I am Guatemalan and come from a humble, indigenous family. My life, for the most part, has been one of suffering and many times I went without. I was born in the Quiche Department, which is very poor. My parents struggled daily. My mother bought chickens, pigs, or vegetables to sell in town and my father worked on the coast cutting sugar cane. Every month he came home to give my mother money until they saved up enough money and we went to live in another village.
My parents tried daily to overcome our obstacles, but because we’re indigenous, people tried to humiliate us – they called us stupid Indians. My mother always wore her traditional clothing and we spoke with an accent that differed from most of the people of mixed race. I felt bad for feeling less than everyone else. My mother was strong. She tried to not let their offenses affect her. I remember one day someone threw gasoline onto our home and it caught on fire. My mother told us that she woke up quickly. When she saw the merchandise from the store she owned on fire, she thought that we, her children, had been fooling around. When she realized that we were still asleep, it was evident that someone had done this with malicious intent.
On another occasion when my father wasn’t around, a man entered the business during the early morning. I heard the door opening. I was only a child, around 10 years old when I saw a man punching my mother who was strewn across the floor. I thought the worst, and I screamed as loud as a I could, mom…
When he heard my screams, the man ran towards me. He wanted to harm me as well. When he heard the neighbors began making noise outside, the man fled. It was so painful to see my mother lying on the ground, beat up like this. We have suffered so much racism and hate towards us, just for being indigenous. Our small business was robbed many times. But my parents never left because it was our livelihood.
In 2008, my mother lent money to a woman. She loaned the money to receive a percentage back. Although the woman signed a contract, regrettably, the woman never paid my mother. Two years went by without her paying anything to my mother, and she needed the money. In 2010, my mother decided to speak to the woman. She told her that if she didn’t pay what she owed her, she would press charges for not following the agreement that they had. I can’t remember if my mother went to court. However, after about 15 days went by, the woman sent someone to kill my mother. My mother died from a bullet wound to her brain. Without a doubt, it was the woman who owed her money who sent someone to kill her.
As expected in Guatemala, where many crimes go unpunished, the authorities didn’t do anything. They arrested the man who shot her, but a few months later we found out he was released. This woman, who sent someone to kill my mother, laughed at us every time that she saw us. I imagined she laughed at us because nothing ever happened to her and she would see my father and us orphaned, without a mother. My youngest sibling was two years old and the second to youngest was three and a half. They were so young. I was very angry. I was filled with rage and went to court to reopen the case against her, so they could properly investigate, and the death of my mother wouldn’t go unpunished.
The police told me they were unable to do anything with the case because so many years had gone by. I found out that this woman was a drug-dealer and was in a gang. I know that she wasn’t arrested because the police had been bought, something common in my country. The woman found out that I had tried to reopen my mother’s case against her and then I began receiving calls with death threats. I was very afraid for my life and the lives of my family.
I had a boyfriend since about 2007. He was a man with vices since he was 14. However, he was loving, and I was in love. In 2013, I got pregnant by him. From the onset of my pregnancy, my partner changed completely. According to him, I betrayed him, and because of this he looked at me with hate.
We broke up because of his accusations. But he decided to find me, he asked for forgiveness and we got back together. Yet, it wasn’t the same. He began to mistreat me, hit me, and sexually abuse me, it didn’t matter that I was pregnant. On one occasion when I was eight months pregnant, he tried to hang me.
I decided to leave him and go to my father’s house, however he arrived to look for me. He was always under the influence of drugs, beating down the door and yelling foul words, threatening me that if I did not come back, he would beat me.
I tried to ask for help many times, but never received any. In my country, there wasn’t justice. My daughter was born, and I went back to him because I was afraid to go back to my house. I didn’t want my father to be involved in our problems as he was very sick.
One day my partner arrived very irritated because I had gone to the courts to ask for monetary support. He beat me savagely and I was left unconscious. After hearing the cries of my child, I grabbed what I could, and I fled to my father’s house. He arrived doing the same thing, beating down the door, yelling horrible things.
I couldn’t handle any more… my partner striking me and my child, death threats against me and my child from the person who killed my mother and from the gangs. At this point there was so much suffering, my soul was pained.
I left my father and my siblings, borrowed some money and headed towards this country. On the way here, many nights I slept on the street, others I was lucky enough to stay in shelters. The journey was long, almost a month and a half. I finally arrived in this country and was relieved to be so far away from so much violence and suffering.
After being here for a few months, I began to feel fear again, having to fight my case and knowing the possibility existed that I would be sent back to the hell I had fled. I didn’t have the resources to pay for a lawyer. However, Tahirih arrived like angels. They took my asylum case and thanks to them and those who support them, I won my case. I was so happy and finally I could cease feeling afraid.
I am here as an example to women and mothers, survivors who have done everything possible to protect themselves and protect their children.
We can overcome unthinkable situations. Every mother should have the opportunity to fight for justice for themselves and their family. We deserve to be heard and we deserve to be free of violence.