Growing Up Latina

written by Stephanie Puente

I was born in the United States, but my parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents were born in different parts of Mexico. My dad and grandma only speak Spanish, which made it very difficult for me to communicate with them because I was accustomed to the English language. As I got older, I took Spanish classes and was becoming fluent in the language. I was very afraid to speak Spanish because we live in El Paso where the majority of people speak Spanish and judge you for not knowing Spanish well. I think this mentality made me question my identity as a Latina because my appearance does not look Latina, so many people always asked me if I spoke Spanish. I began to doubt my identity because of the lack of fluency in the language, but it was through my culture that I was able to gain confidence in who I am.

In my culture, food, traditions, and family plays a huge impact in who we are. For example, during Christmas, my family always gets together to help make tamales. It is part of our tradition and we are able to spend more time together. It was through my family’s customs that I gained more confidence in who I am and began to take pride in my identity. I was able to gain more confidence in speaking Spanish to my family and others, without the fear of being judged. My culture has allowed me to take pride in who I am and not question what others have to say to me about my own identity.

Growing up as a Latina, my biggest fear was not being accepted. However, as I got older, I began to understand that I am me. I am a unique individual and no one can take my identity away from me other than myself.  It is important to believe in who you are and not let others judge how you perceive your own identity. Therefore, I am glad my culture redirected me to believe in my Latina identity when others questioned my role as a Latina.

Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

There aren’t too many Bindi Irwins out there, and what I mean by that is, unfortunately, not many girls have the privilege of being raised in a zoo. Animal lovers in big cities do exist, but often feel deprived and helpless. How can a city girl help wild animals if there aren’t any in the city to protect? We may have adorable puppies and kittens, but few of us get to nurture Nile crocodiles the way Bindi does.

One important thing to recognize is that cities actually impact wildlife even more so than any zoo.

Yes, zoos might have breeding and rehabilitation programs that have been known to save entire species, but cities are often the SOURCE of extinction itself. What better way to combat extinction than to fix the system that’s causing it? A preemptive attack!

According to Jane Goodall, the woman who revolutionized the human view of primates, “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

As of now, America’s general choice to use fossil fuels to power vehicles and technology (which most of us “rely” on), and to consume large amounts of fish, beef, and PLASTIC (hopefully, in this case, simply by using), creates a carbon footprint ⅓ the size of the Earth! This means that ⅓ of the Earth’s surface area would be needed to produce the amount of resources we use within a given period.

If I just made you feel insignificant by shoving you into a statistic the size of the U.S.A., your mindset needs to change. Instead of insignificant, you should feel RAGE! You should think, “NO! I refuse to cause so much environmental damage!” If every person though that, the contributions would add up. When you decide to reduce your carbon footprint, you inspire others to do the same.

How can you reduce your carbon footprint?
Be mindful of the nature around you.
You may see ugly houses and concrete, but between every bricks’ crack, there is a world of insects, who help nourish our soil, eventually nourishing our plants. Plants are beautiful creatures! They not only feed the world, but provide materials, medicines, and most of all- oxygen. We breathe out toxic carbon, but plants breathe in carbon, and release what we need.

Gardening is a great way to reduce, or at least counter, your carbon footprint.
Make sure, however, that the plants you grow are native to your area. My Grandma Dora often plants aloe vera, for example, because they “don’t require much water”- a major plus when you live in the Chihuahuan Desert.

Conserving water is important.
When you take a shower, time yourself, or buy a showerhead that reduces water output. Less than 1% of our Earth’s water is usable fresh water for humans and animals to share. We need not destroy it!

By destroying it, I not only mean “don’t use it at such a fast rate,” but also “don’t contaminate it.” This is where consumerism comes into play, whether by eating or buying. When we eat beef, we threaten water in two ways. One, cattle are often, to their risk of health, fed hundreds of pounds of corn each. Corn is considered a “thirsty” crop meaning that it takes a large amount of water to grow crop, per pound. By eating beef instead of crop material itself, we use 20 times more water. The other way eating beef causes water harm, is that cattle can erode land as they walk, dropping dirt (and possibly feces) into nearby rivers.

Recycle!
Plastic contaminates water because it takes hundreds of years to break down. Littering has led to some plastic directly falling into water, altering its pH with the chemicals it’s made of. Landfills indirectly affect water as the chemicals can seep into the ground as the plastic degrade, causing groundwater to be acidic.

If you’re wondering what any of this has to do with animals, let’s talk fish. Yes, over consumption of fish has significantly affected fish population, but so has water contamination and climate change.

Climate change is caused by increased levels of CO2, usually due to fossil fuel burning, which destroys the ozone. The ozone protects the Earth from the sun’s radiation- a super hot thing!Electricity and gasoline usually rely on fossil fuels. If you want to use less coal, you should consider reducing your use of technology or vehicle transport.

Climate change affects animals for many reasons, including relying on particular weather patterns to initiate rituals like migration and breeding (climate signals time of year for most animals), and requiring certain vegetation for food, which requires themselves a specific amount of sunlight for photosynthesis.

 Gardening, conserving water, reducing beef, fish and plastic consumption, as well as limiting technology and vehicle usage, are ways to be the Bindi Irwin of the city. Our hope is always for the next generation to improve their mindset towards environmentalism. Keep that value alive, and one day, city girls and animals can live in harmony!

Girl Talk: Teen Pregnancy

Gabby Silva shares her thoughts on teen pregnancy:

Latinas have had the highest rate on teen pregnancies since 1995 over all the major ethnicities in the country. Only 80% of teenagers do not receive any type of sexual education before they encounter their first sexual relationship. Lack of sexual education is problematic for Latinas, especially when 51% of Latinas become pregnant before they turn 20.

One out four teenagers that end up pregnant are in between the ages of 15 and 17 and eight out of ten of the teenage fathers do not stay with the mother. The list of disadvantages of being a teenage mom can be long, but it is important when it comes to having sexual relationships teenagers have the accurate information.

Teenagers do not see how drastically a baby can change their lives, especially with how a baby affects their education. Balancing an education and a child is incredibly difficult. Only 38% of teenage moms earn a high school diploma! Having to manage all the homework/study time while taking care of their baby also means less than 2% graduate with a college degree by the time they turn 30. Think it stops with the mom? NOPE! Their kids will also show low performance in school. In fact, 50% of the kids will fail a grade level.

There are serious and negative consequences for having a baby at such a young age, but it does not mean that every teenage mom is doomed to fail. But  having a baby should be a two people’s agreement, and not an accident where teenagers are going to be forced to support the baby.

 

True Stories: Cultural Struggles

Fandi and Ariadne share their experience with cultural obstacles.

“I’ve had struggles with my culture before, and one of the most recent ones has been when I decided to come to study here in the US, my parents where really happy about it but the rest of my family wasn’t exactly delighted with this.

My grandparents are one of those old, very traditional couples where the man is a “macho” and the woman is more submissive to him, and on top of that they are not very fond of changes or new things. And when I told them about this they weren’t happy about it, they told me that I was going to change completely, that I was going to forget my family, my Mexican traditions and even Spanish!

It was a challenge for me and for them to understand my decision; they were mad at me and used to tell my parents to stop me from going on a different path than the rest of my family. But my parents were really supportive and didn’t let my grandpa intervene in my future.

I think it’s been one of the biggest struggles related to my culture because it wasn’t any kind of discrimination or a stranger; the ones who were affecting me where my grandparents!

I understand their concerns, and I get that they have different opinions, but they’re my family! And they were trying to stop me. Later in time, before my grandpa died, my dad told me that he was afraid that no one would talk to me and that he always thought that I was going to be rejected everywhere for being Mexican.

A few months later when I got accepted to college, he was the happiest one; he was telling everyone in the family how I was going to succeed in life and all of that stuff that grandpas usually say about their grandchildren. And it was only the first step, then I started to get good grades and he told me that he was really proud of me and that he was sorry for how he behaved in the past.

Months passed and he became more ill, but that didn’t stop him from being proud of what I achieved.

So if you feel that something or someone is stopping you from what you wanna do just because you’re this or that, don’t let that stop you! Opinions will pass and maybe people will change their ideas, so if you’ve decided to do something… The only thing that I can say is go for it.” – Fandi Zapien, 19 

“My biggest struggle is… my bad english. Even though I was born in the United States, my English is not as fluent as I wish. Most of my life I was in Mexico, but my school was bilingual and had been teaching us English since Kindergarten. When I came to El Paso for college, I was able to understand English, but it was so hard for me to communicate. I felt so tiny in a place where everyone was so good with embracing the language.

Now, my english is not bad. It is easy for me to communicate and express myself. I have an accent, but they have told me that it sounds as if I were from Spain or Italy, is kind of funny, which is kind of funny.” – Ariadne Venegas, 23

 

Get Real: Boosting Self-Esteem

Butterfly logoOur Latinitas club talked about self-esteem issues and wrote about a time they felt they had low confidence. Then they gave advice to each other on these issues and moments.

“I’m always fighting with my siblings. I don’t feel good that my older sister is better in soccer than me. Also, I don’t feel very secure when I don’t pass the tests that we have. Also, on Instagram my sister posted a picture of myself and they said that I looked ugly and fat.”

Advice: You shouldn’t really care what they think about you, what matters is what you think about yourself. You should feel glad for your sister because there might be things you are good at and she is not. Nobody in this world is perfect and  it’s never wrong to feel insecure. You are not fat or ugly.

“I would get bullied because of how short I was so one of these guys would call me “shorty” I know this may not hurt others but it does to me because I have been through a lot in the past so it hurts.”

Advice: You should talk to your sister and papi and Destiny. “Shorty” can hurt a lot. You should talk to them about how you feel.

“When I was little I felt bad about myself because my parents couldn’t afford buying me a certain kind of clothes, so the kids used to bully me. I never told anyone or said anything because that was the only person I could hang out with. So when I would wear that clothes I felt bad for myself like, ‘why can’t I just be like everybody else?’ I just felt bad because I never said anything.”

Advice: My advice to you is to not care about what people say about how you look. You should care what’s inside of you.

 

Chica Poderosa: Emily Hernandez

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In our Chicas Poderosa series, we highlight the stories of chicas and what makes them poderosas! Meet Emily Hernandez, Spring 2016 Editorial Intern. When asked why she’s a chica poderosa, Emily shares:

I am a chica poderosa because I’m proud of my Mexican roots, I’m independent, and I do everything I can to help the Latina community.

I’m a first generation Mexican American and I cannot be more proud. Growing up I had to translate everything for my parents, make doctor appointments for my entire family, and even help my siblings with their homework. Being a first generation and the oldest, I had many responsibilities a normal child didn’t have but those responsibilities and extra work made me the person I am today. I know two languages, I know how to cook and clean, I’m a college senior graduating this May, and I’m independent. Being the brain of the household gave me grit and the motivation to make a difference in Latinas lives.

My advice to Chicas everywhere is to be proud from where you came from, be proud of your body and mind, do not depend on anyone, and never stop dreaming.  You can achieve greatness and so much more if you put your mind to it and never let one failure kill your spirit. This same advice I give to my younger siblings. I know theres times in life when stereotypes makes it difficult to be happy with our looks and brains, but you’ll slowly realize that you are unique and you should never let anyone tell you otherwise. I see this all the time in young chicas and it makes me want to be a big sister for each and everyone of them.

Communication Challenges with Family

A huge problem that happens in almost every household everywhere in the world is handling family relationships. Almost everyone has experienced this at some point in their lives. You love your family and you wouldn’t change them for anything, but that doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t change a few things about them. Sometimes this can lead to having serious arguments with one another, so what happens when it escalates to a huge argument? What happens when there’s a bad communication? When you don’t get along with your mom, dad, brother(s) or sister(s)? What needs to be done to fix this?

Talk about your differences.
Communication is one of the best things you need to do at first when you see that things are not working out. If someone’s talking behind your back, doing things against you that you don’t like, offending another relative or anything similar, you need to talk it out. According to Stress.about.com, if you have some problems with someone you should “see where each of you may have misunderstood the other or behaved in a way you would change if you could, offering sincere apologies, and in other ways resolving the conflict can heal the relationship for the future.”

Communication may solve most (not all) of the problems you may face with your family. So, instead of ignoring the problem, or doing something you may regret, talk it out!

“I used to fight with my mom all the time, until one day I got tired of it and sat with her and talked for hours, problems minimized and now we have a much better relationship” says, Paola Lopez, 15.

See the consequences of your actions.
Don’t do anything you may regret, don’t say anything that you may regret in the future. Think about the situation and what may happen before acting. You don’t know if the other person is going to react the wrong way or take your words or actions. Don’t say anything while you’re angry. Because most problems can be fixed and they will pass, and if you say something hurtful, it may not be possible to take it back.

“I regret some things I said to my cousin, and after 10 years, we are finally talking again,” shares Arely Zapien, 20.

If you can’t see the end of the differences, distance yourself from bad influences.

If you’ve tried to work things out several times and there’s no good answer from the other person, the best you could do is distance yourself from them. You’ve tried and tried, and you’ve done everything in your hands to fix the problem but if things are still the same, it’s time for you to walk away. Even if it’s for a while, distance yourself from the problems and let things cool down a little bit. Don’t hurt yourself no more, be free from that complication and live your life knowing that you did the best you could to work things out. Maybe after a few months, the other person will realize that this thing is not worth risking your relationship for.

“I had to get away from my problems for a while, my aunts didn’t come to their senses, the problems have lowered and now after a long time, they’re realizing they were wrong to judge me,” says Gloria Lopez, 18.

Discrimination: Heard and Stopped

There is nothing that hurts more than being verbally abused or being called on for being different than other people. According to a Pew research poll, Latinos are the 2nd most discriminated against ethnic group.

“When I was in high school, I used to play football. I grew up in a house with all boys, I was the only girl on the team. I was also one of the few Hispanics on the team. I remember trying out and after practice, my coach told me to go back to the ballet classes because he didn’t think a girl could be capable of being on the football team with the other guys,” said Amanda, 19.

Amanda was being discriminated on her gender, thinking that only because she was a girl, she wasn’t capable of doing what boys could do. Even though many people were going against her, she kept her head up and proved him wrong.

“I kept practicing really hard, trained twice as hard, and the day of tryouts I proved him wrong and I made the team. I wasn’t going to let him put me down,” she added.

“When I came to the United States from Mexico, I was the only one from my family to go to college. I was the only one who spoke English, and I was the only one that graduated from high school. I remember one of my first professors in college didn’t pay much attention to me. I had a thick accent and my classmates would always stare at me because I spoke and dressed differently, ” said Stephanie, 23.

“I couldn’t fight my accent, but I studied hard, participated as much as I could, got an A in his class and at the end of the semester, he apologized to me,” she added.

Being the first generation to attend college was not an easy thing for Stephanie to do. Even though she was treated unfairly because of her roots and the language she spoke, but, regardless of her treatment in the class, she proved him wrong — just like Amanda did.

“In middle school I was the girl that dressed funny. I didn’t like the way I dressed either, but I couldn’t help it. My parents couldn’t afford to buy me new clothes every year, or even any clothes. I would usually get the hand me downs from my older siblings and cousins. People would always make fun of me or didn’t want to be seen with me because I didn’t look good. But I didn’t let that stop me. I wore everything I had with pride!  I ignored the people that didn’t like it, and I’ve never been happier, ” said Camila, 16.

An Associated Press-Univision Poll found that 61 percent of people overall said Hispanics face significant discrimination and according to a 2011 study on Child Development, discrimination can cause a great impact mentally and physically on a teenager and even adults. Studies show that adolescents who have recently been discriminated against lose confidence in themselves and lack of motivation.

Whether it’s gender, racial, language, or financial discrimination; it matters and it needs to be heard and stopped.

Say something, speak up, let your voice be heard, and don’t let other people tell you how to be happy. As long as your happy with yourself, nothing else should matter.

Dealing with Feeling Ignored

Youth writer, Elizabeth Enriquez, answers questions dealing with feeling ignored.

I’m having problems with my friends. How do we talk about our issues to find the best solution?  Will they ignore me?

Having friends doesn’t always mean agreeing on everything.  It is healthy to have your differences, as long as those differences do not make you compromise your values.  I think you answered your own question, talking about the problems is the key.  Keep the lines of communication open.  A strong friendship is based on mutual respect and the right to express yourself for how you feel.

My problem is that my dad and mom are separated, and I don’t get to see my dad. I feel like he doesn’t make time for me anymore.
The separation of your parents in no doubt changed the way life was for you.  One thing you must remember is that your parents both love you. They are probably trying to adjust to the new boundaries and limitations that a separation sometimes requires.   Talk to your parents about how you feel.  Let them know where you stand and that you would like to spend equal amount of time with them.

I feel like I don’t fit in. People dislike me because of the things I like. Basically I am different and people hate it. I don’t want to change the things that make me happy, but I would like to not be judged.
If you have to compromise who you are to make friends, you will never be able to be yourself.  It comes down to who you want to be, what role you want in life.  Would you like to be someone that isn’t genuine to be friends with others or rather be yourself and have those around you who respect and like the true you? If you love who you are, why would you ever change that?

 Have a question you want answered by one of your teen writers? Send advice questions to editor@latinitasmagazine.org.

Tips to Making New Friends

friends hugMaking new friends it is not always easy. Sometimes we try so hard to create new bonds and we wonder if it’s us or them.  Making friends doesn’t have to be difficult, so we asked our Latinitas familia to shir their advice on making new amigas (or amigos):

  1. Keep a friendly attitude.
    If you treat people badly, the only thing you are going to gain is that they will run away from you. Be nice to the new people you know, even if it is for a few minutes. You never know how or where you’re going to meet a friend, or future BFF, but being standoffish and mean makes it more difficult to form new friendships.
  2.  Smile
    Smiling will show that you want to make friends and that you are open for people to approach you. Try to not put on a fake smile; genuine smiles comes from within and demonstrates that you are interested in being friendly.
  3.  Say hi!
    It may sound kind of simple, but knowing someone’s name and greeting them makes you look more friendly and it shows that you acknowledge them.
  4.  Learn to be a good listener
    Demonstrate your interest in your potential friend by listening to what they have to say. From family to their pets, listening to what he/she likes, doesn’t like, or what is going on with them in his/her life will not only show that you care, but will also help establish common interests.
  5. Share your interests and be supportive
    If at first the other person does most of the talking, that’s fine! But don’t expect for this to be the case all the time. Be supportive of his/her interests while sharing some interests of your own. Complimenting other people is helpful if you mean it. Classmate has a cute new backpack? Don’t be afraid to tell them.
  6. Stop criticizing
    Judging is one of the worst qualities of human beings, everyone acts according to what it considers appropriate.
  7. Do not talk ONLY about yourself
    This can be annoying and uncomfortable. Contribute when and where you can, but forming a friendship is not a one way street.