Sign up for updates from Randy
Author and activist, Randy Jurado Ertll.
When he was five years old, Randy Jurado Ertll left El Salvador just as its civil war erupted in 1980, thinking that he and his mother were fleeing to the safety of the U.S. where he had been born.
Instead, he and his mom arrived in a Los Angeles neighborhood terrorized by a gang war.
“Escaping a civil war and landing in another one is not what a five year old child expects,” says Ertll, an author and activist who has become one of the leading Salvadoran American voices in the country. “Yet again, nothing in life is easy.”
Perhaps that is the mantra that has fuelled Randy Jurado Ertll through deportation as an infant, traumatic repatriation as a child and then an emotional winding journey pursuing an American Dream that has been fraught with tears, anger, frustration and a growing peace of mind.
Ertll’s story could be that of any of today’s Latino immigrants hoping for a shot of a better life in America today, and it is one he is sharing in his second book – “The Life of An Activist: In the Frontlines, 24/7.”
Randy Jurado Ertll’s book
The book officially comes out in September, but Randy Jurado Ertll is already promoting it and using social media to raise money to help finance a planned book tour.
“Being an author and activist is no easy task,” he says. “It’s about making social change through the written word.”
Ertll’s newest book, like his first, also fills a special void in America, as he is one of the few Salvadorans writing about the experience of his people, and doing it movingly.
“There really isn’t any literature that our students can identify with,” says Ertll. “There really isn’t much for the new generation of Salvadoran Americans who’ve been born here or raised here in the United States.”
Randy Jurado Ertll has also had the unique experience given few other Latino immigrants – being on the inside of the power structure, seeing how it works and now trying to change it so that it works better for those following in his footsteps.
He has been the communications director for then Congresswoman Hilda Solis, the spokesman for the Pasadena Unified School District and the executive director of El Centro de Accion Social, a nonprofit offering social service programs for low-income youth and seniors.
But perhaps the most important aspect of his life, he is finding, is his writing – as a columnist and commentator for Southern California weeklies and as an author.
Ertll’s first book, “Hope in Times of Darkness: A Salvadoran American Experience,” included much of his own life story that he said he hopes inspires young immigrants to stay in school and out of gangs.
Ertll’s “immigrant” experience, though, is unique because he wasn’t really an immigrant when he returned to the U.S., but an American citizen ripped away from his homeland as a baby.
“(I was) deported to El Salvador as an eight month old baby with my mother,” he says. “Immigration agents arrested my mother while she worked at a sweat shop in downtown Los Angeles.”
But his mother was intent on her son reclaiming his birthright, and she worked virtually round-the-clock in El Salvador while Ertll’s grandparents looked after him.
“When I returned to Los Angeles at the age of five and not knowing English, it was a nightmare!” he recalls. “I suffered a lot. Eventually, I learned English and began to accept and learn the traditions and social cultures of the U.S.
“I became immersed by watching (the television shows) “Scooby Doo,” “The Land of the Lost,” “The Streets of San Francisco”…
Now, still living in Los Angeles, Randy Jurado Ertll is perfectly situated to continue his work as an activist and writer. After all, the largest proportion of this country’s two million Salvadoran and Salvadoran Americans lives in Southern California.
“The community has to mobilize and advocate, but not only on the issue of immigration,” he says. “It should have the same commitment to other social issues.
“The reality is we have to keep pushing key congressmen and senators to vote for reform that benefits everyone, not just Latinos.”