Culture

This Author Is Writing Children’s Books For Central American Kids Explaining Deportations

Randy Jurado Ertll has been writing novels and children’s books for well over a decade, all with the mission to inspire his fellow Central Americans about the possibilities that abound for them in the U.S., and in the fields of public service and politics.

The author of multiple books and novels, including children’s illustrated book, “The Adventures of El Cipitio,” Randy Jurado Ertll has used literature as a means to help others stay woke.

Credit: randyertll / Instagram

“It’s important for us to be seen and heard through books that are bilingual. My goal is to make my literature accepted and to be recognized and valued because we haven’t been valued as a whole, a community,” Jurado Ertll says in an exclusive interview with mitú.  

Born in Los Angeles to a Salvadoran mother in the 1970s, Jurado Ertll is a product of what can be accomplished with absolute grit and determination, despite being part of a group that has been on the margins of society—the children of deported immigrants.

When he was just eight months old, his mother was deported back to El Salvador and Jurado Ertll went to live with her until the age of five.

“People think it only happens under Trump, but it’s been happening forever but people forget,” Jurado Ertll says about deportations.

After his mom’s deportation, he tried making the most of living in a foreign land and soaked up as much as he could about the culture.

Credit: randyertll / Instagram

“That helped me and gave me an opportunity to learn first—hand the history and culture [of El Salvador]. It shaped my world view,” Jurado Ertll says.

Once he returned home for elementary school, he had to completely relearn the English language and says it was “kind of like a rebirth experience.”

He grew up in South Central Los Angeles during a time when there were few Latinos in his neighborhood. He was a student of the Los Angeles Unified School District until he was accepted into a program to study at a high school in Minnesota.

After high school, he returned to California to study at Occidental College and obtained his master’s degree from Azusa Pacific University. He then went on to be a communications director in Washington, D.C. for a congressional member and also wrote numerous opinion columns for newspapers across the country including the Los Angeles Times and USA Today.

Jurado Ertll published his first book in 2009.

Credit: randyertll / Instagram

His titles include “Hope in Times of Darkness” about his experience as a Salvadoran American, and a novel with surreal elements about a three-foot mythical creature titled “The Lives and Times of El Cipitio.”

“The Lives and Times of El Cipitio” is a surreal novel, I wanted to use lots of symbolism,” Jurado Ertll says. “I wanted to create an anti-hero that is evil but becomes good, a gangster that runs for mayor of LA then president, and the novel talks about how he evolves.”

When demand for his books increased, Jurado Ertll knew it was time to start bilingual books to inspire readers.

Credit: randyertll / Instagram

He then created “The Adventures of El Cipitio.”

“The Adventures of El Cipitio” is more of a feel-good, illustrated book.

Credit: randyertll / Instagram

“Kids need to feel good and proud, and see themselves in words and illustrations they can see themselves in,” he says.

Although Jurado Ertll has written several books to put the stories of more Central Americans like him to diversify bookshelves and tell the stories of all types of Latinos, one story he hasn’t quite written about in depth is his own deportation story.

“[The] story hasn’t been explored or told as much because it’s traumatizing—it distorts your sense of safety and belonging, and you can make it positive or negative,” Jurado Ertll says.

“It made me into a resilient person. There are other kids who have suffered more than I have. I wanted to empower people. If you born here, you can come back [after being deported.] Lots of people do that, but their stories are not told,” he continues.

Jurado Ertll has certainly chosen to take his experiences and make it a positive one.

Credit: randyertll / Instagram

Jurtado Ertll’s books are sold in Costco and Amazon, and he also continues to present his books at book fairs and events across the country.

READ: Elizabeth Acevedo Has Been Awarded The Carnegie Medal — The First Time A Writer Of Color Has Won In The Award’s History

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New Children’s Book ‘Escucha Mi Voz’ Tells the Stories of Migrant Children In Their Own Words

Culture

New Children’s Book ‘Escucha Mi Voz’ Tells the Stories of Migrant Children In Their Own Words

Courtesy Workman Publishing

Have you ever wondered what’s going on in the hearts and minds of migrant children? Are they afraid, sad? What circumstances at home forced them and their families to leave everything they’ve known behind and search for a new life in a strange land? Well, you wouldn’t be alone. A new book called “Escucha Mi Voz” is exploring those difficult questions.

Law professor and children’s rights advocate Warren Binford interviewed dozens of migrant children when visited a migrant facility in Clint, Texas in 2019.

While she was there, Binford witnessed the shocking and inhumane conditions migrants—and especially migrant children—are forced to live in. She decided to record their stories for the world to hear.

Binford compiled the harrowing stories in a picture book called “Escucha mi Voz/Hear My Voice”. Binford says she was inspired to create this project because of how difficult it was to relay these children’s stories to adult audiences. The book comes in both English and Spanish-language versions.

“People were so depressed. They would call me and say, ‘I can’t do it. I bawl my eyes out. It’s too much,'” Binford told NPR. “And so then it was like, ‘OK. How do we help people to access this knowledge that the children have given us in the children’s own words?’ “

“Escucha Mi Voz” features illustrations from 17 Latino artists, all interpreting the words of these migrant children in art form. 

“Having these really fabulous artists come together and illustrate the book helps to create a more accessible point of entry into these children’s lives, and who they are, and why they came to the United States,” Binford said.

“Escucha Mi Voz” features stories from migrant children who range in age from 4 to 17. They come from El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Guatemala, and Ecuador. But they all have one thing in common: they’ve experienced the trauma of displacement.

“We were kept in a cage. It is very crowded,” said one child. “There is no room to move without stepping over others. There’s not even enough room for the baby to crawl.”

“One of the guards came in yesterday afternoon and asked us how many stripes were on the flag of the United States,” said another. “We tried to guess, but when we were wrong, he slammed the door.”

Binford hopes that transforming these children’s stories into picture book-form will make their plight more accessible and relatable to American audiences.

“I hope families will actually have enough energy at the end of reading the book that they’re like, ‘What can we do?’ And, you know, ‘We’ll write to political leaders, maybe volunteer to be a sponsor or maybe volunteer to be a foster family.’ “

All proceeds of “Escucha Mi Voz” go directly to Project Amplify, an organization dedicated to “raising awareness for the plight of child migrants”. Buy your copy now through their website or Amazon.

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Congresswoman Norma Torres Is In A Twitter Feud With El Salvador’s President And Neither One Is Backing Down

Things That Matter

Congresswoman Norma Torres Is In A Twitter Feud With El Salvador’s President And Neither One Is Backing Down

Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA) has been one of the most outspoken critics on the root causes of migration to the United States, calling out corruption and neglect from Central American nations.

The Guatemala-born Congresswoman said the issue stemmed from failing to address the root causes of immigration in the Northern Triangle. While she claimed that the Obama administration made strides in Central American intervention (years later, it has little to show for), she did address the many reasons why people from the region made the difficult decision to leave their countries. 

“The poverty we see here in our own communities, you know, in comparison to the poverty that has been caused by climate change issues, severe droughts in the region, the fact that there is no infrastructure for the indigenous populations,” Torres told NPR in 2019

She continues to lay blame on those same nations and she’s making some apparent enemies in the process, including El Salvador’s president Nayib Bukele who has been engaged in a bit of a Twitter feud with the congresswoman.

The California congresswoman is feeling the heat from El Salvador’s president.

President Nayib Bukele and Democratic Rep. Norma Torres have been exchanging very undiplomatic barbs on Twitter for the last few weeks. And now, El Salvador’s president is urging voters in a California congressional district to vote out its U.S. representative in the latest back-and-forth spat between the Central American head of state and one of Congress’ most vocal critics of the region’s leaders.

Torres, who was born in Guatemala, took the first show when she retweeted a disturbing video released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection showing two toddler sisters being dropped into the U.S. by smugglers straddling a 14-foot-tall border wall. The two were picked up by U.S. agents and given medical attention.

Along with a link to the video, Torres tweeted — in Spanish — that the incident is “a great shame for the governments of #Guatemala #Honduras #ElSalvador their compatriots deserve governments that are truly committed to fighting corruption and narco[trafficking]!”

Well, her tweet didn’t sit well with the president.

El Salvador’s Bukele, an avid Twitter user, hit back fast with his own Spanish-language tweet. “Look ma’am, did you read that the children are from ECUADOR and not from EL SALVADOR? Also, this happened on the border of Mexico with the United States. What does El Salvador have to do with this?”

The Salvadoran president then told Torres that she should buy some glasses with a portion of her “financier’s checks.”

But Bukele, at 39 the youngest president in Latin America, is extremely popular. He is often seen wearing a backward baseball cap and sports clothes, and his Nuevas Ideas (New Ideas) party won big in last month’s legislative elections, taking control of the national legislature.

Torres, one of Bukele’s leading critics, kept up the tweet for tweet — this time in English — calling the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border the result of “narcissistic dictators like you interested in being ‘cool’ while people flee by the 1000s & die by the 100s.”

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