WNPR

Ricardo Henriquez: An Immigrant Story of Resilience

Sep 26, 2016

Thousands of immigrants move to Connecticut each year. Who are they and why do they come here? We’re starting an occasional series on Where We Live to hear their stories.

Ricardo Henriquez quit his job as a prominent journalist in Chile and sold everything he owned before moving to Connecticut in 2001. 

We spoke with him about his journey to the Nutmeg State from a small Chilean town in the Atacama Desert. And we heard about his new fantasy novel hitting bookstores in November, called The Catcher's Trap.

Interview highlights:

On growing up in Chile during former president Augusto Pinochet's rule 

"I was born and raised in a really dark time in my country. I was born during dictatorship... violations to human rights was a daily thing... We were far from the capital, and far from the big, big things that were happening... but we also were surrounded by military and police that could kill us at any moment."

On developing an interest in writing and storytelling

"My grandmother and I would walk to school every morning, and I would tell her stories... stories that I made up... I was obsessed with "Murder, She Wrote" -- obsessed when I was little -- and the first short story I wrote was a "Murder, She Wrote" chapter... It was one page long."

On becoming a journalist

"I wanted to be a writer... but my parents said that writers don't make money, and I was the first person in my family to go to college, and they were not going to make sacrifices for a career that was not going to give me an income... I graduated from high school. Pinochet was leaving the regime in two years, and the journalism schools opened, so I was the first wave of journalists that graduated when we returned to democracy. My parents were terrified, but it was a compromise."

On coming out as gay while in Chile

"I came out, like, really early on, and it was not great. [Chile] is still a really conservative country... At some point, I hated myself so much because of who I was, and what I was doing to my family. That was the way that I saw it... but I made a decision. I said, I either kill myself, or I just accept who I am, and thank God I decided the second one."

On leaving Chile for Connecticut

"I was actually a really successful journalist. I had a really great career. I was working at the equivalent of the White House, and I was young, and I was really proud of the work that I was doing, but I was in constant threat of losing my job because I was gay, because I was out... And at some point, I said I cannot live like that anymore... I sold everything I owned, and I moved to the U.S., which thanks to Hollywood, I thought it was like the place to be if you were gay." 

On living in Connecticut

"It feels like home... it's amazing how places become home, how something that at the beginning felt so foreign and so different to me, eventually -- a lot faster than I thought it would -- it felt like home, and I felt part of it, and even a little bit defensive of it, when I would hear... especially people in my country talking against the United States, or saying things that were not kind."

On facing discrimination as an immigrant

"I always tell my friends -- my friends that don't get discriminated [against] because they're white -- I [say] until you get asked at least once a month if you are the 'help', then you don't get it... there's nothing wrong with any one of those jobs. It's just the assumption that bothers." 

On new fantasy novel The Catcher's Trap

"I went through a really dark time in my life. I had a really deep depression. I wanted to turn that into something positive, so I got the idea of writing this novel... The Catcher's Trap is the story of this young Latino man... He has struggled his whole life with depression and anxiety, and he is at a point in his life where it is crippling... And one night he decides... to go to a bar and try to have fun because he thinks that it's his fault that he feels this way, and that doesn't work out too well for him. He meets a bunch of strangers. He goes with them to a party, and before he knows it,  the party is a trap, and he ended up in an alternate universe as a slave, working the fields with a bunch of other human slaves that have been there for generations. And it's his story of transformation, from overcoming his own demons, and getting the courage to fight the demons that are enslaving people."

Advice for aspiring authors

"Write. Every day, write. Put an hour aside every day, and just write. Write two sentences, write an entire page. Whatever happens that day is better than not writing at all... If you write one word, it is completely fine."