Sentient Behind-the-Scenes: Untold Struggles of an Undocumented Life


So many years, and where did time go? Down the sanitation drains and out to the waste pond. Time went there and stuck with all the decay, unmoving yet unreachable and dead. He felt himself older every moment though he was only thirty-eight.” -excerpt from Sentient

Can you imagine being without your family for ten years? Not by choice, but by something I like to call. . .forced choice? I am sure each one of us, at some point in our lives, have had to make a choice we didn’t quite like, something of a sacrifice, to pursue a better life or to provide a better life for someone else. I think of loved ones and caregivers who put their careers and lives aside to help a dying family member. Or a single mother who works three jobs to ensure her child can attend college. 

Or. . .as in the case of Sentient’s Bertan Duarte, a man who leaves his home in Central America, travels over 2,000 miles by land and train, encountering violence and his life threatened countless times, all to do better by his family.

Bertan Duarte is another main character from the YA Dystopian trilogy, Sentient. His story begins when his wife Carmen, who remains apart from him in their home country of Honduras, decides she must leave to take their daughter to another part of the country, her life threatened because of the work she does to assist local farmers in keeping their land away from corporate greed.

Bertan has been working in a U.S. slaughterhouse for the past ten years, both as a knocker and security guard. He knocks cows unconscious by day, and works security for the same facility at night. He does this to send money to his family in Honduras. He does it to save up whatever money he can, in the hopes that some day, his family can come to the United States to be reunited.

What powerlessness.

The development of Bertan’s character was a response to the realities that many undocumented immigrants currently experience in the United States. The sacrifices they will make to get here, only to find more barriers and obstacles in their path to freedom. His story is not far from the lived experiences of immigrants working in agriculture in the U.S. 

Did you know that a large percentage of U. S. agriculture workers are migrants from Mexico or other parts of Latin America? An unknown percentage of these workers are undocumented, making it easier for corporations to pay them lower wages, because they do not have rights to demand more. They are also more likely to experience illness and injury as a result of agricultural work—such as factory farm work—and have less access to healthcare. Some will loose employment as a result of injury or illness.

Imagine for one moment that you are undocumented. An immigrant. Someone desiring a better life for their family. Don’t we all have these same desires? Don’t we all want better for ourselves and others? From my research, I don’t see much difference between “us” and “them”. And if you really want to delve in and learn more of their experience, perhaps read Sentient, or do the research and learn for yourself.

Take some time, for one moment, to walk in the shoes of someone else. 

You might just see yourself in their experience. 

Sources: Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of SightHonduran Killing Fields: Repression Continues Against Campesinos in Bajo Aguán Valley

Let me know in the comments below: what is the most diverse character story line you’ve ever read in a piece of fiction, let’s say someone of a different ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc?


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