¡Sí se puede! Hope and Strength in the Latinx Community

¡Sí se puede! Hope and Strength in the Latinx Community

By Carla Cuba

¡Sí se puede! Hope and Strength in the Latinx Community

During Hispanic Heritage Month, I reflect on what my experience has been like growing up Peruvian-American. My journey began when my parents and I immigrated to the United States when I was five years old. Coming to a new country where I did not speak the language is a daunting experience for anyone, especially for a child that was starting kindergarten. Since I did not know how to communicate with my peers in class, I spent the beginning stages of my time in school observing those around me and picking up phrases or mannerisms that other children used. There was lots of isolation and loneliness,  I found community with the Spanish-speaking lunch ladies who kept me company and made me feel like I belonged. Gradually I began to integrate with my peers and started building connections with my classmates, however it was the first time I felt that I didn’t belong.  

Throughout my time in school from elementary education to even my undergraduate studies, I would get asked questions such as “Where is Peru?” “Is Peru in Europe?” or “What part of Mexico are you from?” These questions were part of my new normal as I navigated my way through figuring out my identity on what it means to honor my Peruvian heritage, while also integrating my American identity. Simultaneously, Latinos are stereotyped and blamed for issues going on in society instead of the blame falling on those who are in power, making policies. A personal experience that I’ve had with this is watching Latinos get stereotyped as uneducated and unintelligent because they do a large amount of blue collar work. They are your landscapers, gardeners, and fast food cooks who take the jobs other people do not want. People might see this and assume that Latinos are unintelligent because they do not work the same white collar jobs a large percentage of their white counterparts are employed at. However, what those who are stereotyping do not realize is that there are immigration policies in place that make it very difficult for Latino immigrants to get the higher paying jobs. My father is an example of this where he came to this country with a college degree in economics but had been forced to work fast food jobs for decades because he was undocumented. Countless Latinos face issues like this and, by the time they are able to get documentation, they do not have the time or resources to get an education that would allow them to obtain better jobs.  

Ultimately, Hispanic Heritage Month to me is a time to reflect on how we are treated in society, but to also acknowledge the resilience of our community. There is a beauty in every voice, fight, and initiative that is used to change the narrative that society has labeled us. This month is meant for Hispanics to take back the power of our identities and share it with the world. Through different cultures in various countries, there is always something to learn and admire.  

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