It’s a sad experience when you cannot live in your own country.: Becoming Minnesotan

Mario Duarte, 2011. Minnesota Historical Society, Oral History Office files.
  • Name - Mario Duarte
  • Age at interview - 72
  • Gender - Male
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 09.17.2010
  • Mario Duarte as a young man in El Salvador. Minnesota Historical Society.

    The Journey

    Latino, Travel to U.S., War

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    Essential Question

    Coming to America: What did coming to America symbolize for this person?

    The Journey: How did this person get to the U.S.?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    In El Salvador, political unrest following a disputed presidential election led to a military coup in 1979. Revolutionary guerrilla movements, including students and workers, formed to fight against the ruling military junta and the landowning oligarchy, and civil war broke out in 1980. Fighting lasted until 1992 when the Salvadorian president and five leftist guerrilla groups signed a peace agreement.

    To learn more about Latino history and culture, visit our Latino Community page.

    • Chapter 1

    Download Mario Duarte 2
    3:22 Minutes | 3.23Mb


    Narrator: Mario Duarte (MD)

    Interviewer: Lorena Duarte (LD)

    MD: Esperanza decided it was time to move or look for a better future for the children. She made connections with one of her older sisters. So her sister, Esperanza’s sister, applied for us, for her. She had to apply for the whole family. So, all the paperwork and all the, you know, checking and rechecking took almost seven years. I remember showed me all the papers in 1976, 1977. Then, finally, in the middle of 1982, we got the paper to come to the United States as legal residents. Carolina, the oldest daughter, and Mario Manuel, the boy, came first to Minnesota. They came to Minnesota because, at that time, Esperanza’s sister lived here in Minnesota, and they were giving some support so Carolina and Mario Manuel had a place to go, to come.

    LD: They also came early because there was a threat, right?

    MD: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Again, during the Civil War in El Salvador, there were so many problems, too many problems. They were looking for young people, you know, kidnapping, to be part of the guerrillas or be part of the army, too. The army was also recruiting. He [Mario Manuel] escaped for a second from to be kidnapped. He was not so sure it was the army or the guerrilla he wanted, but he escaped. After that happened, he didn’t want to go out of the house. He was afraid. We understood that. Carolina also had a problem, because we had to travel to drop you at the school and many times the people from school call me or call Esperanza and say, “There’s going to be a march in here. We’re going to close the college.” Oh my God! So you had to find a way to go and pick up your children, you know. Sometimes I did it; sometimes I asked somebody else to do it for me. Your children are not going to be in the middle of a stupid situation of fighting and shooting and all those things. Because that was happening. That was a daily scene. It’s going to happen once a week? No. It was almost daily you can hear that. So it was kind of tense. It was kind of sad because many people, again, many people were killed were civilian people who had nothing to do with the fight. That’s what it is, the army just shooting. For one year, we cannot go…the army put a… I don’t know how to say it in English. Nobody can go out. You had to stay at home from 6 pm to 6 am. Nobody can…

    LD: Martial law.

    MD: Yes, the martial law, for almost a year. People here in the United States never lived in that situation, and people don’t understand.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun: A person who is not an active member of the military.

    martial law

    Noun: Rule by the military in place of the regular government, usually during time of war or other crisis.


    Verb: To enroll or enlist new members. (recruits, recruiting, recruited)


    Adjective: Stressed; strained; nervous.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
    nid: 2177