A mother is usually the most sacred part of anyone’s childhood. To lose her at any point is difficult. But when a murder suddenly takes a mother’s life, the pain turns into trauma and fear touches the soul.
That’s what happened to Eskarleth Yoleny Hernández, a 15-year-old Honduran who is seeking asylum in the United States.
She was 11 years old when her mother, María Santos Vásquez, was murdered for refusing to sell her house in the town of La Entrada in western Honduras. Her older sister, Kiara, witnessed the murder. Eskarleth saw the shattered body of the woman who had read to her in bed.
Her eyes reflect a premature wear and tear, an internal conflict that needs relief. What do you feel when you think about what happened to your family, she’s asked. Anger? Sadness? The girl shook her head. Then, with her hands showing that she had not found the words and her eyes welling up with tears, she responded with three words: “I don’t know.”
Nothing will ever be the same for her, her five siblings or her father, José Humberto Hernández. They first hid in Honduras, then fled to Mexico. They did not feel secure there and moved on to the United States, where they surrendered to immigration authorities in search of asylum.
After four months in a detention center, they were issued temporary documents in December of 2012. The father and five of the children slept in one room in Hialeah. A son with Down syndrome stayed with relatives in Honduras.
Her father, who suffers from heart problems, eventually found ways to provide his family with the minimum required. Eskarleth went to live with an older cousin, Elizabeth Hernández, who had been living in the United States for some time and became her guardian.
They live in a trailer home in Miami Shores and sleep in the same bedroom while waiting for Eskarleth to receive her U.S. residence. Elizabeth supports the girl, although she doesn’t earn much as a cleaning woman, and arranged for help from a pastor.
Eskarleth’s tight relationship with her cousin, based on commitment and solidarity in a time of difficulty, led the Center for Family & Child Enrichment Inc. and its social worker, Caridad Nieblas, to propose her for the Miami Herald’s Wish Book.
“She gives a lot of herself to help Eskarleth, and that impressed us,” said Nieblas, whose organization is trying to help Eskarleth recover from the loss of her mother.
The trauma has not kept the girl from thinking about her future. She studies hard and wants to be a doctor.
But she needs professional help to clarify her family’s immigration status. The Hernández family has nothing negative in its background, but it has only limited resources to push the asylum petition.
In 2012, the year Eskarleth’s mother was murdered, Honduras recorded 7,172 murders — a rate of 86.5 murders per 100,000 residents.
How to help
Wish Book is trying to help hundreds of families in need this year. To donate, pay securely at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook. To give via your mobile phone, text WISH to 41444. For information, call 305-376-2906 or email wishbook@MiamiHerald.com. (Most requested items: laptops and tablets for school, furniture, accessible vans) Read more at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook.