he expected, he did not complain since his main reason of moving to the US was to gain freedom. He said, “The main reason I exile from my country is because of freedom so I am okay with any economical or personal disappointment like missing my family. I was not respected in my own country but I am living here freely. Nobody touches you” (Yedel). While he was in his country, he had a good job but in the United States, because of his legal status he wasn’t able to get a better job and he was a little bit disappointed by that; plus, by the time he arrived in the United States, the economy of the country was not in good condition. The other thing that makes him disappointed is missing his family; in fact, he can’t reach his family any time soon. Yedel has missed not only his family but also his longtime fiancé who he was about to get married to within a month before leaving the country, but he was waiting for her to graduate. He was preparing for their wedding but sadly he had to leave right away to avoid putting his life in danger. During his journey, he couldn’t communicate with her because he was not in good condition either. That created a big gap between them and it was too late to fix the problem because she got married and had kids. She couldn’t wait for him since he was not able to go back to the country. Yedel said, “It is hard to get that kind of love right now. I don’t have that kind of satisfaction and happiness right now.” He loved his fiancé too much and can’t bring the old time feeling and satisfaction with anybody else.

Things haven’t gone smoothly with his family either; the family business that he took care of is now out of service, and the cafeteria he owned was sold to cover his expense in the United States. His family is not at the same economic level; his brothers got fired from their jobs because they were working for a government office and, since they are connected with Yedel, the government took revenge on them. After four years, one of his brothers started working some low level jobs even though he is a graduate from the university and had been working for long time. Yedel was full of anger when he talked about the crises in his family. He couldn’t support and provide his family like before because in the United States the working situation is different. He doesn’t have motivation like before when he used to go to school while working long hours and taking care of his own business. He said that he was taking care of all that responsibility just to get rid of the stress he had in his country. More or less, he is happy in United States, though he is not in the position that he supposed to be. Altogether, Yedel lost three major things in his life: his family’s economic status, his job, and his fiancé.  But freedom has balanced all his losses.

Even though it’s hard to predict the future, Yedel believes change will come through time with the help of an endless effort. In the future, Yedel has some expectations for his life and has already planned to do lots of things in the coming New Year. He wants to go to school, work hard, start a family in the United States, and help his country to gain a free media because the ruling party controls most of the media. His passion for his country is still fresh. Surely, he wants to participate more in politics; so far, he writes articles and gives donations every month to private medias organizations because he believes the media plays a big role in politics. The Ethiopian government has banned almost all private media outlets for reporting facts about the government’s hidden actions. “The Anointed Leadership,” an article written by Makau wa Mutua, shows the current image of Ethiopian journalism: “Human rights groups estimated that over 60 journalist have either been imprisoned, detained, or are awaiting trial for being critical of the government” (Mutua 2). Government authorities have imprisoned journalists on a mass scale on terrorism charges only for speaking of the truth. Only government medias can talk about politics; around twenty non-governmental magazines have been closed but four private magazines are still open only because they allow the government to manipulate their messages. They will not report reality; they do not talk about the people who are lost in the dessert while trying to escape from the country. Even though he lives from paycheck to paycheck, he knows that, if he contributes something, it will help a lot. He said, “I support the media because I want to know what is going on in my country and the only means I can get that report is from the private media. I cannot forget about my country. I will not sleep until I see freedom in my own country like other countries” (Yedel). This shows the last ultimate vision of Yedel is to see the free flow of information and freedom of expression without the influence of political units. Ethiopia lives in a world where information is literally fabricated for the people as truth but nowadays bloggers play a big role in spreading information. Yedel helps these bloggers financially. One of the anonymous bloggers said in the articleThe Hazards Of Dissent,”“The blog carried reports and analysis of the trial of opposition leaders. In some cases, international human rights group like Amnesty International have followed through the leads in my blog and demanded the government stop its human right abuses. Under pressure, the government released some prisoners and closed torture chambers” (Zagol 62). Not only do the bloggers increase the flow of information but they also help justice to be served. Therefore, because people like Yedel supported the media, for example the blogger mentioned above, the increase of the flow of information has brought the government to reconsider their decision, which fulfills Yedel’s hope for change.

 In conclusion, although people like Yedel go through multiple setbacks and struggle when they flee from their countries due to political problems, finding freedom and living in a country where freedom of speech is respected brings feeling of accomplishment in life. Migrating would also allow others like him to continue helping their countries as he has with the support of media as mentioned in the above paragraphs. On the contrary, others may think that, instead of fleeing from one’s country, one should stay and face the problem in order to solve it. People like Yedel do not choose to flee from their countries to make money or to relax; instead, they are exiled to the US to spare their lives from ending up like his friends—imprisoned or killed.   

 

Work Cited

“The Hazards Of Dissent.” Index On Censorship 36.4 (2007): 59-63. Academic Search Premier. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.

Mutua, Makau wa. “The Anointed Leadership.” Africa Report 39.6 (1994): 30. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.

Orner, Peter, and Tom Andes. Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives. San Francisco: McSweeney’s, 2008. Print.

 

 

Advertisements

From Nicaragua to San Francisco: Mercedes’ Exile and Home

How Did The Civil War in Nicaragua Exile My Mother Mercedes From Her Own Country, and How Did This Force Her To Find A New Home?

By Judith Mendoza, May 10th, 2013

It is hard to live in a country that is at war, and even harder to live in a country that is at war with itself.  There were many civil wars in Central America during the 1980’s, which left many people in those countries with no choice but to flee their countries for fear of their lives.  The second Civil War in Nicaragua was no exception; in fact, it was the second war that served as a starting point for the surrounding countries in Central America to have civil wars.  I mention Nicaragua, because that is where my mother is from, and I specify that it is the second civil war, because there were two wars that were very close to each other in time.  The first was the Liberales (Liberals) against the Conservadores (Conservatives), and this war ended on January 22nd 1966, when the Liberales killed thousands of innocent people by shooting out of helicopters.  The second one was when the Guerillas, which are now called Sandinistas, rose up against the Somosistas, which were with the dictator Somoza, and which were also called the Guardia (the Guards).  This is the war that caused many people to flee from their homes and families in Nicaragua for their safety, including my mother and my six older brothers and sisters, because from both sides of the fight, my mother and her family’s lives were in danger.  I conducted an interview with my mother, Mercedes Mendoza, and during the interview, she told me about her struggles and the fears she went through and experienced on the last days leading up to her leaving Nicaragua.  When there is a civil war, both sides suffer and cause suffering, because they are not fighting against other countries, but amongst themselves.  In Nicaragua’s case, both sides were causing harm to the people, which caused my mother to be exiled from her country in a way, and forced her to find some other country and home to  “hang her hat.”

My mother, Mercedes Mendoza (which is not her full name, as she wishes that her full name remain anonymous), was born in Managua, Nicaragua in the year 1951.  From the time she was young, she knew only war, because in Nicaragua she survived two wars, and an earthquake that according to my mom “leveled” Nicaragua, which means that most if not all buildings fell.  She fled Nicaragua with her oldest six children in June of the year 1982.  She fled after the FSLN (the Sandinista front) entered the city in 1979, because it was rumored that things would get worse, and they did after the Sandinista movement took over.  She fled to United States, because this is the closest country that she could travel to where she had friends that were willing to help her and her six children escape the wars in Nicaragua.

The Guerillas, which were the guerillas that fought against the Guardia, the National Guard (Guards), where a group that called themselves Sandinistas, and their political group is called FSLN,  “Frente Sandinista Liberacion Nacional,” which translates to Sandinista National Liberation Front.  They got their name  “Sandinistas” from a hero of theirs named Augusto Cesar Sandino.  Sandino was a hero, because in the 1920’s he rose up against the U.S. Marines that were occupying Nicaragua, and believed in power for the people.  In a book called  Democracy and Socialism in Sandinista Nicaragua, Harry E. Vanden and Gary Prevost bring in a quote from Humberto Ortega Saavedra, in which he states:

“We could say that we did not invent the fundamental elements of our liberation ourselves.  The vanguard gathered the ideas from Sandino, from our own people, and this is what enabled us to lead the people toward their liberty.  We found political, military, ideological, and moral elements in our own people, in our own history” (23).

The Sandinista movement was not really established until 1961, 30 years after Augusto Sandino’s time, but the people of Nicaragua found a name to follow, a hero, a man who had had the same ideals that they had, and just like it states in the quote above, they found those same moral elements in their own history.  Although the now called Sandinistas were fighting for the people against the dictator Somoza, they, along with the Somosistas, made a lot of choices that affected the people.   They would force children to fight; they would take full classrooms at times, and take them to the jungles to fight.  These actions in a way made them no different than the dictators who were also killing innocent people.

The Somoza dictatorship was established in 1936, by Anastasio Somoza García, who had betrayed and assassinated Augusto Cesar Sandino two years before, and who was then preceded by his two sons, first Luís Somoza Debayle, and then his other son Anastasio Somoza Debayle.  The guard, which was under the rule of the Somozas, killed many innocent people, and bombed the neighborhoods where people lived as well.  The Somosistas would kill their own people, just like Anastasio Somoza, the founder of the 42-year-old dictatorship vowed, “I’ll give this country peace if I have to kill every other man in Nicaragua” (Lernoux).  Although he did not kill every other man, about 25,000 Nicaraguans were massacred during the reign of the Somozas, during the time of “peace,” which is during non civil war time.  There were many things that triggered people to rise up against the dictatorship, one of which is stated in an article named “Nicaraguan Americans,” by Stefan Smagula, in which he writes:

“After a severe earthquake leveled Managua in 1972, Anastasio Somoza’s detractors claimed that Somoza had embezzled many millions of dollars of earthquake-relief money. Popular dissatisfaction with the perceived widespread corruption and brutality of the Somoza regime, coupled with anger over what many believed was the Somoza-directed murder of opposition leader Pedro Joaquin Chamorro in 1978, prompted nationwide uprisings that led to civil war.”

Just like the quote states, this was one of the events that enraged people, and got them to want a change.  This was, like the saying, the one of the events that caused the cup to overflow, because the people of Nicaragua had had enough.

My mother was forced to leave her own country for her children’s safety, because there were many people, including youths, who were dying around her.  She was afraid for her life of course but also for those of her kids.  She states:

“They would take lots of youth.  Actually, many kids that I carried, that I held in my arms, died.  Many youth died because of the war.  So more than one of my kids would have died.  That is one of the reasons why I chose to leave … with my six kids, alone with them, my oldest was thirteen years old and my youngest was three.”

Kids that she had carried and had babysat were dying, so what was to say that her kids where not next?  Both sides of the war they were killing innocent lives one way or another, and no matter what party she looked at, whether it was the Sandinistas or the Guardia, they were killing people directly or indirectly.

The Sandinistas, for example, would force people to join the cause or to work for the cause in many ways.  My mother explains that they would be forced to cooperate with them or there would be consequences.  In one case she states:

“It was a hard time, because I was demanded to do surveillance, which consisted of me monitoring outside (the streets), spending the night out with a whistle, and if I saw something suspicious outside then I had to blow it.  But I was a woman who lived alone with my six kids, and they were still very young.”

She also later told me that she was not interested in joining either party because she just wanted to live her life and raise her kids in peace, but as she soon saw, that was not going to happen.  The Sandinistas were pushing her away, because they were forcing her to do something for the cause that should not be forced but she should want to do if they where really working for the people.

The Guardia would have more brutal tactics; they would threaten people and tell them they where going to kill them, or just show up at the door of a suspected Sandinista rebel and kill everyone that was there and everyone that lived there.  My mother said that one time they came, and this is what my mother recalls of what happened that day:

“With all my family, the Guard told us that they would burn the whole neighborhood because it was full of Sandinistas, and because of that many people left desperately and crazy, and went out… only a few of us were left.  Because people were leaving we would tell them that the time of the curfew was coming which was 6pm.”

The guard had placed the curfew at 6pm, and anyone seen outside after 6 would be killed.  According to my mother, the Guardia would not threaten in vain, so these people must have been desperate enough to risk being killed on site for violating curfew, than to be burned to death.

The Sandinistas were not as brutal, but they were smart with what they were doing, because, unlike the Guardia, they would try to gain more support on their side, instead of killing everyone that got in their way.  My mom stated:

“Like many youths, their brains were washed in many forms… I heard say that in some schools they would tell the kids to pray to God for candy and nothing would happen…   Then they asked the kids to close their eyes again and to pray again, but this time to ask the Sandinista leader for candy, then they would place candy in front of them while their eyes where still closed.  Then they would tell them to open their eyes, and they would ask ‘did God give you candy, or did your president?’ then they would answer that the president did.  That is when the guerilla would say ‘okay then you have to be loyal to your president.”

Here we can see that they started with kids by brainwashing them like my mother states, into following the Sandinista movement.  My mom also recalls a time when my oldest brother came from school and asked her sign a permission slip for him to join a group of Niños Sandinistas, which translates to Sandinista Children.  She said that she would not sign, and that’s when my oldest brother said that if she didn’t sign, then his teacher would.  My mom was obviously outraged, and saw then the route that the Sandinistas were moving in, and saw them in a way similar to the Somoza dictatorship.

The Guardia, like I stated before, had brutal tactics; instead of trying to win people to their cause, they where just killing anyone that was opposing them.  They would kill their own people, and not in the jungles, where the war was being fought, but in the neighborhoods, where their were only innocent women and children.  My mom states:

“Well, the bombs, they would drop them in the streets and in the corners.  Mountains of dirt would fall it was horrible…during the war many bombs would fall.  I remember when I would go visit my dad I would have to carry a white flag everyone had to carry a white flag…I saw many people that looked to the skies, and would also watch as other neighborhoods were being bombed.  That was horrible, because they would bomb their own people.”

These women had to carry white flags just to walk around their own neighborhoods, and were afraid that at any moment another air raid would come.  There was no sense of peace, and they had to live under that constant stress that war brings.  This was no place or environment to raise kids in.

Both the Contras and the Guardia were threatening to burn my mom’s house down, and both for similar reasons.  The Contras (Sandinistas) came to her house demanding to go in, because they had heard that in the house they were hiding something, so they searched the house and found nothing, and they left.  She also stated:

Ten days before the war was over four guards where guarding our house…because in previous days guerilla fighters had entered our home during combat, so they where saying that they where going to find that house… and kill everyone.  Like it was their fault.  Without them knowing they where in the right place, because it was our house that the guerillas had entered in during combat.

My mom saw danger on both sides of the war, and had no place to turn to.  Both the Sandinistas and the Guardia where threatening, forcing, and killing people, and she saw herself and her family as a target on both sides.  There was no one else to turn to because those were the only two parties that had power, and they both had that mentality that “you are either for us or against us.”  The Guardia was bombing neighborhoods and killing innocent families, along with kids that had no fault in the war, and the Sandinistas were kidnapping and forcing kids to fight in their war.  They would in some occasions take whole classrooms give the kids guns and tell them to go fight.

On top of both sides causing destruction to their own country and killing their own brothers, after the war there was a food scarce, and the country had sunk into a deeper recession.  Also my mom states:

“There was a rumor that there was going to be another war, the counter war, like the counter-revolution.  This is because there where many people that did not agree because they were betraying their ideas; that is what they said at least.”

That is my mom decided that she had to do something, because her oldest son was around the age, even a little older that some of the kids that had been taken by force to fight, and if the counter-revolution was on its way then she had to get all of her kids out of the country right away.

Wars are brutal, and they cause many people to lose the people and the things that they love in many ways, but a mother will give everything up for the sake of her children.  My mom gave everything up in Nicaragua to save the lives and the future of her kids.  She states:

That’s why I decided to come to this country, because if not, I tell you, more than one of my kids would have died, or would have been mutilated, because I know of people that were mutilated…that was the reason why I decide to come… to save my kids.  Practically, it was because of the war, because I would say no, I have my house over there I have my things and my family…it was hard to technically start over again.

Here we could see that only drastic measures would have caused her to uproot and move to another place.  She had a home, with all of her belongings, and her family in Nicaragua a country that no matter what she loved and continues to love, but her kids where in danger and she had to act quickly if she wanted to save her kids, because she was running out of time.  Running out of time, because her oldest kids where already at age to fight in the war, there was no food to eat, and the next war was about to begin if it hadn’t already.

Some people say that to escape from a war in their country, there is no need to go all the way to the United States that they could easily could go to a neighboring country and seek asylum.  This of course is very true, but what people don’t see, is that during the 1980’s, when my mom left Nicaragua, the other neighboring countries where also having civil wars of their own.  To add on to that, many people say that Nicaraguenses hate the United States for what they have done to their country, and this of course is also true to some extent.  Not all Nicaraguenses hate the United States.  My mom, for example, does not blame the United States for the war and everything that has happened to Nicaragua; she blames the people, and she states that a person should not point fingers at someone else and blame someone else for their own mistakes.  Yes the United States did have some major parts in the war, but at the end the people that committed the atrocities where the Nicaraguenses themselves, because all the U.S. really did, was supply.

The civil war gave my mom no choice but to flee from her country and find a new home because her life and the life of her kids was being threatened from both sides of the civil war.  The Sandinistas were forcing her and her family to participate in their activities or else there would be consequences if she did not, and the Guardia with their brutal tactics, were threatening to kill them indirectly, because every time that there was a bombing her and her kids lives would be in danger.  When her home was no longer safe to live in, she was forced to leave and find a home that was safer to live in, and a good place to raise her kids free from the dangers of war.  She chose the United States because it was the closest country that was safe enough, and where she had friends that where willing to help her get their and start a new life.

Works Cited

  • Aguiar Mejia-Mendoza, Luisa Amanda de las Mercedes.  Interview in Spanish.  March 29th, 2013.  Interviewer and Translator, Mendoza, Judith.
  • Vandem, Harry E. and Prevost Gary.  Democracy and Socialism in Sandinista Nicaragua.  Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1996.  Quote by, Humberto Ortega Saavedra.
  • Smagula, Stefan.  Nicaraguan Americans.  Countries and their Cultures.  Website: Everyculture.
  • Lernoux, Penny.  “Nicaragua’s Civil War.  Showdown With The Somozas.”  The Nation.  September 16th, 1978.  Copyright Nation Company Inc.

Interview with my mom

  • Porque dejo Nicaragua y se vino a los Estados Unidos?

Bueno, más que todo fue una decisión bastante dura bastante difícil, porque yo amo mucho a mi familia y mi familia esta allá pero me vine por, más que todo por la Guerra. He vivido varias guerras halla, y la ultima fue bastante cruel bastante sanguinaria, sufrí bastante.  Esta Guerra fue entre la guardia que son con los somosas y los guerrilleros que ahora son los actuales sandinistas.

  • Que clase de cosas sucedieron durante la Guerra que hizo que se disidiera venir?

Bueno, sucedieron muchísimas, porque yo recuerdo que cuando tomaron los barrios un nueve de septiembre, un ano antes yo estaba embarazada.  Tenia siete meses de embarazo y fue duro fue terrible porque sin aviso ni nada bueno aquella balacera que hubo y tuve que dormir tuvimos que dormir todos en el piso y de eso me causo bastante, bastante daño porque no me podía ni sentar ni parar ni nada porque me sentía bien mal.  Y apenas bueno estaba bien bastante joven tenia 27 anos tenia.  También bueno después de ya la Guerra, aquellos enfrentamientos que sin previo aviso sin nada comenzaban, y le silbaban a uno las balas tenia que inmediatamente tirarse al piso habían noches que eran horribles, no había luz, no teníamos agua, bueno fue algo espantoso y después que cuando ellos ganaron,  ganaron los sandinistas, ahora los sandinistas ellos racionaron la comida ósea el racionado quiere decir que teníamos apenas una libra para cada uno.  Fue un momento difícil porque también me exigían que hiciera vigilancia, la vigilancia consistía en que tenia que estar afuera, pasar toda la noche con un silbato y si miraba alguna cosa que tocara ese silbato pero yo soy mujer y pasar toda la noche mis muchachitos estaban pequeños fue algo tremendo también verdad, cuando recuerdo, recuerdo es bastante doloroso porque no dejo de sentirme nerviosa cuando recuerdo todo lo que pase que me pareciera una pesadilla, una pesadilla.  Cuando mi muchachito mayor tenia como, como 11 anos el llego un día de la escuela y me dice “mami firma este papel”, entonces le digo pero “espérate que lo debo leer”.  Y lo voy leyendo y decía dice que lo tengo que firmar, porque mi hijo iba a pertenecer a la asociación de niños sandinistas, entonces yo le dije a él, “no eso si no lo voy a firmar” “si no lo firmas tu” me dice el, “va firmar el maestro”. Entonces era una situación  bastante ya estaban como dicen lavando le el cerebro a mi hijo, como a muchos jóvenes les lavaron el cerebro de muchas formas.  De muchas formas porque se cuenta se dice eso no lo vi verdad, pero si lo oí decir que en algunas escuelas a los niños les decían que oraran o rezaran y pidiéndole a dios caramelos. Entonces le pedían a dios caramelos, y no pasaba nada.  Pero después le decían los piricuacos, esos que son del ejército, los sandinistas, bueno les decían a los niños.  Dios les dio caramelos, no contestaban los niños.  Bueno vuelvan a cerrar los ojos les decían a los niños, ahora pídanle a su presidente ósea al sandinismo, y entonces ellos les ponían dulces.  Cuando abrían sus ojitos los niños miraban los dulces, y les decían bueno quien les dio caramelos?  Dios o su presidente?  Entices decían los niños que el presidente.   Entonces ustedes tienen que ser leales le decían a los niños, a los sandinistas, a su presidente.  Ósea fue como un lavado de cerebro a las pobres creaturas.  Y por so me miraba en problemas porque yo no estaba de acuerdo.  No estaba de acuerdo ni con uno con el otro, pero sin embargo todavía fue peor ahorita el sandinismo.  También verdad, una de las cosas que me hizo venir para acá, fue de que se rumoraba que venia otra Guerra, que era la contra.  Ósea la contra revolución.  Porque muchos no estaban de acuerdo porque ellos habían traicionado las ideas que supuestamente ellos decían.  Y a muchos muchachos se los llevaban.  Es más yo a muchos muchachos que yo chineé, ósea que tuve en mis brazos, murieron.  Allá murieron muchos jóvenes a causa de eso.  Ósea que mas de alguno de mis hijos hubiera perecido.  Por so fue una de las razones fueron tantas las razones de tantos problemas de que yo me decidí venirme con 6 de mis hijos.  Solita con ellos.  Uno de 13 anos, y el menor de 3.

  • Y el terremoto que sucedió en Nicaragua, sucedió antes de la guerra durante o después?

No, fue antes porque fue en el 1972 en diciembre.

  • Y como fue que eso afectó la Guerra o la estancia, en Managua que fue mas afectado, y como se sintió durante el terremoto?

Bueno durante el terremoto eso fue horrible porque fueron prácticamente dos.  Uno y el siguiente fue a los 20 minutos que fue el que termino con todo Managua.  O prácticamente con casi todo Managua.  El terremoto afecto bastante mas que todo, como yo estaba bien joven todavía yo no salía.  Estaban  pequeñitos mis muchachitos, estaban mas chiquitos, pero si afecto bastante, pero sin embargo, si llegaron muchas ayudas de aquí de EEUU y las repartieron.  Pero no le puedo decir mas de lo que paso con la guerra tal ves bueno lo tomaron tal ves como una ventaja no se.

  • Y en las razones quien tenia la culpa o a quien culpaban?

Bueno es mas ahorita que me estas diciendo eso me acuerdo que el primer diciembre que pase con los sandinistas fue algo espantoso porque ellos ganaron supuestamente en Julio y en diciembre no había ni siquiera sal.  Tuve que andar en muchas pulperías y no encontré sal.  Porque decían ellos, algo tan absurdo, de que los EEUU tenían la culpa.  Como que los EEUU se había llevado el mar.  Para mi bueno no se, era algo tan absurdo completamente.

  • Se acuerda de otra cosa que paso durante la guerra?

Si porque en plena Guerra llegaron unos guerrilleros y estaban como nerviosos, como diciéndonos que nosotros escondíamos algo.  Entonces les hicimos pasar.  Y ellos escultaron todo absolutamente todo.  Y se quedaron tranquilos.  Pero durante la guerra también, como a los diez días antes de terminar la Guerra, muchos guardias, cuatro guardias estaban custodiando la casa, y no porque nos estaban custodiando a nosotros, si no porque en días anteriores se habían metido unos guerrilleros en pleno combate.  Entonces ellos decían que ellos iban a encontrar esa casa.  Encontrar esa casa para matarlos a todos.  Como que tenían la culpa.  Y ellos sin saber estaban en el lugar correcto, porque éramos nosotros los que, a quien se les habían metido los guerrilleros a pleno combate.  Eso fue espantoso, ósea nos miramos en problemas casi de muerte, por decir así.  Tanto los guerrilleros, que son ahorita los sandinistas, como la guardia, que son los somocistas.

  • Y cuando caían las bombas, o la balacera usted sentía como temblaba la tierra, o que sentía en ese momento?

Bueno las bombas,  las botaban en las calles y en las esquinas.  Y caían montones de arena, y eso era espantoso como se oía el sin.  Era una lluvia horrible se oía.  También recuerdo que en la Guerra habían, tiraban muchas bombas, una ves que me acuerdo que yo iba a ver a mi papa, tenia que andar con una banderita blanca, todos teníamos que andar, allí no se miraban hombres. Solo las mujeres salíamos con una banderita blanca, y miro mucha gente que esta viendo al cielo, y que están viendo como estas bombardeando los demás barrios.  Y eso fue espantoso, fue horrible por que bombardeaban a su propia gente.  Eso fue espantoso, fue horrible.  Muchos murieron con, o quedaban tal ves no muertos pero si con charnel ósea pedazos de hiero cosas así, de lo que tiraban las bombas.  También en la guerra, en los 45 días de guerra que hubo, no había una pulpería donde se encontraba absolutamente nada, nada, nada.  Porque si uno abría una pulpería, inmediatamente le prendían fuego.  Y recuerdo que también a partir de que se metieron esos guerrilleros en mi casa, aunque no tenia que decir porque yo porque si no me moría también.  Con todo y mi familia, dijeron la guardia que iban a quemar esa barrio porque estaba lleno de sandinistas, entonces a raíz de eso, mucha gente salió desesperada, como loca, y salió.  Fue algo horrible porque quedamos unos cuantos nada más.  Porque salía la gente y les decíamos ya viene la hora, ya viene la hora, la hora este de queda.  Ósea, la hora 6 de la tarde, que nadie podía andar fuera.  Ósea la hora que le llaman “toque de queda”.

Y quien puso esa hora?

La guardia pues porque para evitar esos ataques.  Y aun así habían ataques.  Porque en la noche recuerdo que por lo menos recuerdo que fueron dos o tres noches que pensé que nos íbamos a morir.  Como nos silbaba, i como temblaba la tierra.  Y yo tener que dormir en el piso con mis niños.  Tenia en ese entonces, mi niño del que estaba embarazada cuando tomaron los barrios, tenia como seis meses de nacido nada más.

Y por eso se decidió venir para acá?

Por eso decidí venir me a este país, por que si no como les digo, mas de uno de mis hijos hubiera muerto, o hubiera sido mutilado.  Porque conozco a unos que están completamente mutilados, ósea que les falta un brazo, o están desfigurados.  Esa fue la decisión que me hizo venir para acá.  Fue una decisión bastante difícil, bastante dura, porque tenía que salvar a mis hijos, pero dejaba allá a toda mi familia, a mi demás familia.  A mis hermanos y a mi papa.

Y cuando y como es que usted se vino a EE.UU.?

Bueno yo me vine, nunca se me va a olvidar esa fecha, yo me vine en Junio del ano 1982.  Me vine por Méjico, llegue hasta Méjico, porque ya había intentado sacar visa, a mi me la dieron pero a mis hijos no.  Así que me vine hasta Méjico.  De Méjico agarre un autobús para Tijuana, de Tijuana para San Diego.  Una persona que nos pasara, nos paso por la loma.  Se le llaman a esas personas Coyotes.  De allí bueno, pasamos por San Diego antes de San Diego habían muchos retenes.  Esa tarde fuego espantoso, pero gracias a dios, paso algo, un milagro, y nosotros pudimos pasar.  De allí nos llevaron asta santana.  En Santana nos entregaron allí, y nos fuimos hasta los Ángeles, y allí estuvimos por uno semana, y bien pasamos.  Tuvimos que, no teníamos nada de ropa.  Teníamos solamente lo que andábamos puesto.  Pero gracias a dios estamos a salvo, de esa tiranía, de esa guerra, de esos problemas.  De esa ansia de poder que tienen los Sandinistas allá en Nicaragua.  Fue algo horrible porque allá tengo a mi familia también.

Y como fue su travesía de Tijuana a EE.UU.?

Vino por tierra o de Nicaragua como fue por tierra o por avión?

De Managua a Méjico fue en avión, en avión.  Pero de Méjico a Tijuana en bus.  De allí también de Tijuana para san Diego fue en bus también, en carro.  De allí también a santana de carro.  De allí a los Ángeles en carro.  Y de allí de los Ángeles estuvimos como una semana y nos venimos para San Francisco en avión.

Y nunca hubo problema de que no podían sus hijos, de que no podían llegar todos?  Siempre estuvieron juntos?  O tuvo que dejar a uno de sus hijos atrás?

Bueno cuando nosotros llegamos a Tijuana, fue un cuatro de Junio, llegaron por nosotros al día siguiente, y llevaron a tres de mis hijos.  Y me quede solamente con tres, pero al siguiente, a la siguiente semana, entre semana, llego la misma señora por nosotros, pero había un pequeño problema, y ya ella no quiso volver.  Y nos quedamos allí.  Por eso es que se tuvo que pagar una persona que nos tuvo que pasar, un coyote.  Porque ya se acobardo completamente ella.  Pero yo pase solamente con tres de mis hijos, pero yo pase tan desesperada por que pasamos por la loma, corriendo mientras el helicóptero que guarda la frontera asía un recorrido por otro lada.  Pero eso fue por segundos, entonces nosotros teníamos que correr, para pasar esa loma.  Y nosotros tuvimos que tirar prácticamente como deslizándonos, dándonos vueltas.  Eso fue horrible porque mi niño, el mas chiquito, el gritaba y gritaba toda la noche, paso gritando diciendo de que se quería ir a su casita desesperado.  Fueron momentos bastante difíciles.  Bastante difíciles porque aun cuando me acuerdo siento, aun que ya casi tengo 31 anos y medio de estar aquí, pero me siento como que lo vuelvo a revivir.  Tanto como lo que viví allá en Nicaragua como cuando vine hasta acá.

Y como se sintió cuando por fin llego hasta San Francisco, y que es lo hizo que se decidiera venir hasta la ciudad de San Francisco?

Bueno yo me sentí muy feliz al haber ya estado con mis hijos aquí.  Dije yo ya salve a mis hijos dije yo.  Y la razón porque fui hasta San Francisco, fue porque me estaba esperando un familiar, y entonces por eso es que fuimos a San Francisco.

Y se sintió aliviada al haber llegado aquí, un alivio, o como se sintió?

Completamente que ya estaba libertada, ya esta presión de la guerra esa presión a pesar de que yo no tenia ni un papel, ni pequeño ni grande ni nada.  Pero si me sentía que ya había salvado a mis hijos.

Y como se siente en los EE.UU?  Siente que su hogar esta aquí en los EE.UU. o en Nicaragua?

Bueno es una pregunta que en realidad yo me siento repartida mi corazón esta bien agradecida con este país, primera mente con dios, pero también con este país, pero tengo a mi familia allá, gran parte de mi familia allá en Nicaragua.  Ósea que me siento, que tengo dos hogares, tanto como aquí como allá en Nicaragua.

Siente que en parte la guerra tuvo que ver con ese sentimiento del hogar?  En el aspecto de que fue arrebatada de su hogar, en una forma u otra?

Claro que si porque prácticamente aunque yo me siento tan feliz aquí me siento muy feliz muy agradecida, pero sin embargo me dolió mucho haber dejado a mi familia allá, mas que todo fue por la guerra.  Por la situación tan horrible.  Por salvar a mis hijo.  Entonces prácticamente fue por la guerra, porque yo decía no, allá tenia mi casita, tenia mis cosas, tengo a mi familia.  Así es que por eso y fue bien duro volver, prácticamente es como volver a comenzar.  Fue bastante difícil.  Porque ahora gracias a dios, ya tengo dos hijos nacidos aquí, nacieron aquí, yo ya soy ciudadana y por eso le doy gracias a dios.  Pero no fue fácil toda esa trayectoria.  Se dice fácil en unos minutos haber venido hasta aquí, pasar lo que pase pero me siento muy feliz porque aquí ya salve a mis hijos.  No me caso de decir a mis hijos porque salve a mis hijos, a mis primero seis hijos que nacieron allá.

Cuando ivamos a llegar a un motel en San Diego porque ya habia oscuresido y dijeron los que nos iban a pasar “no ya esta muy noche aqui nos vamos a quedar, ya no vamos a viajar.  Entonces yo traia a una de mis hijas, mi hija tenia 11 Amos apenas, entonces yo lo que hice, la hiba aciendo para atras, y para atras, quitandola a ella, por is acaso, yo grito digo yo.  Porque no voy a permitir que les que le agan algo a ella.  No me hubiera importado que me hubiera agarrado la policia, le hiban a aser dano, porque earn tres jovenes que nos traian.  Y entonces digo yo cualquier cosa digo yo, no me le van a ser dano a ella.  Is me lo hacen, que me lo hagan a mi.  Para proteger a mis hijos, sobre todo a ella.  Esto sucedió en San Diego, cuando ya íbamos para acá.  Bueno algo se me olvido decir, que aun a mi me bajaron del bus, cuando venia de Méjico para Tijuana, me bajaron del bus, y la inmigración de Méjico  Fue algo tan tremendo tan horrible por que venían mis seis hijos en el autobús y yo me baje, y me dijeron a mi “piensas pasarte a el otro lado verdad”, me dice.  Entonces yo sin mentirle le dije “si eso intento”.  Entonces me dijeron ellos, “ahh tu no sabes que nosotros estamos aquí para impedírtelo?”  Si lo se le dije yo, pero en mi país le dije esta terrible, y comencé a decirle todo. Total que le comencé a decir a esta persona que me dejara ir, y que me dejara ir.  Hasta le ofrecí dinero y si me dejo ir.  Fue algo tan espantoso porque yo andaba siempre con solo seis pasaportes, porque mi hijo menor no tenía porque solo tenía tres anos y estaba conmigo en mi pasaporte.  Y aquí estoy toda yo, aquí ya vendí mi casa vendí todo para poder venirme aquí porque allá no se puede vivir.  Usted escucha, si acaso usted escucha las noticias allá como esta la situación le digo yo en Nicaragua.  Y si me dejo venir pero desde ese momento al darse cuenta de que lo que yo trataba de hacer, todos en el autobús