My face, their stories: Ignacio Casillas
I am Leonor, a 57-year-old mother from El Salvador. When I divorced the father of my children I had to search for a way to support my family. I worked in a maquila, a restaurant, and a hotel. My two oldest sons, Johan Alexander and Benjamin, had to drop out of school to work because I couldn't manage the household expenses alone.
Our neighborhood was controlled by a gang, and a very good friend of my son Johan had a girlfriend who lived in the other neighborhood, which was controlled by an enemy gang. After a while, this gang warned my son's friend about walking around their territory, he always asked Johan to go with him because he was scared.
I asked him not to.
On December 28 of 2007, a young man came to find me at church. He had a bullet wound, he came running and was bleeding. All he said was "Johan". I knew something bad had happened and immediately ran home. I found my son lying in the street, at the door of my house.
He had been talking with some friends in the street when a car passed by and shot him at point-blank range. When I arrived he was not dead yet, and I was able to say goodbye to my son.
My life changed. I spent the next six years of my life with a lot of fear and anxiety. Leydi, my daughter, moved with her husband next door. We stayed in our neighborhood and I found a job in a security company.
Five years after Johan was killed, gang members started harassing my other son, Benjamin. They constantly asked him to hide weapons, drugs, and things stolen from other houses. But Benjamin talked to them, he refused, and the problems began again. Several times, they chased him when he was leaving our house.
On December 28 - the very same date my other son had been murdered - a group of gang members stabbed Benjamin with a knife on his way to work. He was able to escape the first attack, but he was chased and shot dead.
A few months later, they killed my son-in-law at the door of his house. The gang members thought he had revealed information to help with the capture of those who killed Benjamin. My son-in-law's boss sent guards to the house, but we knew that we were no longer safe. We had to leave the country.
That day was terrible. My niece’s husband was traveling from El Salvador to Panama. He told me to sell everything we had and that he could take us there too. I couldn’t take it anymore, I couldn't go for a walk or to church. I cried the entire way to Panama. I didn’t want to leave my country, nor my children buried in El Salvador. I know that, if we return, the gang members will look for us. In moments of pain, we do not understand the why of things.
The names shown in this story were changed to protect the identity of the persons who are part of it.
Now that you know Leonor’s story, it's your turn to share it.
By using the “MyFaceTheirStories” filter, you are accepting the use of your image as part of our campaign. Click here to learn more about it.