Fighting for a Chance
Alex left El Salvador when he was just 13 to escape life-threatening gang violence. During his three-month journey to the United States, he fought for his life again. After arriving, he located his parents and fought to get an education. This is Alex’s story of resilience, courage, and hope.
Surrounded by Violence
He was born in one of the most dangerous states in El Salvador. When he was just 9 months old, his parents fled the country because of death threats and poverty, making them unable to provide for the family. Alex was raised by his grandmother and his uncle.
He grew up hearing story after story of gang violence and extortion: gangs would threaten business owners and other people, telling them to pay money if they wanted to live. If they didn’t pay, they’d pay with their lives. Some of Alex’s friends knew a person murdered by a gang just for having a nice pair of shoes. His friends by the river would often find bodies floating in it. To this day, reporting violence to the police in El Salvador is useless; gangs govern the country.
Alex’s parents tried to move back to El Salvador a few years after losing a house in the U.S. They gave his uncle money to buy them a house, but on the day that he was going to buy it, he was kidnapped by gang members. His uncle survived, but the gang took the money for the house, and started sending regular threats to his family; this time, the target was Alex.
His parents got a call. The person on the other end of the line demanded weekly payments for Alex’s safety. They knew everything about Alex: where he went to school, what time he left and entered the school, and even the bus he took. Alex knew he had to leave El Salvador.
The Long Journey Toward Hope
But his life-threatening troubles weren’t over yet. Just thirteen years old, he nearly lost his life 3 times on the way to the United States. The first time, he nearly drowned on his way from El Salvador to Guatemala. He had to swim through a river with a very strong current, but he didn’t know how to swim. The current dragged him downstream, and he washed up on the shore, unconscious. He knew then that the “7-15 day trip” would be much, much longer. It ended up totaling three months.
The next time he nearly died, he was in Mexico. Gang members came to the place he was staying and held him at gunpoint as they told him to get into their car. He was questioned about his trip, but they let him go instead of taking him with a number of other people they had rounded up. This moment, Alex remembers, was a testament to God’s protection over his trip.
The rest of the journey was perilous and dangerous, but at every step of the way, God was with Alex. Eventually, after crossing the border, Alex was reunited with his parents, but they were strangers to him. He hadn’t seen them after they left him as a baby.
Over the next few years, Alex worked to become a legal resident and finish high school. Because he was undocumented, it was easy to lose hope, but he continued to push himself every day to obtain a better life for his family and legal standing in the U.S.