I was thirteen-years-old when I first came to Canada. Leaving El Salvador was very sad, but I was old enough to understand that we had to leave; that if we wanted to escape the violence and fear of death, then we had no choice.
Through the eyes of a thirteen-year- old, the trip was a great adventure to a new world. I remember that my mother was very nervous about the situation, but I was excited. I looked forward to the many new places and faces I would get to see, as well as the train and airplane rides. I had not heard of Canada before our trip was planned. All I knew was that we would see snow for the first time; that beautiful cold, white stuff falling from the sky like rain. I couldn’t wait to see it all.
I learned to forgive so that I could succeed in the future my parents came to Canada for.
When we finally made it to our destination, living in Canada became a dream come true for my parents. Not having to worry about violence every time we left the house, or fear of child abduction, were comforting changes.
My experience was more complex. At first living here was great. I saw snow and it was just as beautiful as I had imagined. Our family met a community of people who wanted to support us as we transitioned. But then, the realization that I would no longer see my friends and family in El Salvador finally set in. I missed my family and friends very much.
I missed my family and friends even more after I started attending school. I soon found out that refuge came with a price. Prejudice was extremely high, my fellow schoolmates were very cruel, and I faced racial remarks and disgusted looks daily. I continue to struggle in order to make this place my new home. I was shocked when I realized that as a Spanish speaking refugee, we were not wanted in Canada by some people. I learned to forgive so that I could succeed in the future my parents came to Canada for. I chose to be thankful for a future that I would otherwise not have had, if it wasn’t for this country that sheltered us when we were most in need. That thankfulness motivated me to work hard despite the racism I experienced.
As the years went by I made a future for myself, and now have three beautiful children. The battles my children must fight are unfortunately not much different than mine were. They must struggle to find a place within two cultures – while both cultures have expectations of knowing them effortlessly. Sometimes I feel that I am watching my children grow further and further away from the culture that brought me life. While it is difficult and somewhat unsuccessful, it is important that I am grateful for the culture that remains in them so that they know where I came from, and through me, where they came from. Although I no longer can live in my country, my culture is ingrained in me and keeping it alive is important.
-Lidia Urrutia | Photo by Jamie Moffett