LOS ANGELES — For 59-year-old Rosa América Gómez, her vacation in the U.S. has been anything but a walk in the park.
“I’m de-stressing a bit because my situation is very tense,” América Gómez said in Spanish.
That’s because she has been stranded in the country since March 17 when the president of El Salvador abruptly shut down the airport to international flights due to the pandemic.
“I’m one of the people stuck out here in Los Angeles," she said, adding it was her 99 day in the U.S. "And I feel vulnerable because of my age, because of my illnesses. I feel cornered.”
América Gómez came to L.A. on March 4 to visit a goddaughter she hadn’t seen in 36 years, she said.
But two weeks after arriving things began shutting down. All of a sudden, she couldn’t go back home and her living situation became tense because with a tourist visa she can’t work and contribute to the household.
“I don’t’ feel comfortable enough to get food or to sleep. I have to wait for everyone to go because I sleep in the living room. So it gets really difficult,” América Gómez said.
Then at the end of April, her father had a stroke, she petitioned the Salvadorian government to make an exception and allow her to fly back to take care of him.
“It’s illogical that they won’t let us in," América Gómez said. "We are Salvadorian. We have rights. We were born there and we love our country.”
They did not allow her to go back. Her father died on June 2 and was buried on June 7.
“That was very painful. Not being able to say goodbye, seeing the images on my phone, I cried all night,” she said.
Now her biggest worry is her health, said América Gómez, who is a diabetic, and suffers from hypertension.
“I brought enough medicine for four months. I’m using the last bit of prescriptions I have, and I’m worried because as soon as July comes, I’m out of medicine,” she said.
There are hundreds of other Salvadorians in the area under the same circumstances. They’ve formed a WhatsApp group to keep updated and help each other out because they say no support has come from the government.
Spectrum News 1 reached out to the Salvadorian government for comment and they said a plan for repatriation is in the works but a date has not been set.
“I’m frustrated because I feel like our government hasn’t given us any hope, they have abandoned us," América Gómez said. "I [sometimes] lock myself in the bathroom to cry.”
América Gómez said she often sees planes fly by the house where she is staying.
“From the window, I see the planes as they go by. And I get happy and think, 'Oh, maybe tomorrow. Maybe soon we’ll get word that we can go home.' But night comes and nothing changes.”