Irvin Umaña

Primary tabs

573 kmfrom home
"I feel lucky for what I have. It's been a terrifying and lonely journey, but the results are empowerment, new friendships, and peace."
Irvin Umaña
Software developer
Current Country: 
Costa Rica
Country of Origin: 

Share this story:

"My name is Irvin, I’m 25 years old and I’m from Honduras.

I came to Costa Rica when I was 21 years old fleeing an absolutely scary situation: the persecution of the LGTBI community in my country.

At first, I didn't think of Costa Rica as an asylum country; I usually thought of escaping to the United States. However, I had already lived in the US when I was a teenager, but I had to go back to Honduras to try to rebuild my life. Fortunately, Costa Rica became an opportunity as a host country and to access justice through the asylum claim.

Part of the shock of the first year in Costa Rica was to understand what had happened. In Honduras, I studied Civil Engineering. I had made life plans. Having to leave all of that to arrive in another place suddenly was confusing. Nevertheless, something guided me to do what was necessary to guarantee my security ―even amid the confusion.

Several nights I dreamed of someone opening my bedroom door to kill me. This might have happened because of what I lived in Honduras, but, over time, I got to sleep peacefully. I did everything not to deal with memories, and I tried to focus on other things: I engaged in working and continued studying!

The asylum process in Costa Rica wasn't easy. By contrast, it is so complicated and exhausting that many people prefer turning to their origin country or a third one. The lack of guidance, the waiting time and a work permit not accepted by several employers can make the first months in Costa Rica very challenging.

I acknowledge that I'm very lucky and in some way privileged. However, being a refugee isn't a particular socioeconomic status; therefore, the asylum process can be harder for some. My savings, being bilingual and my training helped a lot. Others don't have the same tools or opportunities and can easily become victims of bureaucratic and political disputes.

One of my greatest achievements in this country was gaining admission to University of Costa Rica (UCR) ― focusing on it amid the chaos. Education has always been intuitively precious to me. I know that many things are determined by privileges, inequality, violence and ignorance, but education is a great tool for change. I decided to study Computer Sciences, as coding would give me independence and support.

My first semester in the UCR expresses the efforts I had to make to achieve good things. I worked full time in a call center and, at the same time, had 21 credits at the university. I slept four hours and studied in the bus while traveling. However, I failed a course and, after almost a year and a half, my asylum claim was denied.

In hindsight, I woke up those mornings with loud music, singing, picturing another reality, establishing new academic goals, avoiding the reminiscences from the reality in Honduras. Finally, failing that course and the denial of the refugee status catalyzed a fight with those painful memories. I was in poor health, I quitted my job and had to appeal my migration case.

By then, I was skilled enough in Web coding to get an assistant job at the University, after being rejected several times by other employers for not being a resident. By the end of the year, I had no more incomes, so my savings were crucial to subsist, while a friend gave a place to sleep. Those were difficult times.

Later, I met the "Comunidad Casabierta," a group that greatly encouraged me after my second asylum claim was denied. They helped me to stay strong and to empower. I raised the money to request a hearing at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to testify the LGTBI community situation in Central America. At the same time, I pursued the process in Costa Rica and, after three years and a half, a Migration Tribunal ruled in my favor.

Nowadays, I work in an artificial intelligence start-up, I have only three semesters to go for my degree, and I won the 2016 LGBTI Pulse Memorial Scholarship for my academic work. Additionally, my health has considerably improved after I got the refugee status. I feel lucky for what I have. It's been a terrifying, lonely and hard journey, but the results are empowerment, new friendships, new skills and peace of mind."

Related Sustainable Development Goal(s):