Unknowingly in 2004, Kevin Romero left Ecuador at the age of five to live in the United States. His parents were full of dreams and in search for a better life, but after their plans didn’t work out and they struggled economically while being undocumented, in 2012 they packed their bags and returned.
Encountering his native language was complicated. “When I got here it was difficult because I didn’t know Spanish,” he recalls. “Some words I didn’t know and couldn’t pronounce.” But he recognizes the departure from the United States has helped him. “If we didn’t leave I would still be timid and not be able to open myself up and express myself the way I do now,” he said. “I learned different things and that knowledge has helped me a lot in my life.”
It has been six years since Romero left the United States. Now he is 15 years-old and currently serves as the Student Council President in his school, Unidad Educativa Nuestro Mundo Eco Río (Educational Unit Our World Eco Rio). According to Romero, it was the school principal who encouraged him to run for the position despite his disinterest. “She kept insisting,” said Romero. Now he enjoys public speaking. “People really look at you and they're like wow, he's 15 and he speaks very well and congratulate me and it makes me feel happy.”
Surprisingly, Romero says he doesn’t miss living in the United States. “At the beginning, it was exciting because I was meeting my family but when my parents started working I barely saw them, that’s the only thing I didn’t really like.”
His memories in the United States consists of his parent's absence where they lost their parent-son relationship. “I can remember how my mom would get up at six o’clock, make breakfast and lunch, then go to work, and my dad would do the same,” he said. But in Ecuador, their lifestyle is very different. “I can talk to my parents, see them often, eat lunch and breakfast together,” he said. “It’s the little things that we couldn’t do over there because they had to work.”
His father works in his school as a physical education teacher while his mom stays at home. “My mom goes to my school two times a week to see my grades, that’s like wow, it’s something I really like,” he said. “I feel important to them so that’s the main reason I like Ecuador, I feel like livin here is more peaceful, you have less problems and less occupations.”
For Romero education wise it has been exhausting compared to the United States. “I remember my homework used to take me 15 minutes over there, it was really easy,” he said. “Here it’s not easy and I really, really, really have to watch everything because I can’t make mistakes.”
“Just by a simple mistake is like minus one and my grades are very important,” Romero said.
Ever since Romero took his place in the student council, he's stayed busy organizing monthly school plays and fundraising to buy new computers. So far, they made a revenue of over $420. His next goal is to fix the entrance of the school. “I actually thought it was going to be easy but pretty much if we want to do anything we have to fill out paperwork for permission and I have school, homework and other things,” he said. “It’s also cool because it’s not only for you, it’s for all my friends.”
Romero has also not forgotten the English language. He practices it by watching television in English, movies, and through reading articles such as Dragon Ball Super, which he finds super exciting. Additionally, at school, he also takes an English class five times a week for 45 minutes where he can only communicate in English.
But besides the class, he doesn’t speak the language anywhere else. “People get amazed and they ask me things and it’s uncomfortable,” he said. “Sometimes I get pissed because they ask everything, like how do you say dog, book, computer and it gets annoying.”
According to Migration Policy, the inability to achieve legal status and increased difficulties for unauthorized immigrants encouraged the return migration from the United States by Ecuadorians. Also, The National Migrant Secretariat estimated in early 2013 that it had assisted in the return of more than 40,000 Ecuadorians (from Spain and the U.S.) since 2008 and a larger number was expected in 2013.
Although Romero wouldn’t reconsider moving back, he acknowledges the best thing obtained from living in the U.S. was the language. “I think that if I actually study and concentrate doing all the things right I can actually have a good life,” he said. “I have a lot of opportunities here especially because I know English.”