Esperanza was the middle child in a house of nine. Her makeshift house was crumbling to pieces. The moss-covered walls were meant to keep them warm, but frigid nights crept through the thin insulation. Esperanza’s school was no escape to the unpleasant conditions she endured at home. The desks and chairs were worn down, and the school had insufficient funding. Everyone in Mexico knew the stories of people in the US who sweep money off the streets and live in houses of gold, but Esperanza dreamed of seeing it herself.
Esperanza’s neighbor, Laura, was her best friend and her exact opposite. Laura was often reluctant to try anything new, while Esperanza opened up to risk and opportunity. One night, Esperanza snuck out to tell Laura about the decision she made. She knew Laura would try to stop her, but her mind was made up, she was crossing the border. Laura was not the type to give in during an argument, but she was also Esperanza’s best friend. She knew how incredibly important this was for her, so she pushed herself to say, “Okay. How can I help?”
Over the next two months, Esperanza started skipping school to prepare for her trip. Both girls had jobs to help cover family expenses, but Esperanza worked extra shifts to save up for her journey. She talked to several “coyotes” who could take her to the US, but she ended up deciding on a coyote named Emilio. Emilio was leading a relatively small group of twenty people to the US mid-June and was not asking for an outrageous amount of money. Esperanza could not bear telling her parents she was leaving, so when the day came, she left them a note and snuck out. Esperanza met Emilio where they had previously arranged, gave him the money and left with the group.
Emilio began splitting everyone into four sections and instructed the group to wait at a train station for a man in a red sweater and a blue hat with the number four written on it. In order to draw little attention to themselves, the group stayed in their sections of five people each. Once they saw him, one person was to ask him where they could find a hotel within twenty miles. Emilio explained that this would indicate how many people the man was supposed to lead. Esperanza prayed Emilio knew what he was doing because if she did not cross, she might not ever get another chance.
Everyone quickly learned that the man in the red sweater was named Jorge. He loaded the group into a van and dropped them off in Tijuana, Mexico, where they reunited with Emilio. The groups had to split up once again because a crowd of twenty people would certainly draw attention. Emilio happened to be part of Esperanza’s group, but that did not make her uneasy feeling go away.
Esperanza knew the journey would be tough, but she never imagined the arduous and repulsive situation she was getting herself into. The group spent days in the gleaming sun and many nights in the freezing cold. They warmed themselves with blankets that belonged to people they did not know and drank from water bottles others had left behind. On several occasions, the group had come close to getting caught, and Esperanza was almost left behind when she fell in a hole and landed on a thorn bush. Esperanza dreaded the heat during the day, but most of all, she despised the nighttime. It was bitterly cold, and all she thought about was the family she had left behind. She missed them, but there was no turning back now.
Even though all odds were against her, Esperanza got to the border, her mind engulfed with grief. She stared at the towering wall, got on her knees and began to dig a hole. Once she crossed, she was jostled into a bush when a helicopter’s light scanned the area. As soon as it was out of sight, Emilio and the remaining individuals ran as fast as they could, their head on a swivel. They hid in an area of dense bushes and trees next to a freeway in San Diego, waiting for Jorge. The group was there for days with no food and little water. Jorge arrived three days later and signaled to them with a whistle. The group was sardined into a pickup truck and remained in that position for hours. After what felt like an eternity, the group was dropped off in Los Angeles and from there on, they had to figure it out on their own. Esperanza had limited money, she bought water, some food, a backpack, and a hat. She stared over the LA city lights and set off to start her new life.