This is the story of Fany Siguencia who came to the United States from Ecuador in 2000. In the process of this interview, I learned about the struggle it was for my parents specifically my mom to come to America and live a better life. When I was doing the interview I realized that my mom is telling me more than what she told me when I was doing this project back in 4th grade. She told me about her physical journey here and the money it cost. I learned a lot of little things that I haven’t asked before like what was her first job and how she “didn’t make any friends or talk to anyone because [she] was depressed. All [she] thought about was [her] kids and how much [she] wanted to see them. [She] would work extra hours just so [she] wouldn’t have these thoughts.” One thing that surprised me a lot was that my mother was actually left alone with her brother in the middle of nowhere; she could have actually died and I wouldn’t be writing this. My mom was affected by the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform that was passed in 2002. Many of her sisters and brothers were still in Ecuador, and once she realized that she couldn’t return to Ecuador because she was illegal she wanted to bring them over to America. However, this new law made it really hard for people to cross the border because there was more security and a lot of the Coyotes stopped working for a while so they wouldn’t get caught. I grew up with parents that weren’t born here so they had to work hard to achieve the “American Dream”. I’ve seen the American Dream; I’ve seen my parents working extra hours so they can win more; I see them taking risks; I see them trying to have a better future. I’ve heard them say multiple of times “My husband and I worked and are still working our asses off so we can see you guys go to college.” Even though it is difficult to be Hispanic and illegal in America, my parents have tried and worked hard for it. It’s such a huge coincidence that I was just told that one of my family’s friend’s kids died in Mexico trying to cross the border illegally. My parents weren’t fortunate enough to get a visa and come here, so they had to suffer long and hard to get here. I am proud to say that even if they are not categorized under U.S Citizens they still make major contributions to the country.
Interviewer: Mayra Jasmine
Interviewee: Fany Siguencia
City/Town of Origin: Cañar, Ecuador
What year did you come to this country and how old were you? Did you come alone or with other family members and/or friends? Did you know anyone who lived in this country?
I came to the United States of America in the year 2000 and I was 22. I came with my husbands sister and my brother. Yes, my husband was here already and most of his family.
When did your husband come? Was his experience here what encouraged you to come to the U.S?
My husband tried to come here 3 times. The first time he paid the coyote, the person who guides us on this journey to America, but he got robbed and they left taking all his money. Then in 1995 he got to America but got caught so he was put in jail for 2 months and then deported back to Ecuador. And then the third time was in 1998 when he was 20. He successfully got here the third time but he always glorified life here. The only reason why he didn’t tell me how hard life was here was because he wanted me to come here and be with him. He sent me shirts with the Statue of Liberty and pictures of him posing in front of really tall buildings. He definitely persuaded me to come here.
Which languages did you speak when you first came here?
I only spoke Spanish. I didn’t even know another language existed.
Why did you leave your home country? Have you been back to your home country since you’ve moved here?
I left Ecuador because I had no future there. I was really poor and I couldn’t support my family. There were no jobs there and I had no family there. I feel into depression and I became hopeless. Ecuador was filled with gangs, criminals, rapist, and many horrible things. I am an illegal immigrant so sadly I can’t return to my home country.
What was the hardest part about leaving your home country?
The hardest part was leaving my kids. My daughter was two and my son was only a month old. Do you know how horrible it feels to leave your kids? I remember getting on the bus to leave and come here and seeing my two kids crying and screaming my name. Sometimes I blame myself for leaving them. And until this day I haven’t seen my son since I left.
What was your first impression of the U.S. after you arrived? Was moving here an easy transition from the place you left?
When I arrived I was surprised about how different it was. Back in Ecuador I lived in a farm with cows. Streets, cars, bicycles, and stores were all new to me. The fact that you can walk less than a minute to buy clothes or food was incredible. Yet, I always heard that there was money everywhere and that everything was free but everything was actually expensive here. Did you ask if it was an easy transition? Heck no. I always got lost and couldn’t ask for help since everyone spoke English. And the train was a whole other story. I would take the 7 train the wrong way and somehow end up in the Bronx. It took me a long time to adapt to everything.
How did you get here? How long did it take you? Was it expensive to get here?
My journey was really difficult. I walked for days without any food from Ecuador to Colombia. Then I took a really small boat to Guatemala. During the week that we had to be in the boat was really horrible. The boat would be rocking back and forth like crazy and you’d start to get dizzy and seasick. Everyone would start to cry and regret coming to America. Once you got there you would have to swim ashore but I clearly remember seeing dead bodies floating in the water, I remember seeing this little boy’s head and this baby’s hand. After arriving at Guatemala, I stayed at this random women’s house for one month waiting for any further instructions from the coyote, the main guy that guides us on the journey. Then, we tried crossing the border between Guatemala and Mexico but we got caught. We had to lie that we were from Guatemala so they would just deport us to Guatemala instead of all the way back to Ecuador. The second time crossing I remember having to go under mud and as I was about to cross and I remember my hair getting stuck in the wire and how anxiously I was trying to free myself and being terrorized that the immigration officers would take me. After successfully crossing we walked endlessly for days without any water or filthy water. It took us 2 weeks to walk all the way up to the border between Mexico and America. On the last few days in Mexico, I remember being so tired and dehydrated that I couldn’t continue any longer. All I remember was getting dizzy and about to vomit and then out of nowhere waking up in a little room. I learned afterwards that I had fainted and everyone was so devastated and tired that they just left me there thinking I would die anyway. However, my brother came back looking for me and took me to this random little cabin in the middle of nowhere. It was only my brother and I because the whole group of people coming with us left us. I remember being so scared and endlessly crying because we had no idea where we were at. We had no idea how to get to the closest town or if we would get caught while trying to look for it. So I prayed for hours while my brother tried to look for any helpful resources until we gave up. We just started to walk north but we had no idea where we were going. I still thank god for this, but after walking for 2 days straight only eating worms or whatever animals we could kill we found our group in another cabin. I figured out that we were really close to the U.S and that it would only take us a day to get there. In order to pass the border without the immigration officers catching us we had to hide. So all of us were nailed under a big truck without any air for more than 40 mins. We had very little holes to breathe through but the anxiety and the fear made us need more oxygen and with the heat and everything I fainted again. So we arrived in Houston, Texas and from there we got driven to New York. It took us 2 days to get there and when we finally got there they would drop each one of us in different locations so we didn’t look suspiciosus. It took me a total of 2 months to get here I am pretty sure. I had to borrow money from someone to get here. I had to borrow 4,000 dollars to come here. And thinking about it, that was a lot considering that we were in poverty. It took me one year to pay off my debt.
Looking back on your experience (and the experience of other immigrants who you know), how would you define “The American Dream?” How easy or hard has it been to achieve that “dream?”
The “American Dream” is the idea that anyone in the U.S should have the same opportunity to attain security, success, and prosperity through courage, hard work, determination, and sacrifice. I have definitely achieved that “dream” but it hasn’t been easy. Since I don’t speak English or look like an American it has been hard to be heard and accepted. In the beginning all I wanted was to raise enough money to return to Ecuador to be with my kids but everyone that came here said that and no one returned. Then I had two other daughter and my only goal was to give you guys everything I didn’t have growing up. My husband and I worked and are still working our asses off so we can see you guys go to college. I successfully own two nail salons and my husband owns a house. Comparing my life here to my life back in Ecuador, this is heaven.
What was your first job here? Was it easy? How did you get to your job?
My first job here was working at a supermarket. My husband was already here so it was easy getting the job. It was easy there because everyone that worked there was Hispanics and the majority of them also just arrived from Ecuador. I didn’t make any friends or talk to anyone because I was depressed. All I thought about was my kids and how much I wanted to see them. I would work extra hours just so I wouldn’t have these thoughts. To get there I had to take the Manhattan bound 7 train to Queensboro and then take the N train to Astoria. Until I learned how to get there without getting lost, I would leave a piece of paper on a wall to indicate where I had to go to get home or go to work, and I’d make sure I always found the paper to know I was on the right side.
Was it hard talking about your journey here and how you immigrated?
Sometimes I feel like a superhero because I have survived through a lot and whenever I tell my story I feel brave and inspirational. The first time I ever told anyone about my story I couldn't stop crying. I always want my story to inspire you guys to be better and work hard so you can have a better future than me.
Mayra Jasmine '21 (BHSEC Queens)
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