By: Saul Flores
It was a foggy morning when I arrived in Quito, Ecuador. I was taking the first step to embark on the Walk of the Immigrants, a 5,328-mile walk across Latin America. I began this walk to honor the journey and pay my respects to the fearless men and women who walk in pursuit of a better life. I yearned to discover my Latinx roots and to connect with the issues that force so many of our people to leave their communities.

That day, I began walking alongside migrants heading North to reach the United States. I traveled on foot, by canoe, and rusty caravan. I slept in abandoned parking lots, church benches, and under shady coconut trees, guided only by the rosary that my mother gave me before leaving home.

The walk North is an odyssey, one that takes immigrants through blazing hot deserts, unforgiving waters, and mountaintops that howl with warning. It is a journey across national borders, one that takes the lives of thousands of migrants in search of the American Dream.

One day I found myself lost in the Darién, a vast and mysterious zone of undeveloped swampland stretching across Panama’s Darién Province. Widely known as a no-man’s land, the roadless Darien Gap has defeated travelers with its wild, unpredictable nature. In the middle of the jungle, I found myself disoriented, only carrying bags full of Colombian bread and half-empty bottles of water. It was then that I realized the profundity of the immigrant story and what it takes to survive on such a dangerous journey.

I embarked on the Walk to see the Latinx community through my own eyes, explore the hardships that they face, and to tell their powerful story.

I spent many days traveling by foot, meeting immigrants of all backgrounds, finding refuge in shelters, and encountering survivors of the harrowing Bestia, the immigrant freight train that travels through El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Time and time again, I felt called to tell the story of these brave travelers who had risked it all to survive.

Today, we face a spiritual, emotional, and mental awakening that is sweeping our country. Inundated by 24-hour news cycles, paralyzed by breaking stories of deportation and separation of families at the border, and shocked at our current political divide, it is necessary more than ever to harness the power of story.

College students nationwide deserve to have their stories told and heard. Hispanic Heritage Month is the perfect opportunity to share the personal narratives of undocumented Americans and Latinx Americans. Who are they? Where did they come from? If you listen close enough, their stories just might surprise you.

********
Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by bringing Saul Flores to your campus today! Learn more about Saul at www.campuspeak.com/speaker/saul-flores