Empowering undocumented young people to achieve educational and career goals
STUDENT VOICES IMMIGRATION STORIES
I remember the swings in our backyard back home. My dad surprised us with them one day, about a week after he'd returned from one of his trips to the U.S. We were thrilled. Our favorite was light blue color and had two seats facing each other. The other one was red and could only fit one person at a time. Dad put the swings under the old Orange Tree in our backyard. My sisters and I spent long afternoons on those swings. We talked about all the silly things kids talk about when they're young. We imagined our lives in a new country. We imagined a life with no worries and a happy family.
While we thought about our future, the orange tree sheltered our past. Our Orange Tree was as old as our grandfather, who had been an army officer, thus explaining his strict, astringent temper. The Tree served as a hiding spot for the militia in the 1960s during Guatemala's 36-year long civil war. It was then that my grandfather was forced to hide rebels in our backyard in order to preserve his life, then that my father recognized dead bodies in a nearby ravine that served as the community's trash deposit.
By 1988, although already ancient, the Orange Tree continued to bear fruit. In June, just when the rainy season started, mom gave birth to me, her first daughter. The Tree lost most of its leaves, but as if anticipating our arrival into the world, it didn't died. In December 1989, my younger sister Ingrid was born, and like every other December, the Orange Tree came back to life again. The Orange Tree was still there when my father began building our two-bedroom house in 1991. It was there a year later when my youngest sister, Angela, was born. It was there when my sisters and I parted from our family and friends, innocently assuring them that we'd be returning from the U.S. in the summer when school started again.
For ten years the swings stood empty, gathering dust, while the Orange Tree and my grandfather waited stubbornly for our return. Last year my father told us he'd allowed a family from town to take the swings. We had no valid reason to protest, but my sisters and I argued against it. "What about the Orange Tree near the swings?" I asked. "Oh, your uncle cut it down because he didn't like how it looked," my dad responded matter-of-factly.
It is the simplest things that I miss from home. On those swings, under that Orange Tree, my sisters and I brought to life our hopes and dreams.
About the Author Karen is one of E4FC's 2008 Scholars and 2010 Interns. At the age of twelve, she emigrated with her family from Guatemala. She recently completed her bachelor's degree in Economics from Santa Clara University, where she received the prestigious Hurtado Scholarship. Karen plans to pursue a PhD in Public Policy.