In my country you can call the police but they never come. We have a saying about them: “Why are you going to call the thieves?” People regard them as thieves because instead of helping us, they take things from us… there’s very little security. The main reasons Hondurans are emigrating to the United States? Corruption, violence, poverty, organized crime, and the inability of the government to help its citizens. That’s why so many of us are leaving… we’re being threatened.
In Honduras the place you live determines what kind of problems you’re going to face. In the capital, San Pedro Pula, that’s the place for gangs—there are a lot of gangs there—and this is what makes so many young people from the capital leave Honduras, leave their country. It’s the same too where I’m from, I lived in __, it is a city known for drug-trafficking; drug-trafficking has control over the area, it’s dependent on it. So the gangs control one city, the drug-traffickers control another. Everything depends on your situation and the place you live...all the problems you will have.
You suffer being here: you don’t have your family nearby, or the support of people who know you.
But perhaps no one ever wants to leave his country, at least that was never my dream. I came to the United States to try to find a better future...Still, if someone asked me if they should come here I would say, “Do you really need to come to the United States, because despite the violence and problems we have in Honduras you will be with your family, in the place you’re from.”
My motivation came from seeing my mother suffer from the time I was a small child. I always told my mom that she should leave the house, because she was having a lot of trouble. I would see her crying and, well, it hurt me too. She was my mom and I knew why she was crying, what her problems were, and our family’s denial of those problems, or the fact that my dad didn’t really help at all… my dad hit my mother.
I’ve also seen so many people living out on the streets. Many who got involved in drug-trafficking. And from all this there grew in me the motivation to graduate one day from college and be able to help people. Help children who are on the streets so that they too can study [his voice breaks], help entire families so that they can heal. My motivation is to one day be able to say that from the bottom you can rise and get to the top. Sometimes it seems impossible to me…Sometimes I get down. I feel alone and I don’t know what to do, I don’t want to go on.
In the end I always motivate myself. I always tell myself to do my best, because if I don’t motivate myself, no one else is going to do it for me. If you want to achieve something, you have to do your part. [He takes a deep breath.] I alone… I give myself this advice.
People in these Central American countries have this idea that when a person arrives to the United States he suddenly has a lot of money. Over there we think that everything here is easy, that here your whole life is like the life of a rich person, when in reality it’s not like that at all: you have to work a lot.
I’m alone here, I’m by myself. I’m in a program [for homeless youth] that has helped me. I have a work permit now and I work in the afternoon after I get out of school. I work seven days a week, for six to eight hours, sometimes up to twelve hours a day. I get up very early in the morning to get to school at 8:15, and then I get out at 3:15 in the afternoon, and at 4:00 I have to be at work. That only leaves me 45 minutes to get there and I have to be at work on time because if not I could lose my job and then I’m not going to have money to eat, I won’t have money to pay the rent, and things like that, things one needs. And I have to help my family: I send money to my family.
Life in Honduras and life in the United States are very different. In Honduras you make very little money but you are in the place you were born with your family and at least you’re never going to go hungry: there will always be a plate of food for you. Here, you have to work in order to buy something. If you don’t work, there’s no food, no rent, no house, no clothes. You have nowhere to live and you’re all alone.
Once you have arrived in the United States you put to rest that silly idea that money will just fall out of the trees. You need to work very hard and you have to be able to endure the scolding of your boss when something goes wrong, even when you’re still learning—you just have to stomach it. And maybe it’s not that much money that you’re earning here, but considering how things are in Honduras if I send fifty dollars it’s like a thousand lempiras [Honduran currency]. You can live for a week on that! But here everything is expensive.
I don’t regret coming here because despite all the problems I’ve had, I’m getting ahead, I’m helping my family, not because it’s easy, but because I’m trying very, very hard… [long pause]. If some day I have kids, I hope that they can have the best possible life, that they don’t have to worry about working from a young age to give money to their families, that they don’t feel so alone.
NOTE: All the children’s names have been changed to protect their identities. NASP stories about children are not matched with their portraits.