My name is Gonzalo Alvarado, I am 47 years old. I was born in El Salvador at the age of 14 I was brought to the USA by my mother. I grew up in a very traditional Salvadoran household with my maternal grandparents. Growing up I discovered that I love poetry, art and history. I grew up listening to the stories of my uncles. Stories of war, revolution etc.
My mom emigrated to the USA when I was a year old. My father was not much in my life. My role models were mainly my aunt Myriam who taught me the value of native traditions, my grandmother who taught me about love, community, family. Growing up there was also lots of repression in my homeland. The civil war was at its peak that even regular people suffered the wrath of the government.
Overall, my childhood was ok. I missed having a mother and a father. That in a way created a deep void in my heart, and a story in my mind. I felt lonely and disconnected. Violence also plagued our community, and it had a great influenced in my development. When I turned 14 my mom sent for me. At first, I was happy but then I realized how disconnected I felt to my own mother. I had 2 sisters. I blamed my mother for taking me away from the life I knew. I grew very resentful towards her and her husband. I was a smart kid, so it was easy to learn a foreign language. But I carry a lot of pain and I didn’t know how to release it. This caused me to get in fights, skip schools. Things at home got worse so I started to run away and soon I was getting involved with gangs. I became very isolated and didn’t know how to ask for help.
In 1993 I finally got arrested for some serious charges I was guilty, but my rights were violated by the LAPD. They beat me up, didn’t respect my Miranda rights.
After 2 and a half years in Juvenile Hall and county gang module detention I was sentenced to 36 years. I entered the adult state prison, and it further shook me internally. I spent most of my time in the highest security prisons of California Corcoran, new Folsom, Calipatria .
My journey in prison forced me to go inside and to reconnect with my roots. Nonetheless I had to hide my emotions as the system didn’t allow me to be Sensitive or weak. I came to realize that there was a big possibility that I was going to truly spend the rest of my existence in prison. I didn’t enjoyed participating in the violence, but I saw it as a way of survival. All I had was that survival. I had to figured out how to navigate the world of codes, betrayal, loneliness.
I was finally granted parole the second time I went to the parole hearing. My current role at homeboy industries is Work Readiness Trainer. My interests are broad, mainly in the way of human psychology, human relations, art, poetry, stories, history, spirituality.
I follow the “Red Road” which is the native American ways.
Sneak Peek at Episode 7 with Gonzalo Alvarado
Listen to the complete episode on Spotify