Often I find myself writing about struggle when I talk about my Mexican-American identity, and my immigrant parents. I am immediately reminded of the anger and grief I felt when I left Mexico after having spent 4 years of my life there. I am tempted to speak about the language barriers I experienced when I started Kindergarten in New York, and the struggles my parents continue to face. My mother’s Spanish is unwelcomed, my father’s broken English is misunderstood, and the Mexican culture is very often rejected.
Unfortunately, when I think about immigration and my family, I think of divisions - North America vs. South America, Mexican vs. American, Welcomed vs. Unwelcomed. But, immigration also means unity despite the ongoing xenophobia in the U.S. I see unity in the affinity groups at BHSECQ and events like International Night, which celebrate the diversity in the school. I see unity in the resources and support offered to undocumented students at BHSECQ. I see unity in the integration of an American Immigration course in our school curriculum. I see unity in the different shades of green on the shirts of BHSECQ students to express their solidarity with undocumented folks.
Yet, much work remains to be done. I envision a place where no individual feels the need to choose between two cultures. I envision a country where children are not separated from their families and individuals are not treated like prey. I dream of a society where no individual is stripped of their unalienable rights, and they are treated with human decency and respect regardless of where they come from.
However, this cannot be attained until all countries work together. I envision other countries creating a trustworthy and efficient government, a strong economy where no individual is subject to inequality and discrimination, and a supportive and uplifting society where individuals do not have to flee to save their lives, and live in the shadows in a country that mistreats them as well. Only then, can we achieve unity.
Nicole Mendez '21 (BHSEC Queens)
from oppressive governments
They paint the picture,
the picture of
Is that reality?
Are we granted what they promised,
or is it a TRAP?
trapped again by
an oppressive government,
that calls you a thug for fighting for your rights
but fine people when you refuse to wear a mask.
The discrimination you face when you speak your native tongue;
"It's America speak English"
Is that Freedom?
False stereotypes promoted as if they were to be true,
targeted & harmed by the system meant to keep you safe,
Is this equality?
The picture painted is not the reality.
The things we escape to be trapped again by them.
It's an endless cycle that is blinded by the false image.
Sheyla Almanzar Abreu ‘24 (BHSEC Queens)
I am extremely proud to say that I am Puerto Rican. Although my family is lucky enough to not have to face the troubles of immigration, they have given up so much for us to be able to succeed. Knowing the constant system racism that Latinx people must face in America, I know that I must graduate school and get a job so I can complete the mission my mom was never able to.
Jayline Febles '22 (BHSEC Queens)
When my mom and my sister moved to the US from the Dominican Republic and my dad from Puerto Rico, they came for better opportunities. They got great educations here and always push me to do better than they believe they could ever. They also brought their culture, constantly reminding me to embrace all of the aspects of my identity- the fact that I am Dominican, New Yorkian, and Puerto Rican. My parents’ and sister’s inspiration and my being from these places make me who I am, and I can’t imagine myself otherwise.
Tanya Garcia '24 (BHSEC Queens)
Living in Mexico and NYC is like living in two distinct worlds. It often feels like Mexico and the US are at war with each other, and I am left in the middle having to choose between my two places of origin. However, I have learned that I don’t have to choose.
I feel empowered because I represent both the US and Mexico. I look back at the times where I felt like it was necessary to abandon my Mexican heritage and embrace the “American” culture, and I am glad I never continued with such an absurd mindset. I am not just Mexican. I am not just American. I am Mexican-American. Con orgullo!
Nicole Mendez '21 (BHSEC Queens)
You know you’re a first-generation Latinx (a child of immigrant Latin American parents)
You have to empty out your oven because it’s used for storing your pots and pans.
The jar of danish cookies is filled with thread, yarn, and needles.
Your mom pierced your ears the minute you came out the womb.
You and your cousins all have the same red bracelet.
You have a bunch of jewelry with your name on it.
Your mom always hit you with “te callas o te callo”.
You’ve received the “cuando yo me muera” speech a thousand times.
You wake up to music on a Saturday and know you have to clean.
Your abuelita has rosarios hanging over her bed.
You know the Caso Cerrado theme song by heart.
The only butter you use is Country Crock.
When you had to translate legal documents for your parents when you were 8.
When you’re parents pronounce Wendys like Güendys.
You have to greet every single person at a party.
Your abuela swore “Vicks Vaporub” fixed everything.
You couldn’t go to McDonalds because “hay comida en la casa”.
You know the universal meaning and purpose of chancleta.
You learn how to lie, especially about the boyfriend you don’t have permission to
Growing up, mom sewed all of your clothes.
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