An Unexpected Journey

Rosa Maravilla


Never in my life had I imagined I would leave my beloved El Salvador to go to live elsewhere. Now, another radical change loomed over me.  How could I tread those grim steps for a second time?


The civil war in El Salvador started a massive migration of people who felt unsafe.  I left the country amidst the havoc, and I came to live with my aunt in Guadalajara, Mexico.

During my two years in Mexico, I bought some great leather shoes.  These black, medium-high pumps were of the finest leather and were stunning. I felt in a cloud strolling along in them. The shoes were pricey, so I paid for them in two big instalments; this was new for me since I had never bought anything on instalments in my country.  The shoes were worth it because I looked more professional in the law office where I worked.

Amidst the relative comfort I had attained in Mexico, a sudden call shook my wits.  It was my sister phoning to tell me she had fled to Mexico City with her family; I could hear my nephews playing in the background. Like me, they had come because of the ravages of war. 

My sister recounted how the cigarette factory where my brother-in-law worked now had an armed forces detachment stationed there around the clock, and the workers were searched every day.  This frightening detail triggered a memory of a time when I saw soldiers firing guns at demonstrators.  I had just passed the protesters a few minutes before, as they were crying out: “The people united will never be defeated!”  When I heard the shooting, I found shelter in a store before they locked the door.  I was safe and later on learned that there weren’t any casualties that day.  

However, the daily news of many people killed around the country became emotionally unbearable to me.  I felt compelled to leave the madness of war.  Now my sister and her family didn’t feel safe either, and they had left El Salvador to ensure the safety of their children.  I was happy for my nephews Manuel and Danny, whom I loved so much.

And here was another surprise: my sister wanted me to apply for Canadian Residency along with them.  On the phone, she began to tell me about the benefits of going to Canada. This news was so unexpected that I asked my sister if I could think about it overnight.  I consulted one of my dear Mexican friends, who advised me to pray for guidance.  My sleep that night was restless with wild dreams and delusions.  My heart was aching for the second time now at the thought of leaving these sisterly friends.  By morning, I had decided that going to Canada was good for me because I would be with my sister and beloved nephews.  New dreams had risen in my heart.

The sun was a good omen the morning of our departure.  Feeling I was entering a new installment in my life, I chose to wear a casual dress with my treasured black shoes.  After what seemed a long 5 1/2 hour trip, we finally arrived at the Vancouver airport.  When we stepped out onto the pavement, the heel of my shoe caught on something, and I almost trip. Was this a bad omen?  I wondered then whether I had made a mistake taking this journey.  But my two nephews had taken hold of both my hands, and the dark cloud was chased away by the sunshine on either side of me.  I checked the heel of my shoe; it was solidly in place.  In fact, one of the advantages of good quality shoes is they can weather more storms.  And take me to Canada!

Originally from El Salvador, Rosa came to Abbotsford, British Columbia, thirty years ago. Rosa’s love of nature and mainly BC’s awe-inspiring landscapes have contributed to her poetry. Her poems have been published with Polar Expressions in 2014 and 2016. Three of her poems were included in the anthology: Reflections, Our Canadian Experience in 2017.

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