Kassandra Tellez next author in 2016-2017 MLHS senior student editorial series
A Country of Hurt
As my group and I waited patiently at the hotel for our host family and leader to pick us up, I sensed that something was wrong. After hours of waiting, our driver received a message from our leader that we would not be going to the schools that day, and we had to stay in the hotel until further notice. As the news got to us, we all started to pray that nothing bad had happened to the children at the schools, but we found out our own host family were the ones in trouble. Mat and John, our leaders, finally arrived to explain the situation to us: Ed and Suylema, our host family, had a group of teens break in and take all of their electronics and money.
In El Salvador, many families that are able to afford security have it for protection, and a lot of public places, such as the hotel we stayed in, have security guards on day and night shifts. Most importantly, people try not to go out at night unless absolutely necessary. Many families that are seeking refuge flee to the United States or other countries to get away from all this violence only to find that our borders are closed to them.
Even though El Salvador is not at war, it has become a country of despair. Some people believe that the violence that haunts El Salvador today traces all the way back to the country’s civil war against the government, which lasted from 1980-1992. El Salvador’s peace treaty ended the conflict in 1992, but in 1993, a law that granted amnesty to anyone who was accused of committing a crime during the civil war was passed. Many civil war veterans saw the law as a free pass to commit crimes without fear of punishment, which gave rise to much gang violence among many street gangs that cannot get along. In an article about the gang violence in El Salvador, Alex Sanchez, a co-founder of Homies Unidos, a group that works with former gang members stated, “Eventually [Homies Unidos] became a gang, but initially it was to protect each other from other groups that were harassing us.” Unfortunately, according to Roberto Lovato, a Salvadoran-American journalist for The WorldPost, “An individual gang member is not just poor. He’s also a walking, talking trauma that’s unresolved. And there’s nothing to treat that in this country.”
Keeping families that are seeking freedom, peace, and opportunities out of America is something many think will be best for us. According to the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), 26% of America’s population is made up of immigrants who are seeking freedom today, just as our first settlers did. We need to remember that America was founded by people who were seeking freedom and our very own Statue of Liberty states, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free . . .”
This violence in El Salvador is not likely to end anytime soon, but many of its citizens have become victims of the violence in their country. Closing our borders to people who are seeking freedom and peace is not the way to treat those who are looking for help. Remember our ancestors came to America not too many generations ago looking for a freedom they now have, so let us do the same for others who are also seeking it.