After spending almost a month in a detention centre awaiting deportation, Alvaro Orozco was told May 31 that he can stay in Canada. The Nicaraguan-born gay artist was granted a stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds and was released from the detention centre on June 1.
Xtra was there. Here’s a transcript of his first post-detention interview, given with his friend Suhail Abualsameed.
Xtra: How are you feeling?
Alvaro Orozco: I feel shocked because it happened at the last moment. I was supposed to be sent back tomorrow morning — no, Thursday right? But at the same time it was postponed [until June 9], so I got [an] extension, more […] time. At the same time, the lawyer had more time to move around. I feel shocked, but at the same time I feel excited and happy. A lot of people are happy, yeah.
Suhail Abualsameed: I can’t wait to see your Facebook page and see all those people writing to you.
Orozco: All the messages!
Xtra: Suhail talked about how brutal detention was. What was the most difficult part?
Orozco: Um, there’s chicken every day. It’s not clean. The food is the same; it’s the same every day. Um, it’s not that great.
It’s different, that place, because they had windows. Most… detention centres don’t have windows. They have windows, they have beds, they have TVs… and they have air conditioners. Some jails in the United States or other places, there’s no air conditioner. But this place has an air conditioner in there. But the thought of being in a jail like that is horrible. It’s a horrible experience.
Xtra: What’s the most important thing you want to do now that you’re out?
Orozco: I want to finish my high school education, and I want to go to college to study and get a certificate as a photographer and a certificate as a painter, but my main goal is to study to become an architect-designer.
[Points to Suhail] He’s an architect. I want to be an architect; he can be my inspiration.
So I want to become an architect, that’s for sure. And I want to design all the geography and giant projects and do some giant buildings.
Ah, yeah, one of my goals also is to save money and to open a house in Nicaragua for kids who are on the street and for kids… who are thrown out by their families for being gay. So my goal is to open a halfway house for street kids.
I’m very excited, and at the same time I feel like I belong to somewhere. I belong to Canada now, so I feel safe. That’s the main thing. I feel safe. I feel now that I have more rights, so that’s a nice feeling.
Xtra: What was the first thing you thought when you found out [your humanitarian and compassionate grounds application was approved]?
Orozco: The first thing was, oh, so the struggle is finished. And no more struggle. And the first thing I felt safe. I feel happy; I feel like I belong somewhere. I belong to Canada now. That was a nice feeling. And I thought about my family back home. They know by now, they’re happy. My sister.
Xtra: So you’re still in touch with your sister?
Orozco: Yeah, I’ve been in touch with my sister and … with my mother, since I left. My mother, she passed away two years ago…. A month before she passed away, she told me, ‘If you want something, if you want to achieve something, you must fight [for] it, and you’ve been with the struggle for so many years, so it’s not right if you give up, and you’re in Canada and you must fight,’ you know? But at the same time, it was so hard for her, because she did not like that I was gay. And she was okay but at the same time, in her mind and in her heart she didn’t accept it. And it was a struggle for so many years.
Back there it’s a different country, culture, and at the same time when a family have a gay guy it’s a big shame, and all the people talk about you, and it was something for my mother not to handle… She told me I don’t accept these things, I’m against it… You’re my son anyways, but I don’t accept it. I hope one day you will change.
Abualsameed: But she said you fought for it, you don’t give up on nothing you believe in, right? That’s what she said before she died.
Orozco: Yeah. It was all in the same conversation… I mean, she support[ed] me in the fact that I escaped, since I was 12, and I go through so many countries, and this is the last country where I’m fighting, right. And yeah, she knew that for me it was right to stay in Canada because here it’s more safe for me, and I have rights as a gay man… but back there… she did not accept that kind of life.