Byron Cruz grew up the oldest of three kids as part of a wealthy family in Guatemala. When Byron was young, his dad died and Byron became the man of the house. He struggled to adjust to his new circumstances and was on the verge of being kicked out of high school, when he met his future wife. She helped him graduate and they married and had a daughter. But still they struggled.
Byron sat down with his daughter Natalie last week at the Latino Cultural Center at UIC. He told her about life in Guatemala when she was a baby. “I got to the point that I had one good pair of shoes but if you would flip the shoe you would see that the shoe has one big hole. One day it was raining and I was walking a lot, I was going back to home and I saw you and I thought: I don’t want my daughter to live in this way.”
He decided to move to the United States in order to provide a better life for his family. Byron worked in the U.S. for six months, before sending for his family. He didn’t know how to speak English and became frustrated when he was blamed for something he didn’t do at a job. He went to school to learn English and wound up going to college. Their family grew and became more stable.
Byron sees himself as a Guatemalan-American. He tells his daughter, “I always think about the day that I die, what is going to happen with me. And I wish that they take my ashes and divide it into the two countries because half of my people is over there but the other half is over here.”
StoryCorps’ mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to share, record and preserve their stories. This excerpt was edited by WBEZ.