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With her paraplegic son, mother illegally immigrates to Uruguay in search of a better life

I became my son’s source of strength and movement. My ears attuned to his every need, from the soft rustle of his sheets to the distant buzz of a mosquito. Any tiny threat seemed to carry the weight of lethal consequences.

  • 6 months ago
  • October 13, 2023
5 min read
Balbina Ponse Matia and her son in Montevideo | Photo Courtesy Sandra Hercegova Balbina Ponse Matia and her son in Montevideo | Photo Courtesy Sandra Hercegova
interview subject
Balbina Ponse Matia, a native of Havana, Cuba, dedicated her life to providing unwavering care for her paraplegic son, Irael Masó Ponse, who, despite his physical challenges, is currently pursuing studies in programming in Montevideo. Now sixty, Balbina sustains her family through her son’s disability pension, supplemented by the generous support and donations from kind-hearted individuals. Her profound commitment to her son’s well-being exemplifies her strength and resilience, as she navigates life’s challenges with grace and determination.
background information
A noticeable increase in migration from Cuba to Uruguay has been observed recently, prompting concerns about the emergence of human trafficking organizations that facilitate land transport for these migrants from Guyana. As a result of recent changes in Uruguay’s immigration policy, approximately ten thousand Cubans residing in Montevideo are now at risk of finding themselves in a bureaucratic limbo, facing potential challenges in documentation and residency status.
Source: El Observador.

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay — Eighteen years ago, a sudden call shattered my tranquility during a quiet dinner at home. My son, the very heartbeat of my life, had been in an accident. Racing against time, I sprinted out outside as tears clouded my vision. I hailed a cab and rushed to the hospital. The sea of anxious faces I faced when I got there spelled a grim reality but amidst my despair, the staff assured me my son was still alive.

However, my hope quickly disappeared when the medical team spelled out his prognosis: a spinal injury left him completely disabled. Through it all, our bond remained unyielding. No matter where life took us, we stood together, side by side.

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Bound to a wheelchair: I became my son’s lifeline

Before the accident, my son towered at six feet tall. The thought of him confined to a wheelchair with no feeling below his chest seemed unimaginable.

One afternoon in the hospital, with the scent of the recovery room hanging heavily in the air, I noticed he had slipped into a drowsy trance. His warm skin turned an icy shade of blue. Adrenaline coursed through my veins and my heart began pounding as I cried for help. My piercing scream shattered the silence.

On that harrowing day, an undeniable truth seared into my psyche: I was his only lifeline. As the years rolled on, the weight of his struggles echoed in the form of an anguished question: “Why is this happening?” I had to sacrifice all of my personal dreams and relationships to serve as his protector.

I became my son’s source of strength and movement. My ears attuned to his every need, from the soft rustle of his sheets to the distant buzz of a mosquito. Any tiny threat seemed to carry the weight of lethal consequences.

During calm moments, the dim glow of the nightlight revealed tears in his eyes as he whispered thoughts of surrender. Determined to paint his world with color, I sought new horizons. One of those decisions included moving to Uruguay.

Mother and disabled son venture to Guyana, financial struggles lead to illegal ground transportation

Fueling our determination, we dreamed of a fresh start in Uruguay. As a mother, I constantly reassured myself, “We can do this.” Different challenges made me question our decision, but my son and I faced those challenges head-on. Eager to explore new horizons, I said, “Let’s leap into this journey.” His eyes lit up with anticipation. Eager for happier times, I sold all of our possessions to buy tickets to Guyana, but once got there, our money dwindled quickly. We had to rely on illegal ground transportation.

One intense night, during a twenty-hour bus ride, came to a halt in a remote area. The heat felt overwhelming, and my son became visibly distressed. The guide told everyone to get off the bus and walk. As people began moving at a brisk pace, we struggled to keep up. Before long, the distance grew between us and the rest of the people. We found ourselves isolated, lagging behind.

In the silence of night, surrounded by darkness, I gazed up at the starry sky. A pang of fear struck me and I wondered, “Is this where our journey ends?” Somehow, that fear motivated me. Despite the uncertainty we faced, I decided we would have no regrets. We chose this adventure in search of a brighter future. Whatever fate had in store; we’d face it together.

Surprisingly, my resolve affected the others in the group. They returned to us, and so did the bus. I believe a cosmic force called them back and that same force shaped my vision. I imagined reaching Uruguay against all odds, and we did. Life certainly presents dark moments, but a higher power ensured my son and I persevered, drawing strength from one another.

In Montevideo, navigating immigration felt like a marathon

As we approached Tres Cruces, the lights from Montevideo sparkled. Despite the hardships we faced to get there, the sight symbolized a new hope. We took a cab, and my son began conversing with the driver. It looked so normal that it warmed my heart.

Once we made it safety to the city, we began the immigration process, but it has not been easy. Our future still feels uncertain. Navigating the system is like an unending marathon, and our tight finances prevent the necessary trips to Brazil for the passport stamps we need.

When we are able to go, the lengthy travel takes a toll on my son. I often feel lost and uncertain about my next steps. Living in the moment is my mantra now. I try to focus every day on caring for my disabled son – assisting him, making sure he is nourished, and providing comfort.

Though I rarely ever say it out loud, I hope he leaves this world before I do. No one else could or would care for him like I do. The depth of our bond gives me the energy to meet the daily demands of his care. If he passed, I know my will to live would wane.

Every morning, despite these inner battles, I present him with a smile. It is a constant which I think he deserves. Today, we savor every moment, wandering around Montevideo and soaking in its beauty. The views here are more than sights to behold with our eyes. They nourish our souls and remind us that life is a precious gift.

Translation Disclaimer

Translations provided by Orato World Media are intended to result in the end translated document being understandable in the end language. Although every effort is made to ensure our translations are accurate we cannot guarantee the translation will be without errors.

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