A short story about a girl who faces the most difficult challenge in her life. Leaving her country behind, she looks to the future with hope she will have a better life.
A day of disparity and anguish had come to a family ready to risk it all. Carmen, a girl with tan skin and hazel eyes, had come from a village just 3 hours from the United States and Mexican border. Her village (Valle Juarez) was run by powerful cartels that had led to the deconstruction of the neighborhoods she once grew up in. The streets that once were filled with children roaming around were now seen as threats and danger zones.
Carmen, even as young as she was, understood the complexity of the problems her father was forced to encounter every day. Her father, Enrique Diaz, was a police officer in the village and the dangers were starting to become evident as his colleagues were disappearing one by one. It was no longer safe for her family to stay, and the state in which Mexico was, had led to her father's decision of fleeing to the United States.
While packing for the journey to come, Carmen was trying to recollect all she had learned in school about the United States. She remembered her teacher speak about the opportunities that come from living in the country, and how safe it was to live there compared to Mexico. However, it was a developing country in which there was still a significant amount of discrimination against people of color.
Walking away from her childhood home, Carmen started reminiscing all the pleasurable days she spent running around the neighborhoods with her friends after school. It was hard for her to think this would be the last time she would see her village and what was more saddening was how dreadful it now looked. Carmen didn’t know what was to come next, as her parents barely talked about the subject with her and her younger brother, Pablo. After walking for 2 hours, her father decided to take a break near an abandoned building.
Carmen asked her mother, Gloria, what was to happen if it didn’t work out in the states. Her mother responded with a gentle look in her eyes, “Darling, everything will work out as we plan it to. I need you to be strong and take care of your brother. We will be going to a country that has more options for us but isn’t as accepting. People will look at us differently and will think less of us, but we can’t let that get in the way of our goals, do you hear me? Now sleep as tomorrow will be a long and treacherous journey.” She finally closed her eyes until her father woke her up the next day.
Starting the hour-long walk, they finally arrived at their destination. Carmen’s father took her aside to tell her what was about to take place. “Nena, I need you to be strong for Pablo as if for some reason things don’t go as planned, I want you to take care of your brother.” Carmen, not knowing how to respond, nodded with a face of fear. They were to walk in an underground tunnel for hours, not knowing what will become of them when crossing the border into an unknown world.
Thoughts were crossing Carmen’s mind throughout the journey, particularly the story her father told her about his time spent in El Salvador. She remembered him saying that when he was just 14 years old, a civil war was taking place in El Salvador. He had to take care of his four younger brothers and flee to Mexico City. Her father would then have to get two jobs while going to school to be able to give his younger brothers an opportunity to live a normal life in Mexico. Carmen wondered if the feelings she now felt were the same as how her father felt decades ago. It had to be a long and challenging journey for him to endure all that by himself. She also questioned what her parents were trying to emphasize when it came to taking care of her brother Pablo. Were they trying to hint that the probability of being separated was high and that if something were to go wrong, she would be what her father was to his younger brother’s, the parent?
Hours passed until her father pointed out they were about to step out to the United States. Carmen, anxious to see how the great United States would be, held her brother's hand, ready to take on what was to come.