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Many Threads, One Fabric: Vol. 7 – Maria

Many Threads, One Fabric: Vol. 7 – Maria

Unlike many Berks County locals, Maria experiences Reading as a safe haven. It is a place where she can walk about, engage with others, volunteer her time and – most importantly – enjoy a sense of safety and freedom.

It was November 2021 when Maria made the difficult and necessary decision to seek refuge in the Reading area. In her homeland of Colombia her life was threatened before she was born, and then countless times over her 26 years. Medical records, her mother’s memories and her own direct experience combine to tell the tale of terror.

In the 7th month of her development in utero, Maria’s father battered her mother’s belly so badly that a prenatal visit showed inflammation of her brain. When her mother escaped to the home of her auntie to give birth, Maria’s father tracked her down and forced their return. Then, he left them locked inside the house without food or anything for some days. Before she turned 6 months, her father threw her to the floor, breaking a bone in her skull. At the hospital, her mother blamed the injuries on a cousin.

Maria suspects, in your mind, you are already judging. She wants you to know, unless you’ve lived it, you have no idea. “Don’t judge the people because you don’t have an idea. The first thing that everybody tells you is ‘Why you didn’t get out? The guy hit you one time, why you didn’t get out?’ No one has any idea nor knows the power behind the abuse and the emotional attachment.”

Maria’s own memories include repeated instances of being locked inside the house for days with nothing to sustain them but a bit of sugar to sweeten their water; being called cruel names; gaps in schooling; hearing the sounds of her mother being abused behind closed doors and seeing the devastating aftermath of those episodes; constant verbal threats; witnessing her father, a member of the National Police, put a gun to her mother’s head on numerous occasions, and much more.

And then . . . in 2010, Maria and her mother started the legal process against her father because of the violence. The process threatened their safety in new ways. To this day if they go out for any reason, including court hearings, there are relatives or associates of her father there to harass them. When they appear for scheduled hearings or court related appointments they are frequently informed it is cancelled. Months pass between reschedulings. Now a lawyer, Maria recognizes the irregularities of the delay tactics in their case. And even though her father was eventually jailed, they are now living with the threat of his release.

The asylum process ahead of her will take time, Maria knows that. “Everything is with time and patience. It’s with time and patience. . . If not for my aunties and my cousins, forget about it. I think that we would probably be dead, my mom and me. My hope for me here is find the new beginning, like many people that come to the US, try to find a peaceful place, a safe area where you can start again. Even if it’s from zero, because for us, it’s the peaceful part that is more important. This peace that I didn’t have. I need that. I need to be feeling safe.”

“I hope that sharing my story a little might help someone else. . . I don’t want to make my story a secret box inside of me. . . I think that the people need to be more educated about it. Naming abuse in its more simple forms like not giving money for tampons, saying ‘you are just a wife’ or ‘you made me do that’…we find it to be so normal, the abuse, even here.”

About our logo: designed by José Joel Delgado-Rivera, Public Relations and Marketing Consultant.

This project is funded by a FARO grant provided by a partnership between the Wyomissing Foundation and Barrio Alegría. Produced in conjunction with BCTV.

If you have a story to share, contact: [email protected] or 484-333-4015