2017-06-14 / News

Local resident becomes U.S. citizen

by Trish Rudder

Berkeley Springs resident Flower Lorenzo became a U.S. citizen in late March and she is grateful to be here.

“I feel free. Now I can breathe,” Lorenzo said when asked what being a citizen means to her. She is now 47 years old and still gets emotional when she talks about growing up in El Salvador, a small country in Central America.

The country was plagued with violence even before the civil war officially began in 1980 and ended with a ceasefire in 1992, but violence continued, she said.

Lorenzo was a little girl when the war began and she grew up in a war-torn environment. She remembers hiding under the bed with five other family members for 27 days in 1988, and she told of her house being bombed.

Lorenzo said the terrorists were going to take her brother but her mother made arrangements to get him to safety.

She remembered the destruction, and the smoke from burning buildings. She doesn’t like the fog because it brings back her fear.

She remembered the dead bodies piled up and she saw a terrorist pour gasoline on the bodies and burn them. She remembers the smell.

“I had a great fear to be in El Salvador,” she said.

Lorenzo said she had to leave but she left behind three children with her mother.

A long, arduous journey

The El Salvador Timelines of History internet site stated that 6,792 people were murdered in 1996 by gangs and executions, according to the El Salvador attorney general’s office.

That’s the year Lorenzo began her trek from her home in El Salvador to America. It was not easy. Lorenzo said her father was a resident in the United States and had started the paperwork to get family members out, but he died before it was finished.

Lorenzo found out later that she already had a resident card that her father had applied for, but she did not know of it when she began her journey from El Salvador.

Other family members were U.S. citizens, including her brother and her sister, Melida, who lived in Arlington, Va. Melida paid $7,000 to the “coyotes” – the people who helped illegals to get into the U.S.

Lorenzo would have to get to Los Angeles, Calif. to take the plane to get her to Arlington, Va.

A three-month journey

She said she and others rode in the bed of a pickup truck for 19 hours, and they were left in Mexico in the woods. They had no food, but had only gallons of water that they carried. She said they ate the fruit growing on the trees that was very sour but that kept them alive.

She said they walked at night for three months to get to the Arizona border. During the day, they slept.

She saw many dead bodies along the way.

There were 267 people together at the Mexican-Arizona border. Lorenzo said the “coyotes” demanded another $2,000 more from her family, and her sister sent money for the plane fare.

They were put into groups of 15 people, Lorenzo said, to cross the river.

“We made it across the Rio Grande by riding in a large truck inner tube.” She said the “coyotes” were the ones who moved them across the river by pushing the inner tube. The crossing went pretty quickly and was safer because there was no rain and the river was not choppy.

But the next group to cross the river didn’t survive, she said.

“Many didn’t make it after us.”

Her sister Melida told her: “You don’t know the hours I have cried for you.” She saw on the news that people died crossing the river around the same time Lorenzo crossed it, and didn’t know if her sister was among them.

Lorenzo weighed only 94 pounds when she arrived in the United States, but she did get paperwork and was photographed and got secondhand clothing to wear.

All told, it took three months and seven days to reach Los Angeles from El Salvador.

“It was really difficult.”

A new life

Lorenzo worked with her sister in a cleaning business and her money was sent to her mother to support her three children, ages four, two and four months.

She married Joe Lorenzo, who has relatives in Berkeley Springs and they spent their eight-day honeymoon at the Country Inn.

“This is the town I want to live in,” she told Joe.

“Berkeley Springs is one of the best places that I have been.” They moved here from Pasadena, Md., where Joe Lorenzo is from.

People in Berkeley Springs know Lorenzo as “the rock lady” because of her large rock collection and fine photography work. She is also a soccer coach for the Morgan County Soccer League and loves being around children. She said being with kids takes away her sadness and all the strife of the war that surrounded her young years.

The path to citizenship

Lorenzo received her residency card quickly after she applied for it in 2000. She was told a lot of the paperwork was complete because her father had started the application process before he died in the 1980s.

Her three children in El Salvador – Olman Gudiel Guzman, Chris Aldo Guzman and Sania Samaly Guzman -- arrived in the United States in 2003 with financial help from Hedges Chapel at the Woods Resort and the First United Methodist Church on Green Street. They all graduated from Berkeley Springs High School, and her daughter, Sania, enlisted in the U.S. Army last year.

She and Lorenzo have a son, Joseph V. Lorenzo, Jr., who attends Berkeley Springs High School.

Lorenzo wept when she told her story of living in a war zone, and she is very grateful to finally becoming a U.S. citizen.

“I am thankful for all those here for helping me and my family.”

Her oldest son Gudiel became a U.S. citizen a few months ago.

“Give love as much as possible, not hate,” Lorenzo said. “Hate is what I saw since I was a little girl until I arrived in the United States.”

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