A personal narrative from a Minneapolis Immigrant Luis Angel Santos Henriquez
I was born in San Salvador, El Salvador. Since I was a child, I faced many challenges with my family and society. I was bullied because of the way I expressed myself and my sexual orientation. At home, I not only experienced rejection but also witnessed violence coming from my dad towards my mom. I have always thought that I grew up in a broken family, but to be honest no family in this world is perfect.
My parents used to transfer me from one school to another because of various reasons but it affected me in many ways that stopped me from enjoying education. It was really hard for me to find friends; I have always been a very shy person, and that instability made it worse. I used to get bullied every day. Kids would touch me inappropriately, insult me, hit me, call me names, throw things at me, etc. At home, my family tried so hard to “change” my behavior. Often, I was reminded that who I was wasn’t okay, and I needed to change in order to be a normal human being.
I got to the point of madness when I was thirteen and I tried to commit suicide. I was not only battling with society, but I was so disappointed I did not have the support and love I needed from my family. People were extremely hateful, and I lost hope. I talked to my mom about getting help, but she did not listen to me. As time went by, life got better. I started to have a better relationship with my parents. They started to understand that this is who I am, and they cannot do anything to change me. I became a more secure person and now I was able to defend myself. I started to have more supportive and loving friends.
At the beginning of 2012, my family started to hear more from the U.S. embassy about the possibility of coming to the U.S. I knew that greater things were coming, but it also meant that I was going to leave everything and everyone I love behind.
A lot of people from the LGBT community come to the U.S. as a way to escape from the dangerous situations not only from El Salvador but around the world. Many of them die trying to reach the American Dream. In my case, it was different, I got the opportunity to come here without worrying about how dangerous the journey was going to be. I consider myself to be a very lucky person. I truly see this opportunity as a gift from God.
When I first got to the U.S. I was shocked and fearful. Everything was so different, and I felt like the American Dream was going to be hard to reach. But I knew that it would be better than in El Salvador. Here there is less homophobia and transphobia. People from the LGBT community get to live a better life.
When I came here, I didn’t speak any English. It took me a couple of months to start absorbing the language and communicate with others. School definitely helped me. I met people who were in the same situation I was. So, we shared our experiences and helped each other in any way we could. The process of adapting to this new life was somewhat painful but I knew that the pain was going to go away.
Looking back, I see how much I have been through and I think “Wow, that was tough, but you made it.” I am in a better place that’s not only safe but that offers me many opportunities that I couldn’t have if I was in El Salvador. I am in a place where I can express myself without fear of being killed.
Luis Angel Santos Henriquez was one of 30 students from Wellstone International High School whose personal essays were published in Green Card Voices Youth Voices: Immigration Stories from a Minneapolis High School, the first book published by Green Card Voices. Since graduating from high school, Luis Angel completed their associate’s degree in human services at Minneapolis Community and Technical College and are currently pursuing their bachelor’s degree in Human Services at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Luis Angel became a U.S. citizen on March 9, 2020. They have continued to tell their story, and helped others to tell their own. Today, in addition to being a student, Luis Angel is a public speaker and Story Stitch Circle facilitator.
“There were a lot of opportunities [and] challenges. The idea that I could become anything I wanted to was mind-boggling to me. The idea that there are scholarships out there that are specifically tailored to help people that might not be able to afford school was incredible.”
Read more about Fadumo’s story at tccp.coop/article/fadumo-yusuf/