Re-encounter with deprivation and danger

Muñoz and Hernández share the prison suffering in the US and the deportation to Guatemala

Photo: Luis Cortés/EL UNIVERSAL
English 12/08/2017 17:40 José Meléndez/enviado Guatemala Actualizada 05:03

When Guatemalans Róger Wellington Muñoz Rivas, 40, and Robbie Hernández Quinteros, 37, were deported from the United States to Guatemala, after many years of living on American territory, a strange feeling of unease arose about their homeland in the re-encounter: an “ugly and dangerous” or “frightening and atrocious” country.

Used to live in US cities-Muñoz in Los Angeles and Hernández in Minnesota-, both are part of the large list of Guatemalans deported from the US. Both study informatics and other disciplines in Labor Connection (Conexión Laboral), a non-state company of Guatemala that aids deportees.

With 20 years of being in the United States, Muñoz, a native of the Guatemalan capital, could not visit his country or regularize his immigration status. Earlier this year, while driving his car in Los Angeles, a policeman from that city ordered him to stop because one of the high taillights of his car was broken.

“I gave him my driver's license and my identity card. The policeman consulted my name and it appeared that the immigration authorities requested my presence. I was arrested and a judge told me to choose between leaving the US voluntarily or being deported. I agreed to sign a paper for my departure. I was detained for three months until I was deported,” he told EL UNIVERSAL.

The deportation was "in April," said this man who had worked, always in Los Angeles, in the construction sector.

“I left Guatemala by land to the US escaping from the violence and the economic situation,” he recalled, admitting that when he returned to this nation he was shocked. “I found myself in an ugly and dangerous country. To find work is difficult. I had to rebuild my life here,” he said.

“From my years there, I only brought that I learned English,” he said. “There” stayed his wife, Fabiola Peñaloza, an American of Mexican origin, 42, and two children, Debby, 19, and Róger, 18, both US citizens, as well as a house and other property.

He traveled with his parents. The story of Hernandez in the US ended where he started: in Guatemala. At age 12, he traveled to Mexico, but Chicago, Illinois, was his goal because his parents-Victor and Olivia (deceased)-had settled in the city.

"My dad came for me and we went together by land. We got there and I went to school, but then I started working on a farm. We went to Minnesota to work in agriculture. Always without papers, but we could work. I had social security, but I never got the residence,” he explained in an interview with this newspaper.

Brothers, cousins, uncles and other relatives of Hernández, from Puerto Barrios as well, migrated to the US. In 2012, having lived 21 years in the US, the Guatemalan became involved in fights with Americans and was arrested. “I was deported in 2013 because of public disorder. I was imprisoned for a year without seeing my father or my mother and I returned here to the capital, to work in any job and with low salary,” he lamented.

“I came across with a horrible and terrible country... I wanted to come back. I did not like anything here. I saw a very poor country and a lot of violence, which is what is left over,” he said. To exacerbate his situation, his mother died in the US and her body was sent to Guatemala, while his father, now 65, could not come to visit.

However, he has adapted to Guatemala, this man who, already deported, married the Guatemalan Ruth Marbel Méndez, 28, with whom he has two children-Mavelin Dilady, 3, and Robbie, one year and nine months old-works, speaks English and understands that his future is in education.

Muñoz and Hernández are study partners in Labor Connection (Conexión Laboral). They share the prison suffering in the US and the deportation to Guatemala, and regardless of whether it is an ugly, dangerous, terrible or atrocious country, they know that their American adventure is behind... forever.