An Insightful Conversation

Christella Carpio, 65, immigrated from El Salvador

An Insightful Conversation

Christella has been a second mother to me since the day I was born. She is the most caring person I know, and the best nanny anyone could ever ask for. While sitting on cold chairs in my living room, she recounted immigrating from El Salvador to the United States, a raw and riveting story that I will never forget.

In 1978, at the young age of 23, Christella left her mother and daughter with the hope of finding a better life for them all. “I’ll do anything for my mother,” she said. Riding in a wagon, Christella and 18 other unfamiliar people from her village, San Miguel, ventured for 18 long days. The harsh journey consisted of dry deserts, heavy rainstorms, and traveling both by foot and wagon.

Christella specifically told me about a night she spent hiding underneath a canopy of orange trees, where a searchlight attempted to uncover her and the others from above. She prayed throughout it all, while also persevering the awful mosquitoes which swarmed around her. As I imagined the kind woman in front of me enduring so much fear during that night, tears began to brim around my eyes. But Christella kept strong and continued telling her story.

She recalled walking through a desert and standing up for a woman who could not keep up with the others. When it seemed like the rest of the group planned to leave the woman behind, Christella shouted and pleaded for them to come back and help carry her. In this moment, Christella began to cry, too. With emotion and determination in her voice, she convinced the others to help carry the woman. Eventually, after traversing the desert in Mexico, the group finally crossed over the border into the United States. 

Even though one exhausting journey had just ended, another immediately began. Christella then assisted multiple other family members to legally immigrate to the United States. Under the Reagan administration, an amnesty program was authorized. This legalized most undocumented immigrants if they had arrived in the US prior to 1982. Therefore, Christella obtained a Resident Green Card and gained full documented citizenship in 1996.

As she closed out her story, she exclaimed, “¡Te amo, Sydney!” I responded, “¡Te amo, Christella!” Although simple, this phrase has been so meaningful to me my entire life. Our conversation only lasted an hour, but I have come to understand that regardless of how long I have known and loved someone, there is always so much more to their story. Christella’s character and kindness continue to inspire me throughout everything.

“¡Te amo, Sydney!””

— Christella Carpio