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An Immigrant Who Crossed the Border as a Child Retraces His Journey, in Poems

21 September 2017 No Comment

When the Salvadoran-born poet Javier Zamora was nine years old, he travelled alone to the United States, crossing the border on foot to reunite with his family. Now twenty-seven, he has lived in the U.S. ever since. Over time, the details of his journey have blurred in his memory. A few years ago, after getting an undergraduate degree from Berkeley and beginning an M.F.A. at New York University, Zamora decided to retrace his steps.

“I just started, day by day, trying to remember that moment when I left my house with my grandpa, got on a bus in San Salvador, and took the eight-hour trip to the Guatemala-Mexico border,” he told me recently. He wrote down what he could remember—in prose, at first, the better to keep his recollections factual and specific. This was a recovery mission. It took twenty-five thousand words to reconstruct the first two hundred and fifty miles. The beginning of his trip, which Zamora made with his grandfather, returned to him more easily. But after two weeks in Guatemala his grandfather had turned back, and Zamora had proceeded on his own. “The memories got more sparse at that point,” he said. “I have not been able to write that part in prose. From Guatemala on, everything turned into poems.”

An Immigrant Who Crossed the Border as a Child Retraces His Journey, in Poems

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