Guatemalan immigrant fleeing violence finds shelter in Santa Rosa

Miguel Giron didn't take the death threat seriously.

After all, he was a professional soccer player there in his native Guatemala, in addition to operating a small pharmacy and store. And Guatemalans love soccer players.

So Giron took it as bluff when members of one of the armed factions active during the civil war that savaged Guatemala for decades prior to 1996 muscled his father to support them, and upon his refusal threatened to kill his grown children.

"I never thought it would happen to me," said Giron, now 49 and the maintenance man at Friends House, a senior community in Rincon Valley.

He was 28 and at work at the counter of his pharmacy in a mountain village outside of Santa Cruz del Quich?in February of 1991 when seven men stepped in. One approached and asked him for aspirin.

Giron said he turned to take a bottle from the shelf but whipped back at the sensation that "something wasn't right." The man who'd requested the aspirin had pulled out a pistol, and Giron is certain he intended to shoot him squarely in the back.

Instead, because Giron had spun to face the strangers, the bullet the man fired struck him in his upper right arm. A second man then leveled a handgun at him and fired three times.

Giron swears he was thrown backward and collapsed from the impact of slugs. He shouted to his wife, Marlene (pronounced mar-LAY-nay), to run, and they both fled the pharmacy. Relatives heard the commotion, rushed over and chased the assailants away.

At the hospital, the bloodied Giron expected the staff would find he'd been shot four times, but there was only one bullet wound to his arm. Devoutly Christian, he believes it was the hand of God that caused the other shots to miss.

He also credits God with what followed.

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