Writing: ‘Mi Papa’ by Eswin Garrido Diaz

This piece placed first for high school writing submissions in the 2022 Ánimo Voices Writing and Art Competition, which invited students to respond to the open prompt “I’ve Got Something to Say.” The competition is an opportunity to motivate, recognize, and celebrate our strong student voices through writing, spoken word, and art.

Eswin Garrido Diaz


By Eswin Garrido Diaz
Ánimo Leadership Charter High School

Mi Papá

1:34 AM: July 16th, 2015 San Pedro, Guatemala

AMIGO 1: Es Tarde hay que ir a casa. AMIGO 2: Pienso que la puerta tiene llave. PAPA: De verdad?
AMIGO 2: Yo creo que sí hombre, ¿cómo vas a volver a entrar?
PAPA: Ni siquiera sé, estamos muy somnolientos con todo lo que bebemos
AMIGO 1: Ni siquiera puedo pararme recto.

8:14 AM: July 16th, 2015 San Pedro, Guatemala

I wake up, and my mom isn't next to me. Normally, I wake up very early to see her beside me. I leave the room and look at the clear skies of Guatemala. There's nothing like that beautiful sky, the fresh air, birds chirping in the background. I sit down beside the stairs. My nine-year-old brain can't believe I am here with all my family. My only thoughts are about all the things that we're going to do next - visiting the farms, going downtown, avoiding the mosquitos- those little bastards made me so sick.

PAPA: Necesito llegar allí de alguna manera, mi esposa quería que estuviera allí a las 11, ahora mírame
AMIGO 2: Rompiste su promesa hombre.
PAPA: Soy un hombre de palabra, voy a subir la cerca y ver si puedo abrir la puerta.
AMIGO 1: Cuidado vos, no estás sobri.
PAPA: Si si lo se.

Later that day, a local guy comes up to my grandma: one tear drops into the rich Guatemalan dirt. My grandma's tears were watering the earth. Why? She quickly comes running to me and hugs me: “Mijito… Tu papa… tu papa.” She manages to choke out between sobs. I can't believe it, the one person I looked up to. The person who proved that nothing can beat him. The person who worked hard to put food on the table. The person who was tough. The person who always made me feel safe. My Dad.


It's a few days later, and I can still hear the shocks of the defibrillator in the back of my mind. I can't shake the image of when they tried to shock my dad back to life. It was horrifying, they closed the door on me...

These past few days I've felt empty, my heart crushed. I remember when I was around six or seven years old. I was afraid to ride my bike without training wheels. Before I could say no, my dad removed the training wheels off my Lightning McQueen bike and took me for a ride. I kept falling but kept getting back up. Eventually, with the help of my dad, I learned how to ride on two wheels. He taught me how to face my fear. All these memories, all the times he used to comfort me when he would come home from work - he would be exhausted, but he would still have enough energy left to take me to the park and play soccer.

When I saw the casket, I knew he was gone. His grave has his picture of him leaning next to his blue van. I remember that van, that van was family to us.

August 2015: Los Angeles, California

I'm back at school today. I smile, it's hard to keep a smile. Everyone's words feel like they're attacking me. I give my buddy Max a hug and tell him about my dad. He feels bad. I am nine, and my brother is just four. We are staying at my mom's friend's house because my mom can't sleep at all, especially in our old apartment. I feel bad for her. She's a single mom with two boys, but I know I will have to take care of her, just like my dad provided for us. I've come to realize that my brother hasn't seen my dad in the casket. He doesn't understand that our dad is gone: "When is dad coming back?" He says. I couldn't tell him. Not even God can bring him back.

December 2015: Los Angeles, California
First Christmas without dad

My dad could light up the room. He would bring the energy that would spark life into any room. If you were sitting down at a party, he would make you stand up and "get down!" And he brought joy into all people's lives. I can't explain or show anyone how much I miss my dad. I'm always thinking about what would have happened if my dad had never died - Would I be the young man I am today?


It is the first year after my dad's passing and a few days before Christmas. There is this big school next to Moffet Elementary (I know it now as Animo Leadership) that is having an event going on. My mom took me and my brother there. I think we are here to jump-spark our hearts and to forget what has happened, to escape reality. Even with all of the commotion happening around us, I still cannot forget the one Christmas where my dad bought me a Wii video game. I love video games, and I loved playing Mario Galaxy. It was magical. My dad usually liked watching TV, but for that one time, not only did he let me play all night, but he watched me the whole time with a smile on his face. Now, that joy is all gone, and I don't think I'm getting it back. It is here when I've realized that my mom's plan isn't working. The whole time at this event, I kept thinking about that Christmas with my dad.

January 2022: Los Angeles, California

It's seven years later, and it still hurts inside. This wound will never go away. I'm now fifteen and turning sixteen in a few months. Even after years of my father not being with me, I'm still trying to be the man my father would want me to become. A father's role in a kid's life is an important thing. It can and will determine the kind of person someone becomes. Sometimes, in the emptiness of my mind's abyss, I think about what life would have been like if my dad survived - would I have been a different person that I am today? Don't get me wrong, I like who I am, but life without a dad is hard. In saying this, my mom has always been there for us - being both a mother and father figure in my life. My loving mother has been playing both of these roles. I love her for that. However, I experience a lot of things without having a father figure in my life - watching kids getting picked up from school by their fathers, for one example.

Throughout the years in school, when l found myself in a bit of trouble, my teachers would ask me why I don't have my father's phone number in my school account. I would say that he forgot or made jokes that he left me. He did leave me. just not that way.

...Today, I don't always do things right, but writing this chapter of my life has made me feel stronger and open. Dedication, determination, and the pride that my father has embedded in my soul will lead me to a good path in life. I love you father.