Breaking Puerto Rican Stereotypes

By Vanessa Mari

I come from a very proud family. I was raised to love my culture and my heritage, and for that I greatly appreciate my family. I think this is something very important for Puerto Rican. As a colony from the United States, many feel as if our culture is being lost…as we no longer have an identity of our own. Not only this, but being a colony also takes away our independence and freedom. This is one of the reasons there have formed various misconceptions of Puerto Ricans that I would like to eliminate.

The first term used to describe Puerto Ricans is “Spiks”. This is the nickname Americans gave us because when the first big wave of Puerto Ricans first immigrated towards the United States in the 1940′s (specifically New York) many did not know how to speak the language. Puerto Ricans said “I don’t spik English” and that is how the nickname of Spik came about. What I find ironic is that when people from the United States visit Puerto Rico, they are surprised by the amount of people who know English. And when they don’t, they expect us to know their language, but they make no effort in learning ours. I would like people to stop with this misconception and realize what we are a SLA speaking society and that we are doing our best to learn English in a place that was first colonized for over 500 years by the Spanish.

The other misconception I hear a lot about Puerto Ricans is that we are lazy. This one bothers me a lot because I know so many hard working individuals that have accomplished many great things. I am a hardworking independent woman who is finishing her masters degree. I am aware that there are a lot of people living in projects and others who depend on welfare, but so does many other countries. This is a topic I could write my dissertation on. My last thoughts for this is that believing we are lazy is only promoting self hate and this is the worst thing that could happen to a small community like ours.

When this happens is very important to spread awareness of how beautiful our culture is. I am more than a Spik or a “lazy” person. I am a proud Boricua and I want to people to know where we are located in the map. Even though we are a small island in the caribbean, Boricuas have a big heart and we have accomplished great things. Yo soy Boricua, pa’ que tu lo sepas! ;)

 

We Are Not Stereotypes

Young Latinas speak out against Latino stereotypes!  team

“I am not a trophy, I am a human being. In today’s society, Latinas are seen as unintelligent, uneducated and insignificant because they are a minority. People feel that they are entitled to stereotype them based on what they’ve seen in the media. They generalize that our only responsibilities are to cook, clean and give birth. What people fail to understand is that Latinas are worth more than their looks or their ability to satisfy the needs of others. They are strong, powerful and intelligent and they deserve so much more respect than they are given. Through Latinitas, Latinas can stand tall and united against stereotypes.”

-Megan

 

“Stereotypes are a cruel way to brand someone without any prior knowledge of the person. They do not fit every subject involved and wrongly characterize a group of people from a certain race, nationality or culture. In order to dissolve such stereotypes it is necessary to give everyone an equal opportunity without judgment. As a Latina in the United States, it is very easy to be misconstrued as an undocumented immigrant because of my tan skin and dark hard. As anyone else I was a natural born U.S. citizen and deserve to be given the same respect as a girl my age with blonde hair and blue eyes.”

– Elizabeth

 

Most stereotypes in any type of culture, religion, race or organization are based off the extremes of that group of people. There is more to every type of group of people that not everyone sees. This is because most people come across as close-minded and are almost too lazy to see the full picture of any culture, organization, etc.

-Evelyn
“Stereotypes are interesting. I don’t let them get to me as much. Latinas are not dumb. We have hopes, dreams, fears, doubts just like the rest of the world. It our minds that will really make you. Some Latinas are actually loud and don’t take anything from anyone. I guess you could say some have an attitude problem, but not all are like this. A lot of us do love tortillas and beans, but that not really enough protein for me and way too much carbs.”

– Alyssa

Latinos in Media

Do you ever feel like you don’t see enough Latinos in TV and movies? Have you ever felt like the Latino characters you do see are often stereotyped negatively? A new report confirms that many Latinos are not alone in feeling stereotyped and underrepresented on TV and film screens. The ”Latino Media Gap” report conducted by Columbia University  delves into the lack of media representation of Latinos as well as highlight the fact that this dilemma endangers society with the possibility of causing long-term damage to American Latinos. photo.jpg

The study took a close look at the number of Latinos in front and behind the scenes in both TV film. The study points out the following key findings.

Latino talent in major movies and television is less than two percent and not increasing anywhere near the rate of the rise of the U.S. Latino population

The study done in 2014 points out how Latinos make up 17% of the US population and surprisingly make up almost half of  the population in Los Angeles, home to Hollywood. From the years 2010-2050 Latinos have the fastest projected growth in population. Despite these numbers, from 2010-2013  the percentage of writer, producer, and director positions held by Latinos in Network TV never reached up to 6%. This indicates that the majority of what is on television does not account for the current marginalization of Latino talent or stories. The report states that the Latino media exclusion is equivalent to the exclusion of more than the entire states of California and Illinois from American media culture.

 

Latino stereotypes are extremely prevalent in mainstream media

Latinos are typically cast as unfavorable characters. The principal investigator spearheading the report was, Frances Negrón-Muntaner a filmmaker, writer, and scholar. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Negrón-Muntaner  stated that, “People largely imagine themselves and their relationship to others according to the stories circulating in the public sphere; they also act according to the information provided through news outlets. So, if Latinos are not part of the story and the information available is limited and biased, this has at least two major consequences. One, many Latinos will internalize that they are not valuable human beings, leading to diminished aspirations and wasted potential. Two, many non-Latinos will also incorporate these ideas and feel that they have a license to marginalize and even physically harm Latinos. Either way, we all lose.” The news also contributes to the misrepresentation of Latinos, according to the study, “stories about Latinos constitute less than 1% of news media coverage, and the majority of these stories feature Latinos as lawbreakers.”

 

Latinos audiences expand viewership

According to Columbia’s study, if US Latinos constituted a nation it would be the 14th largest economy in the world. Latinos buy 25% of all movie tickets) to watch cable and other types of programming to only view negative representations of themselves.

 

 

Representation of Latinos is important.

These stereotypes pose as a huge problem in our society due to the fact that these representations often set the foundation how the general U.S. population perceives the Latino community. People who may not know any Latinos are therefore susceptible to believing that all Latinos embody a negative stereotype that is manifested in the media. Negrón-Muntaner told the Huffington Post that the study highlights “ a growing and profound disconnect between the characters you see on screens and TV, and who is sitting next to you on the bus, teaching your children how to read or coming to your rescue in case of a fire.”

 

Latinos can ignite change through social media

As a solution to this dilemma, the study suggests that Latino consumer pressure can be effective when it comes to demanding new representations in the media.

 

Latinos are needed for new media production

Due to the lack of diversity of industry executives, there are stories that are not being told as well as people that are not being represented as they should. According to the study, there were no Latinos who were serving as studio heads, network presidents, CEOs, or owners.

 

Shades of Shadeism

ShadeismCreated by five students from Ryerson University’s School of Journalism in the spring of 2010, Shadeism, according to the Shadeism website, is a word that means “discrimination that exists between the lighter-skinned and darker-skinned members of the same community.” In Latina terms, that pretty much means women who are treated differently, or unfairly, because their skin color is lighter or darker than other Latinas.

 

Sometimes, a person might not even realize they’ve experienced Shadeism until they really think back to it. It can happen so unnoticeably that you’re not even sure if it’s even considered Shadeism. On the Shadeism website, there is a clip of the documentary that was done to start off the Shadeism movement, and in it are girls of color (not all Latinas) who talk about ways they’ve experienced Shadeism. One of them even says that her family called her by a nickname that was based off of her skin color when she was born. Kind of like calling someone “guerita.”

 

“My family’s been calling me guera since forever,” said Mia Salazar, 22. “I’m the most light skinned in my family. It’s never bothered me, I guess, because I am. I’m a guera. I never thought there was anything wrong with it.”

 

But if Shadeism isn’t always a bad thing, what’s the big deal? If people are treating you better because of your skin color, it must be okay, right? Wrong. Although it probably feels great to be called prettier because of your darker or light skin color, it’s not okay because of the people who aren’t being called pretty based on their skin color. This is why Shadeism began.

 

“I, myself, have never experienced Shadeism, but I’ve seen it a lot in my family,” said Luz Treviño, a freshman in high school. “But I’ve seen my tias and tios do it. They call one of my cousins pretty because her skin is whiter. They still love their son, but he’s darker, like his dad, so they just think she’s prettier.”

 

The five people who started the documentary realized Shadeism existed and wanted to get the word out on it so they could one day stop it. For now, the founders of Shadeism hope to finish filming their documentary, after visiting different countries and talking to people of various communities, just to raise awareness in hopes of getting the people of that community to get rid of any Shadeism they may have experienced in their region. Although the Shadeism website  has yet to inform readers of how exactly to stop Shadeism, there is a video on the homepage that allows you to see the discussion between five girls and how they went about becoming aware of this type of prejudice. Discriminating, or treating people badly, because of a difference of theirs, for any reason, is always wrong, no matter what. And the best way to stop Shadeism starts with anyone who has seen it or experienced it within their own community.

 

If you ever notice someone treating anyone better or worse because they have light skin or dark skin, tell them it’s wrong. Especially if it happens in your own family. Family members might not even realize that they’re doing it, and telling them it is wrong can be helpful to them, as well as your community. Everyone should be treated equally, regardless of their differences.

Quiz: Do You Know the Chicano Education Struggle?

Social Media Done RightSo you know about the Alamo, Santa Ana, and maybe about Cesar Chavez. But what else do you know about the history of Mexican Americans? There’s a lot to our past that we know very little of – but no fear, we are here to help change a little of that. The Latino and Latina’s right to education has not been an easy path, and we are here to put your knowledge to the test of the Chicano educational struggle, from prominent court cases to terminology.

This quiz is not for the faint of heart. Are you up for the challenge? Step up to the plate and try your best – it’s okay if you can’t get a perfect score. You’ll walk away from this quiz learning a lot more  about the Chicano educational struggles, which is way more rewarding.

1. There were many justifications school officials used for segregating Mexican American students from white students, aside from prejudice. What was not a reason used for segregating?

A) Mexican American preference – they wanted to be segregated

B) Low achievement – they did not do well compared to other students

C) Language problems – the language barrier between Teachers and Spanish-speaking students

D) High achievement – they did better compared to the other students

2. Which act prohibits discrimination against faculty, staff, and students in educational institutions?

A) Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

B) 14th Amendment

C) Equal Education Opportunity Act

D) Right to Education Act

3. Crystal City, Texas is home to one of the most prominent school walkouts in 1969 for civil rights. Students walked out in protest over the racial limitations on the ______________ put by the school board.

A) Football team

B) Student body

C) Teaching staff

D) Cheerleading squad

4. Which president passed the Bilingual Education Act, which aimed to improve programs for students with limited English-speaking abilities – but ultimately failed?

A) Lyndon B. Johnson

B) John F. Kennedy

C) Ronald Reagan

D) Barrack Obama

5. Mendez v. Westminster is a court case that addresses racial segregation. It’s most known for critiquing the “separate but equal” standard created by Plessey v. Ferguson by adding that _________ equality should be involved in the standard.

A) Social

B) Racial

C) Gender

D) Economic

6. Cisneros v. Corpus Christi ISD was the first court case to argue that Mexican Americans were an ethically identifiable minority group and abandoned the ___________ strategy that many other cases had used previously.

A) Hispanic-Caucasian

B) Other white

C) We’re all the same

D) No race

7. What does LULAC stand for?

A) Latinos United in Latin American Countries

B) League of United Latin American Citizens

C) Leave Underrepresented Latino Americans in Class

D) Love and Unite Latin Americans in the Country

8. What is the name for the type of segregation that occurs when Caucasian students leave a school because of the rise in attendance of Mexican American students?

A) De jure

B) Jumping ship

C) De facto

D) White flight

9. LULAC vs. Clements was a court case that fought for access to equal educational resources (such as higher education) for Texas residents in _______________ region.

A) Panhandle

B) South

C) Central

D) Border

10. Which of the following is not an outcome from segregated schools settings?

A) High drop out rates

B) School stress

C) Increase in college-bound students

D) Poor performance in academics

Answer Key:

1. D – Students were not segregated because they preformed higher than others.
2. C – Equal Education Opportunity Act was an important act for educational rights.
3. D – There was a restriction of only 2 Mexican American students on the cheerleading squad, despite the largely Hispanic population. This walkout prompted a change in the school board to reflect the population of the town.
4. A – Lyndon B Johnson emphasized education as a necessity for the American Dream, especially for minorities.
5. A – this case said stated the social inequality should be implemented with the “separate but equal” decision, and sparked a ripple in Civil Rights cases. It had an indirect influence on the Brown v. Board of Education case.
6. B – other white refereed to Mexican- Americans as the “other white,” but this was changed with a school attempted to mix African-American and Mexican American students as a form of “desegregation”.
7. B – LULAC is an organization that advocates for the rights of Latinos in the US.
8. D – de facto is segregation by law and de jure is segregation by residential neighborhoods.
9. D – this case was about residents in Border regions. Although they lost, it influenced the creation of South Border Texas Initiative, which is a funding package for 9 four-year universities in the area.
10. C – segregated settings negatively affect the amount of students going to college.

This quiz was inspired by a class available at the University of Texas at Austin.

Holidays in Latin America

As Latinos, we don’t just have one way to celebrate it. Latin America covers a big part of the globe and Latinas come from various countries, from Chile to Venezuela, Colombia to Guatemala and Mexico to Puerto Rico. Below you’’ll find some popular festivities from around the world.

Christmas Eve in Argentina
The day before Christmas, people participate in the lighting of paper balloons. These balloons are lit on the inside and released into the air. Firework displays are also a common activity. As in the USA, families place their gifts under the Christmas tree. They attend a midnight service at church and then they go sing Christmas carols from one house to another.

Christmas on Mexico
In Mexico, the Christmas season starts on December 16th. People adorn their houses with “Noche Buena” flowers (poinsettas), evergreen pine trees and colored lights. Sometimes families put on a nativity set (Pesebre) which can be as big as the family wants from just Mary, Joseph and Jesus to the entire city of Bethlehem. During December “Posadas” are celebrated where groups of families and friends gather together and eat, sing a break the “Piñata.” A posada commemorates Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem in search of shelter.

Consoada in Portugal
Consoada is a holiday dinner a day before Christmas where families honor their dead relatives and friends. Once the dinner is set up they add an extra seat and place setting that is left empty for the souls of the dead. Once the dinner is over they leave leftovers on the table to feed the hungry ghosts.

La Quema del Diablo, Guatemala
It translates as the Burning of the Devil and it is a prelude for Christmas. The purpose of this event is to ensure a devil-free holiday season. People sweep all the dirty corners of their houses, collect and gather the dirt and garbage in a huge pile outside, put a sculpture of the devil over the pile and light it on fire.

Christmas in Colombia
Holiday celebrations in Colombia begin in early December. Because most of the population is Catholic, the ceremonies start with the honoring of Virgin Mary. On December 7, families light candles and outline the streets with them until the whole city is illuminated. Later on December 16, Christmas trees are decorated with the start of the Novena which is a nine-day prayer ritual with a rosary in anticipation of Christmas day.

Although we are one big community, we have different customs and traditions in celebrating the holidays, but enjoying time with loved ones is a common focus.

Dealing with Traditional Parents

latina girls - latinitas

Written by Claudia Mendoza

Different Latinas share their own experiences about dealing with traditional parents, as well as their their own advice on how they coped with culture and tradition affecting their lives.

 

1. Leaving for College and Moving Out

“My mom was hesitant and really sad when I moved away for college,” shares Victoria Navarro, 19, when discussing her experience leaving her hometown for college. “She tells me that it is hard and she would prefer me to be back home. She would love to have me at home if she could. With me leaving so soon, she was fearful of me being by myself and being on my own, but she never told me I couldn’t do it,” she adds. Victoria was able to make the transition smoother by telling her mom why she wanted to attend a prestigious school out of town and how it would offer her new opportunities. “My mom recognized it was a good opportunity. She is really supportive and she knows I worked hard for it.”

Ariana Ortega explained how difficult it is to even bring up the topic of “moving out” with her mom.  Both her and her mother live alone, for the majority of the time, in a four-bedroom home.  This not only makes it hard on her mother but it makes it hard on her to even think about leaving her mother alone; the guilt and the privileges of living at home hold her back.  ”I always think about moving out, even though my mom gives me plenty of freedom.  She always tells me that moving out comes with a lot of responsibilities, and that living on my own I won’t come home to home-cooked meals,” Ariana stressed as she stared off into the distance.

2. Social Life

Alexsis Centeno, 18, explained how difficult it is to even go out with her friends and boyfriend.  Lexy (nickname), explained that her parents are divorced and living in two separate homes, with two sets of rules, highly  opinionated parents, and a “Cruella” for a step-mother are the main reasons to her undeveloped social life.  Lexy stressed, “I choose to ignore it.”

Lexy Centeno shared her story, “When I was 15 they started to let me date.  I really wouldn’t let them know anything about what goes on with the person I was dating, they just knew who the person was.”  Lexy explained that she is currently dating a soldier, Kenny, 19, and she stressed that her parents allow him to join the family and come inside the house, however they are not to be left alone at any moment.  Her parents do not want her to have distractions that will prevent her from finishing school, and having a career.

High school senior Lexy Centeno feels relieved to know that if she were to move out her parents would help her, as long as she continued to go to school.  In fact, she plans on moving out with her best friend as soon as she graduates from high school.

3. Double-Standards and Having the “Talk”

“I think there is a lot of shame in having the sex talk in the Latino community,” shares Victoria.  “It is something that you don’t even talk about. For me, it was that my family would not accept it at all. As a girl, you are told that a lot of your respect has to do with your purity. I would say that it should not be a one-sided discussion. It is important to have a discussion with your parents. If you think it is an option, you should be open with them and you may be surprised that it might become a real discussion. It is important to show that you have thought about it and what it means. If your parents aren’t open, you can find out the options on your own to inform yourself at a health center.”

“My brother gets a lot more freedom than I do and he’s younger.  If I was to do the same, act as he does, I would get grounded for 3 months!  He would only get grounded for a week, literally,” stressed Lexy in a rather bothered tone.

Advice from Lexy:

 

“I know that having strict, traditional parents is not easy and it may or may not get easier as you get older but all I can say is that the more you’re able to prove to your parents that you’re trying to be obedient and the more you gain their trust, the easier it will be to enjoy your teen years. I know that we want to go out and have fun but our parents are usually right and they are only hard on us because they want the best for us.  We may not understand certain things right now, but when we get older or become mothers, we too will want to protect our babies just as much as they are trying to protect us.  Sometimes parents mess up but it is up to us to decide what we let affect us on a daily basis, so don’t let little things distract your pretty little minds.  Instead, focus on finishing school and getting a part-time job.  The sooner you graduate, the faster you’ll be out of your parent’s house living your own,” shares Lexy.

Service Learning Experience in Peru

During the spring break of my 2014 spring semester, I got the exciting chance to be part of the international service team at my school! Six other students and I made a trip to Peru with the goal of installing a solar electric system in Corpani Peñas, a village located high in the mountains of Peru with no access to electricity. After weeks of installation training and preparation, we were heading to South America, ready for the many adventures ahead!

1 Cross Hike

For most of the trip, we stayed in Urubamba, Peru. The city is located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, with magnificent, green mountains surrounding it. Here, we tried foods like lomo saltado, a tasty Peruvian dish with potato, beef, rice, and onions, and ceviche rich with seafood from the coast. We had the chance to hike up one of the nearby mountains on what is locally known as the “cross hike,” which consisted of trailing up a path overgrown with plants and shaky rocks until, at last, reaching the top, where a giant cross overlooks the entire town and surrounding valley. It was a view like nothing I had ever seen before!

2 Corpani4 Assembling Part of the Solar electric system

Installing the solar panels gave us the opportunity to stay a couple days in the village of Corpani Peñas. The people living in the village spoke in Quechua, with only a few individuals

knowing any Spanish. Quechua is an indigenous language, once the official language of the Incas, and now stands as the official language of Peru, in addition to Spanish. This was a language I had never heard of before, and was fascinated by hearing it spoken so much around me! On one of the nights spent here, we were treated by the head of the village to a special dinner where we were served cuy, a popular dish in Peru. Cuy, as odd as it may sound to us in the United States, is essentially cooked guinea pig! With hesitancy and curiosity, we gratefully ate the dish, which the village only prepares on special occasions. After a few cautious bites, the whole team was pleasantly surprised by the delicious meal.

The solar electric installation process was successful, despite there being several slight bumps in the road. It took the whole team and community members to brainstorm when materials failed to work, but teamwork and determination allowed us to pull through!

Following our stay there, we traveled to Ollantaytambo, a historic site of Incan ruins in another part of the Sacred Valley. Our guide told us the history behind some of the ruins, like how the giant terraces built along the side of the mountain were used for agriculture, and how some of the buildings were used as storehouses for food and seeds. Some of the structures, our guide shared with us, have archeologists and scientists still puzzled as to how the Incas were able to construct them, for example, walls built with massive, finely carved rocks all perfectly placed to fit like a puzzle, and packed together so closely, not even a pin can squeeze through! Viewing this historic site and hearing some of its history was incredible!

3 Ollantaytambo

5 Ollantaytambo

Our final stop of the trip, only a few hours before heading to the airport, was to the famous city of Cusco, once the capital city of the Incan Empire! Cusco is home to some amazing churches and buildings that were constructed after the Spanish conquest. We visited the Plaza de San Francisco, and made our way around the nearby market, where all sorts of clothing, jewelry, and foods were being sold. Knowing Spanish definitely came in handy here when bargaining for prices! What really caught my eye were the beautiful scarves being sold at one of the stands, stitched with vibrant colors and made from alpaca wool, a material commonly used in Peru.

At the conclusion of the trip, I boarded the plane back to the United States carrying so many great memories with me. From the food, to the breathtaking sights, to the welcoming people we met, this trip to Peru was full of new and exciting experiences that helped me learn about a culture and history I had never been exposed to before. Traveling is a perfect opportunity to open up your mind about the world, and if it’s something you’d like to do, too, a great way to do that is through programs at your school or in your community!

Quince Project

All in fairytale gowns and glamorous hair and makeup, Hope, Diana, Yareth, and Yeneira made their grand entrance into the Sand Dunes ballroom on August 21, 2014 to celebrate their Quinceañera as part of the Quince Project! The Quince Project is a charity program that works to put together a free Quinceañera celebration for girls selected in the El Paso, TX area who show strong leadership, academic, or volunteer experience, and who have overcome obstacles or financial hardships. Throughout the summer, the four girls were both involved in the organization of their quince, while also getting to learn more about their heritage and this traditional celebration.  The event relied heavily on donations, sponsors, and the help of a committee of Madrinas who volunteered to pull everything together. Madrinas and the girls received a great amount of support from the community!

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The morning began with hair and makeup for the girls at Tri-State Cosmetology Institute. Each girl got the star treatment and came out looking glamorous with their makeovers.

“I really loved getting our hair done, that felt really special,” Yeneira shared.

The girls then changed into their gowns, were dawned with princess-like tiaras, and had a photo shoot at the park before heading over to Sand Dunes hall.

“I felt nervous at the beginning of the day, but once we started practicing the dance and arrived at the hall, I got much less nervous. I started to get so excited and happy to see everyone here,” Diana recalls.

After a reception and dinner, the girls made their way for the grand entrance, accompanied in by family members. Next was the doll and shoe ceremony, followed by a fun dance set to the upbeat “Follow the Leader” by Jennifer Lopez, and slower waltz with loved ones. Hope, Yareth, and Yeneira all recalled the fun dance as their favorite part of the night, remembering that despite feeling that they messed up the choreography a bit, they improvised, and had great fun doing so!

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At the evening’s toast, in accordance with the butterfly as the symbol of the Latinitas organization, each girl was presented with a “set of wings,” recognizing each girl for her unique qualities and strengths.

“The best part of the night was when we did the cake ceremony and gave a toast, and got to thank everyone. Sarah gave us our wings, and I was very happy to hear her words. They were really meaningful. It almost made me cry, but I had to remember my makeup!” Diana laughs.

During this special moment during the celebration, Hope was awarded the wings of Confidence, Yareth received the wings of Cheerfulness, Yeneira was presented with the wings of Optimism, and Diana earned the wings of Courage.

“I felt just like a princess! It was just like I had pictured it,” Hope shared at the end of the night. A

fter a night full of dancing, great food, and memories, the girls reflected on their special day, and what it meant to them.

“This Quinceañera meant becoming a young woman, and getting to share that special moment with my family and friends,” Diana said.

As the night came to a close, each girl left with a few words of gratitude for all of those involved in the making of this memorable event.

“I would like to say thank you to everyone for making our dream possible. I enjoyed today so much,” Yareth shared.

“Thank you so much to everyone for your hard work,” said Hope.

“Thank you for making our day special, and for making it all possible. I hope it’s possible again for other girls like us next year!” Yeneira added.

Diana shared, “Thank you for making my dream come true, for helping me and the girls out through it all, and allowing us to share this important moment with our friends and family!”

As a young Latina, a Quinceañera marks a meaningful time in a girl’s life, and these four girls expressed such joy into being able to take part in this celebration.  This magical Quinceañera night proved to be a great success, thanks to the girls’ hard work, and to all the volunteer and community support aiding in the Quince Project!

Living on the Border

Laredo_Border_Crossing_25Living in a border city has perks unique to its citizens. Growing up in a city where Hispanic culture is the majority and the norm, makes for a very comfortable and connected life in the community. Ideas and traditions are generally accepted across the board because people have very similar backgrounds. Whereas speaking Spanish in another part of the country is an exceptionally valuable and marketable tool, it is just another part of living in a border city. The Spanish language is not an exception, but, almost like a form of currency, the more you know, the more you have access to the culture and the people that surround you. The border city examined in this article is Laredo, Texas. Located on the southwest border of Texas and Mexico, it houses one of the largest import sites in the nation. Visiting Mexico from Laredo is easy, just a fifteen minute drive down the highway and you have access to another country. Along with foreign goods, the Mexican culture transcends the border and infiltrates the city, and for this reason living in Laredo is truly a unique upbringing.

Leaving a Border City

Leaving the comfort of a city where most of your friends and peers have easily relatable backgrounds can be quite the experience. Trinity University student and Neuroscience major, Alyssa Izquierdo, shares what it is like to leave  Laredo and attend school in San Antonio, Texas. “Being right next to Mexico, you [notice] how easy it is for Mexicans to assimilate to Laredoan culture. It is a catholic majority… the culture is mexican, my family is all mexican,” she says. Establishing a circle of friends at Trinity University who vary in ethnicity and culture, she realized that speaking Spanish became an exceptional ability, one that she was grateful for. Surrounded by people taking Spanish language classes, she realized that the culture of her hometown was something not to be taken for granted.

Sharing Your Culture

On her thoughts about being an American of Mexican descent outside of Laredo: “I think living in a border city has helped me communicate better with the hispanic community- as in carrying a conversation with someone in Spanish. It has also helped me realize the opportunities that people have when they cross. I am grateful for having been born in the United States. [It] helps me see how lucky I am.”

Essentially, the culture that makes you unique is something to be cherished and never to be taken for granted. If you have the privilege of growing up surrounded by those with a familiar culture, take advantage of it, because it may not apply in other parts of the United States. On the flipside, embrace your culture in a diverse environment- you can start with showing off your mother’s wonderful enchilada recipe by sharing your home cooked meals with others.

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