Doug and I spent the morning and early afternoon with a new friend who told us a story so compelling, it brought me back to my blog.   I never asked him if I could retell his story, so I will use an alias.   Pablo is a 61 year old Peruvian man who, along with his two sons, has purchased property very close to ours.  He has been visiting this week making plans to begin construction on his house.  We’ve come to know him and have enjoyed becoming friends.

Today, he told us this story.

When he was younger, he had a great desire to go to the United States. He tried to go through all the proper channels and made application to the US Embassy for a visa, but was denied on two separate occassions. Finally, at the age of 35, he went down to the docks in Callao in Lima and began asking questions.  He ended up paying some guy $2500 to stow away in a container on a ship bound for the US.  He was told it would be a 12 day journey, and the ship was bound for Los Angeles.

After arriving at the port one night, and waiting around until the wee hours of the morning, he was escorted into a soft topped container.  There were three other men in the container when he entered; all hoping to get to the US.  There was a barrel of water, a large container of hard-tack biscuits and a large bag of hard candies.  By early morning there was a total of 15 men in the container.

The container was then loaded on to the ship with no one wise to the fact that these 15 men were inside.  The ship set sail from Lima and made their first stop in Ecuador.  The heat at the equator was stifling and the container felt like a sauna.  One of the men had a pocket knife and cut a hole in the cloth roof for more air and ventilation.  They were in port in Ecuador for 3 full days before the ship set sail again.  Having been at sea for 10 days already, they realized the trip to Los Angeles was going to take more than 12 days and they began to ration their food and water…. a few crackers and a couple of sips of water every 12 hours.

Another stop was made in Columbia.  The authorities in Columbia had intelligence that the ship was carrying cocaine and began a search.  They did indeed find a kilo of cocaine and then proceeded to make a more thorough search of the ship for more.  It was at this point the men in the container were discovered.

They were taken to the captain, who denied having any knowledge of the stowaways.  Columbian immigration officials were called and an investigation ensued.  The Columbian authorities did not want to deal with the stowaways, so left them on the ship to continue on.

The next stop was in Puerto Rico.  The ship was greeted by Puerto Rican immigration, presumably being alerted by Columbian authorities.The men were off-loaded and held at a house under guard; one immigration officer for every two men.  They were held in this house for two weeks until flight accommodations could be made to send them back to Peru.

Once back in Lima, the Peruvian authorities took charge.  Normally they would be incarcerated until their identity could be confirmed.  The authorities also wanted to confirm each did not have an outstanding criminal charge, as many escaping Peru do so for this very reason.  However, Pablo had phoned his sister when he learned his flight information.  She arrived to meet him along with a policemen friend and was whisked off and out of the airport.

Pablo, still determined to go to the US, once again applied for a visa at the US Embassy.  Ironically, this time he was given a 1 month business visa.  With this visa, he bought a ticket for a flight to Miami.

Success, you think?  Well, the story doesn’t end there.

When he arrived in Miami, he didn’t know anyone there, didn’t speak any English and didn’t know what he was going to do.  He spent two days in the airport before finally getting in touch with a friend of a friend in Fort Lauderdale.  This friend offered his home for a short time so Pablo could figure out what he was going to do.  This friend also helped Pablo extend his visa for 6 months giving the motive of learning English.

Pablo decided that he would travel to Texas.  He bought a Greyhouse bus ticket and went on his way.  Somewhere in Alabama, the bus stopped for breakfast along the road.  And, as expected, when the bus was ready to leave, the driver made the announcement and loaded passengers.  Pablo, not knowing the language and being curious about his surroundings, did not realize the bus was loading and leaving, and it continued on without him.  All of his papers, clothes, etc. went with the bus.  He became upset and angry, yelling at people who were not able to understand his spanish.  Eventually a spanish speaking person was located and helped him sort things out.  He went to a Greyhound station and was put on a bus to the next stop where his luggage was waiting for him.

At this point in his story, he mentioned a girlfriend who was the motivation for all of this in the first place.  When he arrived in Texas, Pablo discovered she was pregnant and with someone else.  He didn’t want to elaborate further about the girlfriend.

Pablo then decided to head to the San Francisco area where he knew some people.  He settled into life there, got a job and eventually married an American women.  By virtue of this marriage, he gained US citizenship.

What an amazing story.  I know these things happen and I’ve read some horrific stories reported in the news.  But to hear it first hand, from someone who experienced it, is quite different.  Maybe we distance ourselves from such stories, hoping not to get too close…. or hoping perhaps that they really don’t happen to ordinary people.  Certainly all my hassles and problems with Peruvian immigration to gain residency status pales alongside of Pablo’s adventures.

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