I grew up in a poor neighborhood in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, a place where violence occurs every day, to the point that it is classified as one of the most violent countries in the world, with a mortality rate like that of countries at war.
We shape our lives depending on who or what we have around us; we grow up without privileges, without any knowledge of what life is like in other countries and even without knowing much about our own country. We grow up happy in a world of ignorance, where one more day of survival is one more achievement in our lives, without knowing what will happen tomorrow or even where we will be.
It is frustrating to feel helpless in such situations; to see your world fade away without being able to do anything
I grew up watching many people close to me who were snatched from this world without the slightest warning. For some people, such incidents cause anger and a feeling of revenge, while for others it is a sign that something is wrong, that something needs to change.
It took me years to understand what it means to lose a member of your family. When I was only 7, my father was kidnapped and eventually killed by gang members for being successful and supporting his community. I was filled with rage, not only at the loss of my father, but also seeing my grandmother’s tears and her grief knowing that she had lost one of her children. She was the closest thing I had to a mother, and years later she would unfortunately again witness how the life of another of her children would be unjustly taken away into the hands of violence.
It is frustrating to feel helpless in such situations; to see your world fade away without being able to do anything. Sadly, my grandmother was not strong enough to assimilate her pain, and she left a new emptiness in my heart. I knew that there was nothing else for me to do in my country and that a new start away from all my bad memories would be the best.
We can find many answers to the question of why many of us migrate from our own country. For some, it is an escape from the violence that hunts us, or simply a way of self-improvement; for others, it is an opportunity to see new generations grow up without any worries or fears. Some of us leave our land because we have nothing to lose, because every achievement we make from the minute we leave is a gain for our lives.
If we are lucky, we will arrive in a fantasy land, where everything is possible and the simple fact of being here makes us privileged people, or at least that’s what we try to transmit to our loved ones that we leave behind.
Young people come to this country with the ambition of having a lifestyle like the ones we used to see on television every afternoon: American shows that showed ordinary people in their ordinary lives doing ordinary things that seemed almost perfect. When we turned our eyes away from the screen for a moment, we realized how different our ordinary life was. That was the only reference we had about how our lives would be like if we lived in the United States. A false reality, because when you arrive at the border you are not seen as “Erick, the artist” or “Gabriela, the singer”, you are just another number on an immigration judge’s list.
We arrive in an unknown land, with unknown people and an unknown language. We did not know that many people are opposed to having more refugees in their country. We should not be judged or seen as a threat, we are all equal, our only differences are the circumstances in which we grow.
Erick Ramirez (19), is a passionate artist and activist working for the rights of refugee and migrant children.