I am Hender and I am from El Salvador. My parents left the country when I was 1 year old because they wanted a better future for my brother and for me. My parents left me with a wonderful person, my Abuela (Grandmother) and my tias (aunts). I lived my life calling my grandmother “mama” because she treated me as her son with love, patience, and respect but always knowing that I had a real mother in the U.S.
Everything changed when I started high school. In my first three days, problems with gangs started happening. I had to leave my high school because we received a call from gang members threatening my family and me, and they wanted to force us to give money as a way to intimidate us.
During the call from gang members, we had to negotiate on money with them because they did not stop. They did not leave us alone and they scared us. Then we had to leave our house and go to another place out of the city. But still we were not safe because we didn’t escape far from where we were originally and because they control most of the country. My mother decided my life was at risk. Thinking about going to the U.S. frightened me. It was difficult for me because I didn’t want to leave my country and friends in El Salvador.
When I got to the U.S., I met my parents for the first time after 16 years. It was the most amazing experience that I ever had. I first saw my mother. She lunged at me and she hugged me. We were both crying. My father was in shock behind my mother. He could not move anywhere and I saw tearful eyes looking at me. I said “Hi dad” and he kept standing without saying anything. My mother said, “Hender, go and hug your father.” I hugged him and we together start crying. Finally, he said, “I waited a long time for this day to come.”
That day was the most important in my life. For the first time I felt free from the horrible things that were happening in my home country. Nowadays I live happy and safe with my family.
It’s important for me to tell my story because I want to people know about why I came here and what is happening in my country.