Sonsonate, El Salvador. 2012. Josue was a fourteen-year-old Salvadoran boy. He was born not long after one of the bloodiest civil wars of the twentieth century came to an end: the Salvadoran Civil War. The war, at one time, was one more theater of the Cold War. Now, the war was long forgotten by everyone, even Josue.
One day, after years of being beaten up and threatened by Mara Salvatrucha gang members—themselves an echo of the Civil War—he went to the police for help. The police laughed at him and said, “good luck with that.” That day, he decided to venture north—to the United States. “My father is there,” he told himself. He kissed his mother and younger sisters goodbye. His family begged him not to go. They said he was much too young to venture out into the world by himself. They told him of all of the mothers in Sonsonate that had lost children—children like him—that wanted to reach the United States. But against the wishes of his family, Josue left El Salvador. He was determined to make it.
A month later, along the banks of the Rio Bravo River, separating the United States from Mexico, a Border Patrol agent found the body of a teenage boy. It was Josue. His backpack contained a piece of paper with phone numbers and the rosary his mother gave him before he left.
Twenty-two years after the Chapultepec Peace Accords were signed in Mexico City, ending the conflict in El Salvador, the Civil War is still claiming lives.
FRANCISCO LOPEZ is currently undocumented. He was born in Torreon, Coahuila, Mexico, and was brought to the United States at the age of five, in 1989. He grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 2008. He has worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico at the Consulate General of Mexico in San Francisco, where he frequently visited the regional Immigration and Customs Enforcement Detention and Removal facility from 2011-2012. He has worked closely with asylum seekers since 2012 and was recently admitted to American University-Washington College of Law and the School of International Service to pursue a joint JD-MA degree.