It didn’t occur to me to tell this story. Until it did.
It’s not my story to tell, but I will in order to provide a springboard for discussion. This story will also find itself in the pages of one of my short novels in Spanish just as soon as I find the way to honor it properly. For now, I’ll tell what I know in an abbreviated fashion, as ask (remind?) that you keep in mind that everyone has a story. Everyone. Always.
When I first met Junior he said to me with his easy smile, “I’m not a junior. That’s my name.” He laughed, as did I. It was going to be an easy interaction and it has been ever since. Junior Sierra is a young person who exudes cheer. Smart and personable, he’s a master at conversation. I’m grateful he shared his story with me.
Following the disaster of Hurricane Mitch in 1998, with the dearth of economic opportunities in Urraco Pueblo, Honduras, his parents - first one, then the other - left him behind with various family members in order to find a way to support themselves and their young family.
During the years that Junior was separated from his parents, his longing to be with them created fantasies in his young mind as to what it would be like when they were all reunited. After years of abuse that he suffered in Honduras, that fantasy finally became a reality when his parents came to collect him in Texas. Junior told me he cried that day, not only for seeing his parents, but because he was afraid it wasn’t true. That he would wake up. That what he dreamed about for so many years was just a construct in his mind.
Whatever the statistics are for undocumented youth in the public schools in this country, Junior was determined to be on the positive side. He learned English quickly and was soon outscoring his classmates. He entered and won contests: a statewide science fair earning him a hefty scholarship to a private university, as well as a blue ribbon in an art show. He became an activist and began participating regularly in the democracy for which this country is renowned. He wasn’t just going to sit out.
As it is for all of us, though, Junior’s narrative is a montaña rusa (roller coaster), challenged even more by his undocumented status. His senior year of high school he suffered the most; first, with a pointed comment by his AP math teacher who told him he should be “happy he was allowed to be in the class,” and then watching all of his classmates apply and get accepted to college. He dropped out of school then, but was convinced to return by others who saw the potential, finally graduating last year. Currently he is working two jobs to save money for college, to earn that elusive, yet coveted degree that he has been told his necessary, despite being self-taught in so many areas (he is solely responsible for setting up all of the IT needed to run his parents’ deli).
Like many DACA recipients, Junior’s story - like his status - is in limbo, but no means is it over. It’s just starting.
The stories of identity I tend to tell are usually fiction, or ones only inspired by true stories told to me. The book I write about Junior, however, will be his story. And his alone. Because he deserves it.
Everyone does, really.
#people #dreams #dreamers #immigration #stories #daca