It is a common story across Latin America, where emigrants set off to find greener pastures in neighboring or distant countries. It is no different for Paraguayans, who leave behind friends and family for other opportunities, whether in other South American countries or across the ocean in Europe. Some of these stories are now being told using citizen media. A blog called Somos Paraguayos [es] (We Are Paraguayans) invites immigrants across the globe to submit their firsthand stories about their experiences and the response from other Paraguayans in the comments sections add to the conversation.
Many of the stories are filled with heartache about trying to adapt to a new land, and other stories are ones of success. The common theme among many of these stories is a search for better economic opportunities. Gabriela writes about her 30 years in Argentina having left Paraguay behind in order to help her parents earn money. However, leaving behind her country was not an easy task [es]:
Este dolor por la distancia y la angustia de no ver y escuchar a mis seres mas queridos, de no ver el cielo tan azúl ni los árboles mas verdes y frondozos, la tierra colorada, la polca y el dulce idioma guaraní despertaron en mí la curiosidad por saber mas de mi tierra, y también para defenderme de los interrogatorios a los que me sometían todos quienes se daban cuenta de mi acento
The pain due to the distance and the anguish for not being able to see or hear my loved ones, to not be able to see the bluest sky or the greenest and lushest trees and the colored earth, the polka, the sweet Guaraní language awakened my curiosity to know more about my land, and also defend myself from the questions by those who noticed and asked about my accent.
Leaving behind one's homeland is often easier than entering a new country due to immigration restrictions. Not all who attempt to gain access to a foreign country are successful. Olinda was offered a job by a couple living in England and writes about being denied entry after arriving a London's Heathrow airport [es]:
Finalmente llegue al mostrador y me atendió una que me hablaba todo en ingles, no le entendía nada, después de una rato trajeron un traductor y me pregunto para que venia y otras cosas mas. Me llevaron a una oficina para preguntarme mas cosas, y ahí ya me asuste. Me preguntaron cuanto pague por el pasaje, cosa que yo no sabia, también me preguntaron de que nacionalidad era mi amiga y su marido (los señores que me contrataron), yo le dije paraguayos pero había sido ella era de nacionalidad argentina y el señor tenia nacionalidad italiana por medio de su papa, ellos antes vivían en Paraguay, pero no sabia todos esos otros detalles. Hasta llamaron a la señora y le preguntaron cosas mías y ella tampoco sabia mucho… y así se dieron cuenta que yo venia a trabajar y me denegaron la entrada al país.
Me dijeron que el vuelo salía al día siguiente recién, por lo que me iba a quedar retenida en el aeropuerto hasta que ellos me embarquen mañana. Y así me llevaron a una habitación con cama, baño y televisión. Donde descanse y espere el día siguiente. La verdad me trataron muy bien los ingleses, y no me puedo quejar, fue mi inocencia y la de los patrones que pensaron que era fácil entrar y cuando no era. Inclusive ellos me dijeron que si algún día quería volver a Inglaterra era bienvenida porque no arme escándalo ni llore como algunos hacen. La verdad no entendí porque me dijeron eso, me hubiesen dejado entrar nomás, no?
Después volví a Asunción al día siguiente, y unos meses después me anime a intentar otra vez, pero esa vez a España. Preste plata para pagar el pasaje esta vez, pero tampoco pude entrar… por tercera y última vez, preste una vez más plata y compre otro pasaje a España y esta vez si pude entrar.
Finally I arrived to the counter and was attended to by someone who only spoke English, and I didn't understand anything, later they brought a translator and they asked me why did I come and other things. They took me to an office to ask me even more things, and there I became scared. They asked me how much I paid for the ticket, something that I didn't know, and they also asked me what nationality was my friend and her husband (the couple that hired me), I told them they were Paraguayans, but it turns out that she was Argentinean and the man was Italian due to his father, but they once lived in Paraguay, but I didn't know the other details. They even called the woman and asked her things about me and she also did not know much… and that is how they realized that I was there to work and they denied my entry to the country.
They told me that the next flight left the next day, and that they would detain me at the airport until they would embark me the next morning. They took me to a room with a bed, bathroom and a television where I rested and waited until the next day. Actually, the English treated me very well and I can't complain, it was my naivety and the sponsors who thought it would be easy to enter and that wasn't the case. They also said that if one day I wanted to return to England, I was welcome because I didn't make a huge fuss and I didn't cry as many others do. Honestly, I don't understand why they said that, and if that was the case why didn't they just let me in?
I returned to Asunción the next day and a few months later I decided to try again, but this time to Spain. I borrowed money to pay for the ticket this time, but I was unable to enter… on the third and final time, I borrowed even more money and bought another ticket to Spain and this time I entered.
Once living abroad, many emigrants begin new lives and form relationships with the citizens of their new homelands. In this blog post, Angel, a Spanish citizen, tells about a tragic story of his life with his Paraguayan wife [es]:
He estado casado dos años y tres meses con una chica paraguaya de San Lorenzo (tres años en total desde que la conocí). Digo he estado porque me he quedado viudo con una preciosa beba que me dejó cuatro días antes de fallecer y un chico de 10 años que lastimosamente volvió con sus abuelos y tuve que separar de su hermanita por asuntos mas legales que sentimentales…..
Una complicación en la cesárea desencadenó en la peor semana de mi vida, la beba nació lunes y mi esposa falleció viernes. Tengo muy claro que en Paraguay el mismo lunes hubiese fallecido, pero eso no tiene vuelta atrás para discutir si acá o allá.
I was married for 2 years and 3 months with a Paraguayan girl from San Lorenzo (three years in total since I first met her). I say was married because I am now a widower who left behind a precious baby four days before dying and a 10 year-old boy who unfortunately returned to his grandparents and who had to become separated from his little sister for legal, rather than sentimental reasons.
Complications from a Caesarean section started the worst week of my life, the baby was born on Monday and my wife died on Friday. I am sure that in Paraguay she would have died the same Monday, but there is no looking back to discuss that.