The rest of my journey: A miraculous path


Joel Reyes

In part two of “Mi Viaje”, Lincoln student and Honduran immigrant Joel Reyes writes about his difficult journey to America.

(Translated by Sophia Spehar and Charlotte Yesser)

In the first part of my story, I described how I left Honduras and started my journey through Guatemala all the way to the Mexican border. 

Once I was in Mexican territory, we had to separate from the people with whom we had traveled with through all of Guatemala, because we had to take a different route. It would be a difficult journey to our destination, but we were not going to give up so soon. We filled two large water bottles to drink along the way to avoid getting dehydrated. I watched the hours pass on my watch. I had sold my phone so that I could buy something to eat. 

After another full day of walking, night fell and that was when our lives were in danger. We had to be very careful of the gangs that robbed people, and also of the authorities who could arrest and deport us. Still, we had to build up the courage to ask people for money. We were ashamed to do it, but it was a necessity. We did that for an hour, and we managed to gather a few Mexican pesos. With that, we continued through the night for three more hours. I felt the urge to just give up. I was so far from my family, in a country that I had never been in. Both of us kept going with our eyes full of tears, disappointed in life.  

At four in the morning, we arrived at the bus terminal. We were able to pay for four tickets, which would take us to where the train tracks were. We got off at a dangerous point, because there, the Mexican authorities were very watchful. After so much distance, we rested at the migrant center where they help the people who come in search of a better life. What a great breakfast it was, we hadn’t eaten anything for hours. We were exhausted, but we had a lot of hope. Our plates were still half full of food, when all of the sudden someone started shouting that the train was passing. My cousin got up and said “grab your things!” and we started running. 

I dropped my breakfast and left as fast as I could toward the train station. The police were always outside, and the migration patrol was around constantly. It was the longest I ever ran in my life. When we got there, I couldn’t see the train and I was scared, but when I came around the last corner, there was the huge train, which almost looked like it was roaring. I felt a knot in my throat because that was the one they called la Bestia, (The Beast), and for good reason, it was going to be my transportation to cross the entire, enormous country of Mexico. 

The cloudy sky meant that it was very likely that it would rain that day. And it did, but we had come prepared with some plastic bags to put our backpacks in so that our clothes wouldn’t get wet. Then I got up onto the train. My nerves were on edge. It was going to be my first time on top of a train, feeling the air. All this because I needed to emigrate from my country, to be able to live a better life. Still, it was difficult. Everything was difficult. 

When the train started going, I knew that with just one wrong step I could lose my life on those rails. On the Honduran news I had heard about lots of people who had died like that.  I crossed from car to car with so much fear, looking for a place to sit down. I listened to the tracks and looked down, and  was very scared, but I kept going because it was the route that had to follow until the United States border. 

I asked God to let me make it to my destination and to be able to make my dreams a reality. All I wanted was an opportunity for me, for my family, so that we could have a great future and so that I could really be someone in this world. I was very hopeful, almost dreaming. During the trip, I imagined that everything I wished for would come true. Migrating, though difficult, has its good parts, because you meet and get to know new people from different countries. Once we had been on the train for an hour, I felt lonely yet  filled with so much hope. We were passing by the jungle, and in the forest there were all types of animals, I heard monkeys howling in the distance. 

We went on and on. It took us a day and a half to reach a cement factory in Palenque, Mexico. There, the train stopped for the night by a stream, to load cement the next morning. By then we had gone almost five days without taking a shower. We didn’t have to think twice. We took off our clothes and into the water we went! The rinse was so amazing, a big change in my body. It brought me a lot of peace. That’s how we spent our time until morning. At two in the morning, the workers started connecting the cars and the machines began to crank until the train started up again. 

We always had confidence in God, that He was never going to leave us alone on the path that was so complicated where we had to risk our lives in many ways. Sitting there, we were constantly hungry and thirsty, but all of this effort was going to be worth it. There were times where we walked full days between one road and another, walking and walking. I broke three pairs of shoes. I got so many blisters. I barely had any clothes on. When the hunger became unbearable, I thought of my goal of reaching the North. I didn’t care if I had to go without food for many days. I always kept my mentality the best it could be, and trusted that I would be able to fulfill my dreams and bring my family out of poverty. 

At one point in Mexico called Coatzacoalcos, I couldn’t do it anymore. I was ready to return to Honduras, but God was with me at every moment and he didn’t abandon me. I decided that I was going to hand myself over to the authorities and get deported back to my country. It turned out that the Mexican migration didn’t work that day. Can you believe it? It was their day off. That was the door that my almighty God opened for me to continue on to the United States. I didn’t lose faith again after that. I didn’t lose hope, and I swore to myself that I would carry on. The train was coming at high speed, and I asked God to take care of me at every moment. Running, I grabbed onto the train that would take us to the capital of Mexico. 

In Mexico City, we had to return to asking for money because we had not eaten. I was so hungry that my stomach started to hurt. There were people who were kind, but others discriminated against, while still others did not give me anything at all. I will always appreciate the people who helped me, even though it was only once. They were the people that God will bless for having a big heart and being supporting. The world needs more people like them. 

At dawn, we got to a mountain pass called Pico de Orizaba. I didn’t have any sweaters, so I just kept putting my hands inside my shirt because I couldn’t stand the cold anymore. My bones ached. We got off very far from where we wanted to be, so I walked shivering with my cousin to the hostel, but it was closed since it was too early. The cold was killing us, and we had nothing to cover ourselves with. Luckily, my cousin had a lighter, and we looked for branches to make a fire to warm ourselves. We spent the day in that freezing place, we ate, and at sunset we rode back to the next stop in Queretaro. 

In San Luis Potosí the nuns from the migrant house gave us food and clothing. I got to bathe and rest in a bed for a few hours. There was a church nearby. I didn’t hesitate to go and thank God for always taking care of me and for giving me the blessing to progress little by little to my destination. Night was falling, and I wasn’t wearing any shoes, and no clothes either,  but at that moment I heard the train once again. 

Sometimes you would have to run to be able to grab onto the train cars and climb up, and in some places it was super difficult because of the terrain. We were afraid that La Bestia would swallow us whole, making us lose an arm or a foot in its metal wheels. 

Several days away from San Potosí, our path took us to Satillo, which was very close to the border. For five whole days we went around the streets asking for food, money, and water. We got enough so that we would not get dehydrated, enough to have the strength to continue walking or run in the moment the train got near. We passed through Monclova in train cars full of new vehicles headed towards the United States. Mexican migration was everywhere. 

Finally, after 22 days of suffering, walking and withstanding hunger and thirst and not being able to bathe myself, we got off at the border between Mexico and the United States in Coahuila. I felt so many sensations at once. I felt just as much sadness as I felt happiness. I was about to reach my destination. What I didn’t know was that I had another large trip still ahead of me, one that was much longer than I had imagined. 

Thank God, there was a hostel where nuns hosted us and gave us some delicious beans with rice and a piece of chicken. It was the most delicious food that I had tasted in my entire migratory journey. They also medically treated my feet, because I could barely walk anymore. My toenails were very damaged, but I was still determined to continue despite my suffering. We worked there for three weeks with a recycler and assisting a bricklayer. I spent the most disappointing birthday of my life on the border, although it was great to experience it in a place that meant so much to me. 

When these three weeks passed, we made the decision to cross the Rio Grande. The water was too deep where we wanted to cross, so we decided to walk up to a place called El Moral where the current wasn’t as strong. There, we bathed with a bar of soap that we’d bought. We also had a little jug that was filled with river water. Before entering the current, I asked God to let him decide what he wanted for me afterwards. 

I planned with my cousin to cross at night so that the US migration would not catch us.  This didn’t work out for us. From the shore where we stood, we saw a group of people in the distance who shouted asking us what we were doing. Fear got the best of us, and we crossed the river in less than three minutes. We were on United States soil! It happened so fast, and the first thing I told my cousin was to trust God again. We thanked Him, now feeling that we could make it to anywhere. 

We passed a place with a giant field of so much corn. We moved slowly through the cornfield, because it was nighttime and we were on a private property. The dry stalks and leaves made very loud sounds under our feet.We stayed far away from the houses so that no one would hear anything. 

We navigated the cornfields well enough, but ended up getting lost in the mountains in Eagle Pass, Texas. We were there for three days and three nights, without food or water, and the sun burned. With the temperature this high, I got so dehydrated that I thought that I was dying. I couldn’t see well. My ideas were confused. When I sat down to rest, I could barely get up again. I told my cousin to go on without me, that I was just going to stay lying down for a while. If he had left, I would certainly have died. 

I was already giving up. I was very dizzy. I didn’t even have the strength to move. There, dying as I was in that place, I gave my life to God. I told him that only He would know what He would do with me at that moment. I gained internal strength, the desire to achieve my dreams and fight, and I told myself that I would try to walk with what little life I had left. At that instant, a little trail showed itself to me, and it would take me out of the bush in 15 minutes. Those 15 minutes felt like three hours, but I dragged myself down that miraculous path and we were out to the road again. 

The first thing we saw was a house with some people outside. I asked for water and they said yes and gave us four small water bottles of frozen water for me and my cousin. We both looked at each other, and with that we decided to ask them to call immigration to come and get us. We didn’t have the strength to continue any longer. In 30 minutes the patrol arrived. They checked us, gave me medical assistance, and they asked me how I was doing and how I had been throughout the journey. 

The immigration agents took us to a place they called la hielera (the freezer),  for obvious reasons, but we did not complain about the cold. This was the center where they processed undocumented immigrants that they picked up at the border. They took my fingerprints and my documentation. They gave me a juice, some apple pudding, and crackers with cheese. I ate it all at once, and it gave me a very bad stomach ache from not having eaten or drank water in so long. I was kept in a cell for three hours and then they moved me to another migration center where I spent my first night detained. 

The next day I was able to shower and put on some new clothes. Then they put me in a van along with nine other young adults. They were taking each one of us to different detention centers. Mine was very far. We went through the airport and from San Antonio we went to Houston, then Austin, and finally Brownsville, Texas. It was a very long drive, we were in that van from ten in the morning until the early morning of the next day. There were already some young adults who had arrived before me. The officers gave me some cereal with milk and took me to a room, telling me to take a shower. It was all so strange, and I didn’t know how long I was going to be detained. 

The first thing that I wanted to do was call my mom and tell her where I was and that I was okay. I wanted her to hear that I had already crossed the border. So that’s what happened. When they allowed me to use the phone, I was able to call her and let her know that I was in a protected place with people who were going to fight for my immigration case. 

At Casa Padre, the days passed until I was able to meet with the worker who would take my case to court. I met the counselor and little by little I was gaining trust with her. The months also passed, and I was still locked up. I had so much despair, sadness, and desire to go outside, and I just wanted to cry. I had barely been in detention for three months. 

My immigration case was not making any progress. I went to my first immigraton court in Texas, and the judge told me that I needed to keep waiting to see what would become of me in the United States. Every day I tried to stay strong and to distract myself by playing sports. I asked God to help me get out of there. 

5 months passed, and then 6, and then 7. When I was starting to feel that I was going to stay in that place forever, something happened that I thought would never come. In my second immigration court I met the lawyer who was helping me with my case. He told me that they had finally found a place for me and that they were going to move me from Casa Padre. I didn’t know whether to believe him or not, because I had been locked up for a long time and imagined it was impossible to leave. I consulted with my caseworker, and she said no, that it was a lie, and that my immigration case was already closed. 

I tried to be strong and not lose hope. Then, two days later, she and an immigration attorney got in contact and that’s when it was confirmed that I was leaving for Portland, Oregon. It was a miracle that this happened when my case had already been closed like that. 

Everything happened in a week. On Tuesday I spoke to the people here in Portland. They told me what I had to do and how I was going to get there and the rules that I was going to have at the Morrison Center. I was very happy, although I didn’t know what day I would leave for Portland. On Wednesday, my worker told me that everything was approved, but she didn’t tell me when the transfer would be. On the last day she worked that week, which was Friday, she gave me a big surprise at her office. They had already accepted me in Portland and that I would be flying on Monday! Tears flowed down my face knowing that I was finally leaving that place. 

I wanted the weekend to go by quickly. On Saturday I had a good time playing soccer with my friends at Casa Padre. On Sunday I went to church and thanked God for opening the doors to the new place that I was headed for. Early on Monday I boarded the flight at the airport and left Texas. It was my first time traveling by plane, and I loved how beautiful the sunrise looked from the sky. It was a new sun for me. 

It was very cold when I arrived in Portland. At first, I didn’t like Oregon at all. I felt that it was a very weird state, but when I was able to go out and  walk, I saw that everything was so beautiful. Oregon is very pretty with its weather and all of the natural surroundings. 

At the Morrison Center they gave me legal assistance with a lawyer who helped more with my immigration case. It was also a place with a little more freedom. My first day of going to school in the United States was in Lincoln High School! It was such a beautiful experience to be in a school here and to be able to enjoy the education that it has to offer. I finished the first year of school, but since that was precisely when the pandemic started, I only went to in-person school for two weeks. I had to do the rest of school that year online like everyone else. 

At the end of the year also came the time when I would be leaving Morrison Center because of my age. That place seemed much better to me. There, they let me go out a little and have fun with my friends. In June I had been very worried because they could only have me there until I was 18 years old. Thank God they found a foster family that welcomed me into their home. I left Morrison on June 16, 2020, exactly a year after being detained, and a year since I had turned myself in at the border. 

I’m with a new family that is supporting me a lot and is with me at all times. It’s been a very difficult road to get here. I even have my work permit! That was not easy to get either. Little by little everything has meant a lot of sacrifices to be here in the United States, but it’s what every immigrant wishes for. 

Now I am close to completing my second year at Lincoln, and everyone has been supporting me. I’m not complaining, I have had wonderful teachers. Lincoln gave me another opportunity that I had always dreamed of: playing American football. When I was in Honduras I admired the sport a lot but I never thought I would be able to play it. I love being on the team. I didn’t speak English, but my teammates and classmates translated things for me and never doubted me. I’m very grateful for the coaches and players. I’m especially grateful for coach Johnson for bringing this joy into my life. 

I’m determined to graduate from Lincoln and go far in life. Life is hard in this country for an immigrant. It’s not easy at all to come to a place where you don’t know the language and where everything seems so complicated. Thank God I have a job, but I am still not supporting my family in Honduras as much as I would like to be able to. I’ve also been learning English a little more. In every moment we must always be grateful for what we have. 

Now I need to organize myself and my life, as I have no family here. I’m alone in this country, and my only wish is to improve myself in life. I know, God willing,  that later I will be able to have my mother here with me as well. I hope to fulfill this dream very soon. I also know that my father will always be with me because he will take care of me from heaven. 

I will always be grateful for the people who supported me along the way. God will be with you at all times. I had always been a negative person and said that I was never going to achieve what I ended up achieving. Now, here I am, day by day trying to work towards achieving my goals and to make my family proud. 

For those who read this and are experiencing a similar situation, I’ll tell you that it is not easy at all. Let’s try our hardest and put in the effort and never lose our cool or lose the hope that we will be successful people, no matter what. 

That’s it for my journey to the United States, I hope that you enjoyed it. It’s what each one of us immigrants lives every day, wanting to overcome and to succeed. May God give many blessings to every person who reads my story, and to your families who help make your dreams come true. Anything is possible.