My Survival Journey: The Boat

I lived in Ecuador ever since I was born. Until my boyfriend asked me to travel to the United States with him. It was a big surprise because I never expected to travel to another country. “I have two tickets to travel on a boat with the first stop being in Guatemala. Later we will continue to the United States,” he said. “Yes! I will go with you.” I was pregnant, and I never imaged that my nightmare was about to begin.

I still remember what happened. It was ten years ago in April of 2006 — one week before Easter. That morning, my boyfriend came from hanging out with his friends and told me that today was the day to go to the United States. We traveled for six hours to reach our point of departure – Manta, Ecuador near the Pacific Ocean. Actually, it was not a ship. It was a small boat with capacity of 60 passengers but the boat was overloaded with 122. I was afraid, and I refused to get on the boat, but my boyfriend told me that if we didn’t accept, the men with the guns would kill us. I couldn’t believe what he said. He explained to me that the men who owned the small boat were smugglers. Even though I didn’t want to go, I did not have a choice. If I told them I wanted to go back home, they’d kill me because I was money for them. If I chose to get on the overloaded boat, maybe I would die.

I chose the second option, and I knew I had to fight for my life. I felt cheated, disappointed, angry, and frustrated because I could not do anything to change my destiny. The first day on the boat, I saw north, south, west, and east – there was water everywhere. I heard birds sing. Dolphins surrounded us. The sun was burning my skin. I smelled fish too. Three days into the trip, I heard one of the migrants shout out, “The boat is broken! We need to fix it!” Water began to seep through and fill the boat and the passengers started to cry. They were desperate for their lives so they’d run to one side of the boat and then to the other side to try to keep the boat balanced. I felt death. It was cold, windy, and the waves crashed into the boat nonstop. All of this happened for four hours but it felt like forty. It was an eternity! No one could fix the boat, so we started to take out the water out using our hands. I spent 10 days offshore until one of the smugglers said we were close to Guatemala. I looked towards land in the distance.

I thought the chaos was over but there was a new challenge. Survivor was the word that described me instead of happiness. I was in Guatemala. When I saw the beach from far away, one of the smugglers said, “The canoe is coming to get you. You have to get into the canoe, and you will be in Guatemala.” I was so excited. We got into the canoe that took us to the shore. But when I put my first foot on the sand, I could not feel my feet. I could not stand because I was not used to it. I was crawling on the beach pregnant. I heard a man’s voice behind me saying that this was normal because I was offshore for 10 days. The smugglers told us not to worry and that in just a few hours our bodies would work as usual. This relieved me. I understood what they meant. I was trying to survive and protect my baby in my swollen stomach. I kept calm, but I lost it when I saw two men with shotguns waiting for us and shouting that we’d have to get on our feet as soon as possible. It shocked me!

I was nervous and my breathing was heavy. I tried to walk steadily. I followed their instructions because of fear. I saw a truck and heard one of the men say, “You have to go in.” I obeyed them and jumped inside. They threw a tent over us. They wanted to hide us because we were just merchandise for them. Finally, we arrived at a strange place. I felt terrified because I saw around twelve men with shotguns surrounding the farmhouse. The smugglers got us into a smelly, dirty, empty room one by one. Two of the youngest armed guards approached us and introduced themselves. I immediately I recognize them — they were my boyfriend’s neighbors.