Living Without Answers

Vielma, 17
NOTE: All the children’s names have been changed to protect their identities. NASP stories about children are not matched with their portraits.
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My dad called my mom the day he died saying he thought they were going to kill him, but my mom didn’t believe him because she knew he didn’t have problems with anyone. Fifteen minutes later they told me he was dead. We found his body in a gully.

That’s why I came. I decided to come here after he died. What I mean is: his death made it impossible for me to be there because they killed him and after that they tried to kill me two times.

The law there doesn’t do anything. No one saw them do it, we just found him dead. We knew the people who did it, because a month earlier they had beat him up and he was badly wounded. I was the first person to see him. Since then I’ve been like this…traumatized. I can’t see blood anymore because if I do it does something to me and also I can’t forget how I found his body. My father had a wound here (points to head) and here (points to chest), stab marks, his whole body was… Some people said it was an accident, but then why would his body look like that? If people saw how he died, nobody could talk about it because they were afraid. The police didn’t do anything because supposedly no one had seen anything.

I couldn’t accept my father’s death. I couldn’t sleep for a month. Every night I woke up screaming. Afterwards I was always afraid when I left the house to go to work: I thought that what happened to my dad was going to happen to me.

People don’t know why they are targeted. There is a lot of violence, a lot of people are killed, and the law does nothing. My dad didn’t have problems with anyone and that’s why I still don’t understand what the reason was if he didn’t have a problem with anyone?

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  • Vielma's father worked in the coffee industry to support his wife and 3 daughters. Image by Tomas Ayuso
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They Sent Me Messages

My dad had three girls. I’m the middle child, but my oldest sister isn’t healthy—one of her feet doesn’t work and she can’t walk well and doesn’t hear well, so she can’t go out. Therefore I had to help him as much as I could; I left school at twelve after the third grade. I used to help my dad plant corn and work in the fields and also with coffee: my father worked in the countryside buying coffee from small growers. I had to work so that my family had food and medicine.

I used to work at our church, I liked to work there. One time afterwards, I was heading there and they tried to run me over. My aunt pushed me to one side of the road. It was a truck whose windows you couldn’t see through; you couldn’t see who was inside. Since that day they sent me messages that what had happened to my dad was going to happen to me. But I never understood, for what reason?

I was afraid to go out alone after that because the people who killed my father lived near me, they watched me when I left the house. They sent me messages and left me voice messages on my phone. But I didn’t say anything to my family because someone might have overheard me. And I didn’t want to say anything to my mom to worry her because when she worried she got sick: my mother has diabetes and she got very sick after my dad died. I told her everything was fine. I kept everything to myself.

I didn’t want to leave them but I didn’t want to be killed like they killed my dad. So I decided to come here. Only my mom and two sisters knew that I left, I didn’t tell anyone else so that they wouldn’t know. I went to Mexico by myself.

It's Difficult to Forget

Everything that happened to me—traveling across Mexico to get here, crossing the border—was nothing compared to living in Guatemala. I lost all hope being there.

But sometimes I still think about everything that happened there and I ask myself: why is life so unfair to me? What have I done to deserve all of this? And above all I ask myself: why did they take my father from me? I loved him. I was always at his side trying find ways to help. We were poor people and it was hard work but I used to tell him that although he hadn’t been given a son I knew we would get ahead. I always worked by his side, so the worst pain is when they took him from me.

I can’t concentrate in school. I can’t sleep. I think about everything that happened to me and I feel bad. I wish I could change my life to someone else’s. Sometimes I hear that my mom is sick again and she ends up in the hospital and I’m here. I have to get ahead so I can help my family.

There is no justice in Guatemala. There was no justice for my dad. Here everyone tells me: leave the past behind. But it’s difficult to forget. I don’t understand why I can’t concentrate, why I can’t forget. All of my memories come back. Sometimes I see a happy person and they are with their parents and I think how much I would like to be with my family and have my mom and dad, be together with them. I see happy people and I think how I also want to be happy. I hope one day bring I can my mom here so that I have someone here who supports me. I think I will be happy one day...I hope to be.

In the past I only wanted justice, but later I changed my mind. I decided: God will carry out justice for me against whoever did it. Someday justice will be served.

NOTE: All the children’s names have been changed to protect their identities. NASP stories about children are not matched with their portraits.

The road from the Guatemalan border to Tenocique in Southern Mexico is desolate, hot and filled with criminal who prey on migrants.

Credit: Tomas Ayuso
NOTE: All the children’s names have been changed to protect their identities. NASP stories about children are not matched with their portraits.


Micheline Aharonian Marcom, Interviewer

Ed Ntiri, Photographer

Tomas Ayuso, Photographer

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