Most of us wouldn’t trade growing up Latino for anything in the world. I mean, it’s who we are; it’s what feels comfortable and right. That said, there are definitely more than a few ~confusing things~ about the way a lot of us grew up…
Heydi Gámez García, 13, took her life on July 2nd after her father’s asylum request was denied for the third time. Heydi’s father, Manuel Gámez, sent her to the U.S. after his father was gunned down by MS-13 for refusing to pay a “war tax” to the gang. He didn’t expect that Heydi would be granted asylum, but that he would be deported.
Manuel certainly didn’t envision that his goodbye hug and kiss four years ago would be the last time he would hug and kiss his daughter while she was still alive.
The Gámaz family was broken by MS-13 and failed again by the U.S. immigration system.
Credit: @amy_baker22 / Twitter
Heydi’s mother walked out on her and her dad when she was less than two months old. By the time Heydi was a year old, Manuel left for New York as an undocumented immigrant to make money to send back home to his daughter. After his father was killed by MS-13, and his mother’s health started failing, he worried about who would care for Heydi and his younger sister, Zoila.
Manuel’s sister was granted asylum and cared for Heydi in his absence in New York.
A year after his father’s death, he sent Heydi, Zoila and his brother to the U.S. Heydi and Zoila were granted asylum. Heydi learned English within a year and started teaching her father, via phone calls, how to correctly pronounce English words. They spoke every day, always asking when he’d come.
After two failed attempts to gain asylum, Heydi lost hope for being reunited and started cutting herself.
He never wanted to make promises he couldn’t keep, like being there for her quinceañera. Heydi watched her classmates complain about their parents’ visiting their school and fell into a depression. In December, she was brought to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation after cutting her wrist at school. She was seeing a therapist until two months before her suicide.
“Please forgive me for failing you,” Manuel wants to tell his daughter.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t be there… I never meant to leave you,” he says to her. Heydi was Manuel’s only child. Heydi’s aunt is coping with impossible guilt. She told CNN, “I was supposed to be protecting her. I would never send her to Honduras. But I never thought something bad would happen to her here.”
Manuel was released on a two week ‘humanitarian’ visit to release Heydi from life support.
He finally got to hold her hand and comfort her as she left this life behind. “We love you,” he whispered to her. “Don’t leave us.”
The last thing Heydi told anyone was that she lost hope in being reunited with her father.
She was crying as she told her aunt that she feels hopeless and that one day, she’ll become a lawyer to help her dad’s case. She then said she wanted to be alone and was found two hours later in a closet. She didn’t leave a note.
She was declared brain dead a week later at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in Queens.
Dr. Charles Schleien told CNN that she was in a “neurologically devastated state” upon arrival with “no hope for recovery.” He went on to disclose that the Gámaz family “chose to turn tragedy into the gift of life. Heydi is an organ donor and her final act will be to save others.”
The mental health impacts of family separation at our borders can only be told one story at a time.
Every story is important. Every life lost to policies that don’t incorporate the most visceral human desires, like growing up with your father by your side, is one life too many.
What on earth are we doing?
On July 18, Heydi was taken off life support. Her family told The New York Times they decided to donate her organs. “She was so young, so healthy, maybe she can live in another person, she can help another person live,” her father told The Times.
Women are magic — particularly Dania Díaz, who brought judges and audience members of “Spain’s Got Talent” to their feet with her entrancing card tricks that also told a heart-rending story.
The Venezuelan native, who had only been living in Spain for a few months before auditioning for the talent show, captivated viewers everywhere. The 28-year-old cleverly shared her story, from being a child in South America who lost her mother, to first discovering and falling in love with magic, to leaving her beloved country in the midst of a crisis to follow her dreams, through a deck of cards, wowing the audience, and at times bringing them to tears, with her incredible presentation.
Díaz shared her story of heart-ache through a magic trick on “Spain’s Got Talent.”
“I’m Dania, I’m a magician and I’m from Venezuela,” she says in Spanish while starting her show shuffling cards.
“Venezuela is a very big country with more than 30 million inhabitants. 31,529,000 to be precise,” enthralling the previously confused audience as she lays out the cards 3,1, 5, 2 and 9.
Díaz, who continues to wow as she describes Venezuela’s sizable waterfalls through her deck, then begins to share her story. She has two brothers, Daniel and Leo, and was raised in a single-parent home.
“My mother was the queen of the house,” she says, pulling out a queen, “and my father, my father was not very present. In fact, I was happy to see him three or four times a month,” sliding his king card away from the queen.
But that’s not the saddest part of Díaz’s story. The magician reveals that at age 10, her mother suddenly and unexpectedly passed away.
“Our lives were never the same again. Mine took a 180-degree turn. I think of her 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” she said, effortlessly drawing those numbers from her deck as she spoke.
It wasn’t until the-then child discovered magic that she found happiness again. One day, while watching television, she saw a magician appear on a program. “My heart jumped for joy. I had fallen in love,” she said, tugging a hearts.
Díaz has been a practicing magician for the last eight years. She immigrated to Spain, like many who leave Latin America, for an opportunity to fully realize her dreams.
“I came to Spain in search of a future, a future that in my country I could not have anymore. And even though I knew that many things awaited me along the way, what I did not expect was to fall in love: to love its culture, its food, and its people,” she said, flipping her cards to suddenly reveal words and images that illustrated what she was sharing.
The illusionist, who prompted laughter from the astonished crowd when she shared the two countries’ different vernacular, ended her demonstration with some inspiration.
“Despite all these differences, there is something we have in common, and that is that everyone in the world is in search for a dream,” she said, flipping cards to reveal related hand-drawn images. “No matter how chaotic your life is at this moment, I invite you to have a little patience, because little by little your life will take order, everything will have a meaning. I’m telling you, this story has taken me here.”
Díaz’s show left both the audience and some judges in tears. They all stood up in applause chanting “golden pass, golden pass.” She did, indeed, receive the pass and was sent into the semifinal of the auditions.
The performer, who now has more than 110 thousand followers on Instagram, is known around Latin America for her charismatic story-telling magic. In addition to her starlight audition, she has won awards, like the FLASOMA prize, given to her by the Latin American Federation of Magical Societies, as well as rewards from Chile, Colombia, Venezuela and the National Congress of Spain.
Díaz, who has performed in 11 countries, travels the world, bringing astonishment to thousands through her feel-good tricks.
And she has shown for everyone. According to Díaz’s website, she does performances for families, which includes an interactive experience mixing magic, music, and stories that inspire viewers to laugh and dream; for adults, where she reads minds and swallows balloons; and even for business settings, which could be catered to the mission of the corporations.
For those magic-lovers who are unable to see her live, Díaz also shows some of her mind-boggling tricks on her YouTube channel and on Instagram.