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The Real Story
  Excerpts from Boston Globe, February 21, 1999 Author: Gloria Negri, Globe Staff In his search for freedom, Giovani Hoyos-Corrales traveled thousands of miles, mostly on foot, from his native Peru across 10 Latin American countries, enduring hardship and hunger, fording rivers in water up to his neck, to start a new life in America. He still keeps the tattered shoes he made of fabric and tire rubber that took him on his eight-month odyssey. Now, after eight years of living what to all appearances has been an exemplary life in this country, albeit as an illegal alien, Hoyos-Corrales, is facing the possibility of being deported to Peru where he was persecuted for his political beliefs as a university student. Fearing for his safety should he return to Peru and having built a new life here, Hoyos-Corrales said he tried to legalize his status three years ago, but met insurmountable obstacles... On March 15, an immigration judge is scheduled to hear Hoyos-Corrales' petition for political asylum to remain in this country where he hopes, someday, to become a citizen. "It would be very dangerous for Giovani to return to Peru," said Brian O'Connor, an aide to former congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II. "Giovani conceded to the court that he entered the country without the proper documents, but he was doing so because he was fleeing oppression in his native country and came to the United States seeking safe haven." Last August, Kennedy wrote the INS in support of Hoyos-Corrales' petition, noting that while in this country, Hoyos-Corrales "has been self-employed as a sculptor, paid taxes, and contributed to the community as a volunteer soccer coach." Said O'Connor, "If this case were judged by character and the contributions Giovani has made to the community, his work coaching children in soccer and his redevelopment of a huge building in Everett that has made space for other artists to work, it would be closed." With a background in the arts (he is both a drummer and a sculptor), Hoyos-Corrales makes gothic-style gargoyles, a symbol of protection of the home, that are sold at a Newbury Street shop, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Harvard Square, and around the country. He is self-taught in the art, he said, taking it up here to be self-sufficient.... He also played in an interdepartmental soccer tournament at MIT and organizes an international tournament for an annual summer event held here by the Peruvian community. Some 700 Cambridge residents and friends have signed a petition begging the INS to let him stay here. "He has worked hard to build a life here, working and developing his artistic skills as a sculptor," the petition says. "Many of us see Giovani as an inspiration, on both a personal and professional level. . . He is a symbol of a new generation of good immigrants in this country, and is an exemplary individual whom we, as American citizens, would like to see become a legal resident." In the late 1980s, as a student of economics at Peru's Universidad Inca Garcilaso de la Vega in Lima, Hoyos-Corrales, like many of his fellow students, disagreed with the ruling party, El Partido Aprista, on many social issues and what was best for the country. The party, he said, was rife with corruption and put forward economic "programs that were killing the country." `Inflation was 200 percent," he said in a recent interview at his Cambridgeport residence. "People were begging in the streets. The party was destroying the country." El Partido Aprista, then headed by President Alan Garcia Perez, also ran the college he attended, Hoyos-Corrales said, and he was often interrogated and arrested for his views and was detained after a student rally he had not attended. "I couldn't live like that," he said. "I was not against the democratically elected government, but it was weak. They imposed a curfew and you could be accused of being a terrorist only if you had a different view of government." A Peruvian Human Rights Commission report in 1990 said 3,198 people were killed there in political violence in 1989. Garcia Perez is now living out of the country. Hoyos-Corrales was a marked man. He comes from a politically active family with a name well known in South America. His grandfather's brother, he said, head of the military from 1980 to 1985, was assassinated for his politics. On Nov. 28, 1990, at age 24, after completing four years of the five-year course at Inca Garcilaso and being increasingly harassed, Hoyos-Corrales left Peru, his parents, and his siblings. With two suitcases, clothes and some small items to barter, and $25, he said, "I just walked away." The next eight months were to take him across Peru to Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico. The story of his journey, filled with adventure and daring, is worthy of a movie. "From home, I just walked to the highway and started hitchhiking," Hoyos-Corrales recalled. "I gave the truck driver a shirt." Enroute north and to the border of Ecuador, he said he was interrogated by the military, but let go. He got to Quito, Ecuador's capital, and then to the border of Colombia, giving his watch to a border guard to get across. He slept on streets, in gullies, at hostels, and on park benches. He subsisted on Coca Cola and bread. Sometimes, he met kindred spirits who invited him home for a meal and overnight shelter, or he took jobs in restaurants in return for meals. He stayed in Colombia more than three months and found friends among the artisans and musicians. There, he traveled to Cali, Medellin, Cartagena and Barranquilla on the coast. In Barranquilla, Hoyos-Corrales stowed away on a Filipino-registered freighter heading to Germany. He hid under the floorboards under a bed in an unoccupied cabin, but was found out two hours into the journey. "I could have been tossed overboard by the captain," Hoyos-Corrales recalled, "but, maybe because I had been working on the boat before it left port, he had a small boat take me back to Colombia." He said he never thought of returning to Peru. In Colombia, he got a job on another boat that got him to Panama, where he stayed nine days. His next destination was Costa Rica, the one country for which he had a visa. So, he rode buses and got a job in a restaurant of a Peruvian in exchange for food for about a month. A Sandinista he met at the restaurant offered to escort him across the Nicaraguan border. Hoyos-Corrales gave him a small radio. It was near the end of the Sandinista-Contra civil war in Nicaragua, and Hoyos-Corrales and his guide had to dodge bullets as they fled through the jungle, stopping for the night at the home of the Sandinista's mother. The next day, the two men walked another 10 hours through the jungle. Then, Hoyos-Corrales walked, hitchhiked and swam to Honduras and El Salvador. In Salvador, a truck driver offered a ride but not until Hoyos-Corrales met him at a gas station in Guatemala. So, in water up to his neck, he crossed a river into Guatemala. The truck brought him to the Mexican border. In Mexico with no documents (he had left his passport in Guatemala) he had to go through a number of immigration controls. He said he used a library card from Peru as identification. After eight months, with rides from drivers of banana and fish trucks and dressed as a Mexican peasant, he was finally able to board a bus to US soil, arriving in El Paso. From there, he took a Greyhound bus to Boston where he had a high school friend. "That," Hoyos-Corrales said somewhat wistfully of his undocumented arrival, "was the only bad thing I have done."


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