In Search of the American Dream
by Sheeba Raj
fter enduring unrelenting physical and
emotional abuse from her mother, Vivian
Szawarc wanted out. Her then-husband
and sister got Vivian her travel documents to help
her flee Argentina for the United States. In 1986,
at age 19, she flew on a plane for the first time.
As Vivian and the other passengers disembarked
from the plane in Tijuana, a Mexican immigration
officer pulled her aside. The officer said she stood
out because she was a white person with green
eyes so he asked for her visa to the border. She
simply replied, "How much?" He took her to his
office where Vivian handed him a $50 bill. She
was then allowed to leave the airport.
Vivian called her sister, who told Vivian to
head to the house of someone her sister knew.
When Vivian arrived there, she found no one.
A neighbor across the street took her in for the
time being. Vivian's sister then told her to check
into a hotel, so the neighbor's son accompanied
Vivian on a bus to that hotel. After spending the
night there, Vivian learned the next morning that
her sister had made arrangements for a coyote to
smuggle her across the border. Vivian was told
to go to a particular corner and look for a woman
holding a piece of toilet paper. Afterward, Vivian
and the coyote headed in an SUV to another
house. As the day wore on, more young women
entered the house. When night fell, all of them
left and walked to the border. They crawled under
Vivian Szawarc, 18-19, in Argentina;
Vivian, 20, after arriving in the United
States; and Vivian now.
the fence and then alternated between running
and sitting. They continued until they reached
another house, which was crowded. Vivian found
some space to sit against a wall and was given a
dirty, smelly blanket to warm herself.
The next morning, a man wearing a military
uniform rounded up the people and told Vivian
and two other young women to lie down on the
floor of the car and keep quiet when the car was
stopped or when they heard talking. Vivian was in
the front and anxiously awaiting the reunion with
her sister in the United States. "I was coming from
a very bad emotional state, so I didn't allow myself
to feel any fear," she said.
S EPTEMBER/ O CTOBER 2013
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