Contributor: Megan Carson
Photographer: Kristi Burton
The third story from our partnership with Their Story is Our Story comes from Elizabeth, whose home in Central America was shot at by local gangs because her daughter would not join them.
“I had to go and confront them... and I was able to get my daughter back, but they killed the two other girls. To think of the danger it was to leave my country, to come here, is less than to know that my daughter could have died that day.”
My name is Elizabeth. I am a single mother. I have four children. I worked. In my country, jobs at my age—I am 36 years old—are difficult. I didn’t have the opportunity to study. In my country, childhood is short. We have to start working at an early age. In my case, I worked from the time I was twelve. None of my children have worked at the same age that I did. I have been the head of the household, the breadwinner.
But, work is scarce and then there are the gangs.
When my daughter was growing up, they started to harass her. On one occasion, they followed her and took her out of school and told her that they wanted her to be part of their gang. I was working and the teacher called me to tell me that she was pulled out with two other female classmates. I had to go and confront them... and I was able to get my daughter back, but they killed the two other girls. To think of the danger it was to leave my country, to come here, is less than to know that my daughter could have died that day.
The circumstances of things is what made us have to leave the country without looking back, not because we want to. I told you that I confronted them. That same night, they came to attack me. They shot at my house. I had to leave as if I were the criminal, not them. I left with my children. I went to a town with my family, leaning on other people. I spoke with my family and told them, “I can’t. I can’t. I have to take my daughter out of here.”
Editorial Note: Violent, competing gangs recruit youth in Central American countries and often, if they choose not to join, they kill them. The homicide rate there is among the highest in the world. Most murders are never punished. In recent years, only 4% have ended in a conviction. In the past, Central American youth traveled north in search of the American Dream; today they leave to escape violence and crime.