In Asociación Sueños, I work with a specific sector in Guatemala, which I would like to call the "deep" Guatemala. It does not appear in the advertisements, and its crude reality is often hidden. There are so many elements framing this Guatemala, like toxic masculinity (machismo), poverty, migration, violence, and lack of opportunities.
Many of these elements were my reality, a part of my childhood, which is why I identify strongly with the children and adolescents of our organization. I lived through many of these realities: a very macho father, family disintegration, poverty, violence, and of course migration to improve opportunities.
Throughout my childhood, I was passionate about learning new things by teaching and challenging myself. Without knowing it, I was rebellious and thought very differently about the world than almost all of the adults around me. I found myself questioning everything, to the point of challenging the adults around me about why they couldn't be different.
Not long ago, I realized that a habit of mine was to draw everything I wanted to achieve. In other words, I drew my dreams. I do not remember in detail each drawing, but the biggest ones and how I have achieved many of them was to break barriers and open my way of thinking at each step:
Initially, I drew my ideal house. I wanted to have a home for me and my family; at that time we didn't have our own house.
I saw the situation of my family in poverty, and I convinced myself that if I studied hard I could change that reality. Education was the solution for me.
To work was something different; I knew very few women who worked and every time I saw one, it was super motivating for me, and I knew that one day I would do it. My mother (my heroine) was that example because she always worked and took care of us.
Each one of my dreams has been fulfilled, each one with so much meaning for me. One day in a class at Sueños, during a conversation, I heard one of the teenagers sharing experiences similar to mine. He told us that he wanted to help his family and get ahead, to be able to help his siblings. It was then that I wanted to share how I arrived from my past, one in which it seemed I wouldn't achieve my dreams.
Thanks to my parents, I had the enormous opportunity to finish primary education. When I went to secondary school I felt very excited. I was 14 years old when I left this stage and for me, it was normal that I would start a career. However machismo appeared again; my father told me, women should not study, I should learn to be a woman because my job would be to have children and serve my husband. I felt that it was so unfair that there was a difference between my dreams and those of a man.
But I did not give up. I insisted on wanting to study and convince him of the importance of my dreams. I decided to move in with my mother. I asked her if I could study. She had the disposition but not the resources. She proposed to help me, but I had to work. We then improvised a business where we prepared food and sold it to construction workers. My day started at 4:00 a.m. selling atol and sandwiches. At 8:00 am we served breakfast, at noon lunches, and at 7:00 pm dinners. I studied between 1:30 pm and 5:00 pm and after came home to help by purchasing produce and preparing food. I had free time to study from 9:00 pm on, or in any free time I had. We prepared food for 50 to 60 people at each meal.
In spite of being tired, I was very happy. I fought so hard that I graduated with honors. That same year, with so much faith, I took the exam to enter the State University of Guatemala because it was the most realistic option I could afford (I had neither work nor money). I passed the exams and the following year I enrolled, saving from short-term and low-paid jobs, such as babysitting, chopping vegetables, washing clothes, and tutoring. I couldn't study every day. I opted for a career on weekends and my goal every Friday was to have Q.50.00 (equivalent to about $6), which I used for transportation and educational materials. I spent two full years surviving every week, and then came the first great opportunity; I was hired to work as a teacher for the government of Guatemala. I began to fulfill many of my dreams. Two years later when I was 23, I was able to buy my house and my first daughter was born.
Although in Guatemala our culture expects us to have children and take care of them, not to work was not an option for me. Those were not my plans! I knew that it was possible to work, study and take care of my daughter. In 2014, I graduated for the first time from the university with a mid-level degree (Profesorado). The following year I finished the coursework for my bachelor's degree. In 2017, my second daughter was born and I started volunteering at Sueños. I'm now just a few months away from receiving my bachelor's degree in pedagogy - the first in my whole family, but I know that I open the path for those that follow. I realize in the present how my story has developed differently from many possible and expected scenarios. This is what I want to achieve with our young people; I am a facilitator of the adolescent program, Sueños en Acción. I wish with all my heart that my story helps them and my work is a small contribution to my country.