Why I Left Guatemala

by Erick Roldan

I left Guatemala about three and a half years ago. I had dreamed of living in the USA for a long time. Life is different in Guatemala. You can find a job there, but the salary is very low, and you cannot live on that salary. People are becoming poorer because the cost of things is going up but the salaries are not. The economy is in trouble because the government is making a lot of mistakes. In many ways the goverment is corrupt.

I think that it is dangerous to live in Guatemala. People don't respect each other. If you are in the streets wearing something expensive like a bracelet or necklace, it is likely that it will be stolen from you. Some people will hurt you for no reason. The police will not help you--they are corrupt too. If they stop a thief, they will let him go after he pays the police some money as a bribe.

Believing That I Can Fly

by Erick Roldan

When I was in my country, which is a little place that is far away, I went to school. I remember that by the time that I was about nine years old, I already had to work in the corn fields. School got out each day around noon and I would rush home, get something to eat, and go out to the fields. During the harvest season nobody went to school because everybody needed to work all day to make sure that the corn was picked before it spoiled.

I had a big burlap bag that I filled up with corn. When the bag was full, I would attach the ends of a belt to opposite corners on the top of the bag, put the bag on my back and carry the bag of corn, leaning forward with the strap looped around my forehead. This is how we would carry our bags out of the field. I would usually be picking corn in a field that was about one mile away from my house, so it was a long, hard walk. I was just a little boy, and to carry that bag was very difficult.

Everybody in my community did this. It was hard work. I remember vividly the sound of the corn as we cut the stalks, the dust and bits of corn husks and leaves that made my arms itch, and the intense heat as we worked in the noonday sun. It felt awful, to be so hot and uncomfortable, with no escape because we had to keep working. Corn was the only crop--there was corn everywhere. So everybody worked in the fields, harvesting the crop, because that was the only kind of work available. Everybody did the same thing.

When I was thirteen or fourteen years old, I had to leave school and go work full-time. Most parents didn’t want their children to stay in school for very many years, because they needed them to help in the fields. I remember that I finished school on a Friday and I only had the weekend to rest, because I started work that next Monday. I worked from seven o’clock in the morning until seven o’clock in the evening. It was just too difficult--I would come home very tired. I had one hour for lunch, but I worked from seven a.m. to seven p.m., Monday through Saturday, and even on Sundays I would work a half day, from seven until two.

Ten years later, when I was twenty-five, I began to study. I went to a special program for adults where you can study at night. I was still working during the day, but after work I would go to classes at night to finish middle school. The program was designed so that after one year of studying at night, I was able to cover three years of material. I needed to keep my day job, because evening school costs money and if I quit my job I wouldn’t have enough money to pay for the classes. It was difficult to go to school after working all day long, but it was important to me. Education is so important. When you get more knowledge, you can get different kinds of jobs and life can be better. You have more opportunities if you study. If you don’t study, you can work, but you can only work at the same things year in and year out. Nothing will change. I want to have variety--I don’t want to be limited to only one kind of job for my whole life. My next educational goal is to become certified as an electrician.

I will always remember the words of a woman who used to work with me. She said to me, "If you want to fly, you can do it." I think about those words often. I may not have a lot of time or money, but the things that I am doing now will make my life much better.

forward backward table of contents guest book

Last Updated By Gail Matthews-DeNatale: 10/08/96