La fuerza unida
Narrativas del Inmigrante Latinx
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)
My eyes slowly peel away from the dance floor to my phone. It’s 1:49 am. Only 11 more
minutes until the quince ends. My eyelids feel heavy, but not as heavy as the burdens my
parents carry on their shoulders, as they left everything in Mexico and forcibly moved to
New York. I look at them. It seems like in this split second they can’t feel it. It has creeped
back into the shadows of their minds, waiting for the next moment of peace they have in
order to drown them with memories of their past. My brother is sleeping on two chairs. He
hates being away from WiFi and his PS4, so he just spent the night whining. I personally
love parties like these. The music shakes your soul, the sweaty bodies are freed from the
shackles life has placed on them, the intimate dancing makes you feel alive and lustful. I
wish I could join but I don’t know how to dance any hispanic dances. I have learned the
basics of each dance but I still lack the flavor, the passion. I don’t want to disrespect this
form of art; I don’t want to bring any more shame. Someone’s weird uncle walked up to me
and invited me to dance. I just sat and shook my head no. He kept talking but all I could do
was continue shaking my head left and right. I didn’t know how to tell him I can’t speak
spanish, so I didn’t.
The clock strikes 2. My parents walk towards me after dominating the dance floor as the DJ
played the final song. Their smiles change. The happiness has evaporated from their lips
(unlike their sweat) and now they’re just forcibly holding up the corners of their mouths.
Was it a coincidence that this happened when they looked at me?. I fall and shrink back into
my seat as they creep closer to me.
I’m sorry. I know you never expected to have two heavily Americanized children. I’m sorry if I’ve made you
feel like you guys haven’t done enough to teach us about our Mexican culture. That’s all on me. I’m sorry I
have taken all these resources here for granted. You couldn’t make it past 5th grade because your family
needed you to work and make money instead. And you, who was at the top of your class in high school, had
it all go downhill once you got pregnant with me. Now look at me; failing my exams, turning in my
homework late or not at all. I’m sorry for the disgrace I’ve brought upon your name. I should be doing
better. You guys deserve better.
“Melissa, estás bien? Porque estás llorando?”
“I just yawned really wide. I’m super tired.”
“Despierta a tu hermana mientras llamo un taxi. Okay?”
You would think it’s great to be Mexican-American, and it is! It truly is such a beautiful
experience I have the pleasure of partaking in. The only problem is finding the balance
between your two cultures. I haven’t quite mastered it yet. I hope I do soon though.
Melissa Benitez (BHSEC Queens)
Maybe it was the smell of freshly baked, the kind that you wish you could taste, or maybe it
was the people shouting whether they wanted ciabatta or pan frances, paria cheese or
mantecoso cheese, olives or milk, huachana sausage or chorizo. Perhaps it is both, and many
more things, what makes a bakery in Peru what it is. I’ve moved to different cities,
provinces, and neighborhoods, but it was always the same chaotic environment. That and
the fact that there was always a kid in the front selling tamales (which angered the owner of
the bakery since it was clear competition for their business). The moment I turned 8 it was
safe enough for me to go out every morning to buy daily bread by myself. This was a big
responsibility. Breakfast was awaiting at home and everyone was expecting you to bring the
correct amount and type of bread. Mornings were always dark and foggy, especially in Lima,
which is why they refer to it as the Grey City. Besides trying to not get myself crushed by the
very impatient people in the bakery, I also had to make sure the busy workers get me the
amount of bread I paid for. This somehow taught me to stand up for myself, not only for
bread, but for many other things that became important to me as I grew older, especially
when I came to America.
Maria Ceballos (BHSEC Queens)
My parents left their home country, their family, and friends all to give me and my brother a
better future. I can’t imagine myself leaving my home, my family, everything I’ve ever known
to go to a place where more resources seem to be given. But sometimes it is necessary. It is
the American Dream that drives many to want to offer a better future for their family.
Ironically, you have to leave your family to provide them with a better future. Yet these same
immigrant families are imposed to live with fear in a country where their hard work and
presence is neglected. As a child of immigrant parents, I grew up with the struggle of equally
embracing the culture I was born into and the culture my parents grew up with. Being born
into a country where my other culture isn’t completely accepted is difficult but being able to
embrace these two cultures makes me a proud Mexican-American.
Kimberly Muñoz (BHSEC Queens)
Growing up with Latino parents definitely influenced my morals and shaped who I am today. As a child I always felt like I had to be perfect. I felt like my whole family was counting on me, and there just wasn’t any room for error. Knowing that my family sacrificed everything for my sister and I, is my source of strength and motivation.
Daniel Herreros '23 (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.
La Fuerza Unida