By Analía Weber
The knowledge that there are disparities for the Latinx community to accessible resources is not news to me. I had an idea of the extent of these disparities as I started working for The Family Center/ La Familia back in late winter of this year but in a recent conversation with a community member, I have come to understand the complex nature of these disparities and I would like to share with you some of the things I have learned.
Each story of those that come to the United States in search of a better life due to economic or political turmoil in their native countries or those who are wanting to dream bigger for their future generations, each of those stories are their own universe. One of the problems in understanding these stories is that we file them under one category: Immigrant Stories. These immigrants have names, childhood memories, dreams and a past they may or may not want to bring with them. There are kids within our school district that cross the border with the help of individuals who make a living being that service and that some of them come alone leaving their parents behind. These kids come not knowing the language, usually from rural places with little education and for obvious reasons have a hard time integrating in the school system including having to deal with socio-economic dynamics and cultural shock to name a few.
I learned that the school district has a program called the Newcomer Program which helps students learn the new language with staff who support them. But even with this program, students that enter the program have a hard time finishing: they might feel the need to start working right away to pay the debt they owe to the person that helped them get over the border or they want to be able to send money back home. They may also just feel too inadequate navigating school dynamics and gaps in education.
This is just a tip of one of the many icebergs these stories float from. Other families must navigate their child acculturating into the American way of life, not to mention the virtual reality kids live in these days. I was from the era that if we were out at a restaurant and I expressed I was bored I was told to be bored or make conversation. The reality of the kids that learn English and their parents don’t can be a slow and painful death to a connection they used to have.
I myself am reckoning with something like it: I have mixed kids and I want them with all my heart to learn Spanish. I have come to surrender to the idea that they might not right now, that it is easier for them to continue to communicate in English with me because it is what they hear 95% of their day. But I would lie if I told you that my kids not being surrounded by Spanish speaking family members and elders didn’t break my heart. For now, I try my best to share with them the love of my language and culture and it will be up to them to stay curious about their heritage. I will always make myself available to teach them if they ever want to learn.
So what is there to do? There is still a huge gap and a long waitlist for those needing mental health support in Spanish and families will continue to have to make difficult decisions about staying together or sending someone over the border because they want a better life for them. One thing that stays with me as I hear these stories is the idea of love and connection. There is a lot of love in these stories, even in the parts threaded with pain and struggle. There is love for one’s culture and history and a desire to stay connected to the unseen thread that unites us to our past. I believe this is something we can all relate to regardless of our story of origin. There is still a lot that needs to happen for access to more equitable help for certain communities. But I truly believe there has been progress made and that progress will continue to happen. People are resilient and I see it every day with every story I have the honor to hear.