Prefiero Estar en mi Casa (I Would Prefer to Be In My House)

Created by - Arte de Lágrimas. Refugee Artwork Project
Created with - Gregory Cuéllar and Nohemí Cuéllar

Génesis is nine years old, from El Salvador. Génesis started her picture outlining her house with a pink marker. She then proceeded to add interior details like the bedrooms, windows, TV, and doors. In the center of the house, she drew herself standing together with her mother, father, and six-year-old brother Rodrigo.
As she explained, her favorite place to play was in the little house near the swings. While she was drawing, she named all the things she had to leave behind — her bike, shoes, towels, and toys. After she completed her drawing, she said that she prefers to be home and that she misses everything.
Unseen in her drawing is the gang violence that had caused her and her family to flee their home. Even more unsettling was the fact that it had been several years since her father lived at home in El Salvador. He had migrated to the United States for economic reasons. As her mother described, they fled their home because the local gang had demanded an extortion payment of $10,000. She also stated that the town gang located her husband on Facebook, threatening to harm his family if he did not meet their demands. Their only way of escaping these threats was to sell their truck and flee to the United States.

For Génesis, central to her memory of homeland was having her family united.

Using markers and crayons, Génesis immediately went to work — outlining first the detention cell where she, her mother, and her brother Rodrigo were held for several days. She then filled the detention space with big and little bodies — explaining that they were babies, little children, and parents. As she explained, they slept together on the cold floor. In the picture, they are located on the top right corner inside the detention cell. Still in their wet clothes, they were each given a thin plastic blanket, a juice box, and a small sandwich. Génesis stated that the room was cold and had the lights on constantly. In this space, she also remembered a barred window and two partially exposed toilets (bottom right).

After completing the detention cell, she proceeded to draw her border-crossing journey. As she described, the river was brown, and she looked intently for a brown crayon in the box. Her family crossed in a small makeshift raft, which is reflected by the two gray circles located immediately above the brown river.
On the banks of the river, they surrendered to U.S. border patrol agents or what she called “la policía”. They are the two large dark human figures standing next to a portable prison truck. She mentioned that she was afraid but knew God was with her. So she drew an image of God with a smile and a beard next to the yellow sun.

With relative ease, Génesis filled the paper with a sequence of images that together narrate her journey experience.