Raised As One Of Jehovah’s Witnesses

Nina Santillan

Photo Credit: Nina Santillan

My mom began studying the Bible with one of Jehovah’s Witnesses when I was two years old. My dad was not very inclined to it, but my mom was interested in the amount of knowledge they had in the Bible. She would teach me what she would learn—the basics, of course. As I grew older and into my toddler years, she would not expect me to apply everything she would teach me, but I knew she would be disappointed if I did not. I remember at first it seemed difficult, since my dad was not studying and was a Catholic, to please both of my parents. I loved what I was learning from my mom, though, because it made perfect sense to me even as young as I was.

As I grew into my elementary school years, the peer pressure to do what everyone else was doing, as far as holidays and misbehaving, were things that I was afraid to face. However, as I began to make friends and let them know about my religious beliefs and where I stand, they really came to respect it. They supported me even to the point of standing up for me when teachers or others would question why I would choose not to participate in holidays and saluting the flag. They would do all the work for me without even asking them to.

As high school came around, my dad finally started to gain interested in attending our theocratic meetings with my mom, my little sister, and me. He began to study with another brother on his own time and his interest began to grow. He began to apply what he learned to his own life and made it something that he really wanted to have a share in and make part of his life. He strongly holds the knowledge he has gained from the Bible and even enjoys sharing it with others no matter how difficult it may be sometimes — since many can be religious-sensitive.

Even to this day, my friends from elementary and also from middle school and high school still remember that I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They tell me that they have always admired my conduct and the strong stance I have kept throughout all these years. Maybe one day, someone will knock at their door and begin studying the Bible with them because of the witness I gave throughout the time I was in their lives.

Mi Familia

Latina Girl Writing - LatinitasLatinitas hosted a blog-a-thon to celebrate Women’s History Month. Here’s what some of our writers had to say about the mujeres in their familia.

“[My mom is the person] I love the most in my life! She’s such an amazing woman; I’ve never seen anyone work harder than her. She’s the founder and director of a Spanish immersion preschool, and when I watch her work there I can’t help but get inspired to work hard as well. It makes me proud to be a Latina who takes part in teaching others about the colorful and amazing Hispanic culture. Working with her at the preschool is what made me realize how much I love working with others, especially children. And because of this I now want to become a child therapist. Gracias, mamá!” – Vanessa Aguirre, 14

“ Looking up into my abuela’s eyes, I saw her passion for cooking and serving her family, and keeping their house nice and tidy. She loves staying at home and performing her duties as a housewife. But, my abuela is apart of the last generation of Hispanic women who are having this role. Hispanic women today are businesswomen, lawyers, doctors, spokeswomen, and so much more. We are evolving to be the biggest and powerful women out there, Latinitas!

I used to think when I was younger, all Hispanic women knew how to do was cook, clean, and take care of the kids and the husband. But not anymore, Latinitas. We have an education now and we’re learning more and more and we will not stop! I am the first person (and female) in my family to go to college- receiving the highest education any of my family has ever gotten. I see how proud I make my family and how much I will be able to help them. But, the greatest thing of all, many young Latinas (like YOU) are receiving a wonderful education!

I am seeing us Hispanic women become stronger than ever. We want to make a difference in this world! We do not need to stick to the same stereotype that everyone believes: all that Latina women know how to do is cook and clean. Of course, we will always love to take care of our familias, but, that doesn’t mean we can’t contribute more to our world and make ourselves better women.

One thing I have learned as a Hispanic woman, Latinitas, is we are capable of doing more than we have ever imagined.  Let us prosperinto the beautiful Latina women that we are! Change is not a bad thing, Latinitas, including the change we are experiencing as Latina women. We have come such a far way, so lets continue to make our familias proud!” – Megan Garcia, 19

“I got my first job during my second year of college. Scared, I really didn’t know what I was getting into working at a call center. No one in my family had previous call center experience and that really intimidated me at first since I was really struggling. But my sister however, has always been an incredibly hard worker, working all the way through college. She worked as a hostess for 4 years and a lot of times had to study on the job. So when I would complain about speaking with someone who was rude or mean to me, I always pictured my sister in the back of my head. She was and continues to be one of my biggest family influences.” – Ingrid Vasquez, 19

 

From Argentina to Austin

It is universally acknowledged that it’s not easy for human beings to step out of their comfort zone, especially while adding the challenges of learning a new language, making new friends and getting accustomed to a new lifestyle.

I learned that lesson early in life, at nine years of age when I left my friends and family behind in my hometown of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Although I did not fully realize what future awaited me in the much-fantasized United States, I packed my most precious toys and held my parents’ hands while my brothers skipped along the airport walkways, leaving a group of sobbing relatives behind.

It was about a year prior to our big move that I answered the phone call that would change our lives. As soon as I picked it up, I knew it was someone calling from U.S.A. and I was ecstatic to hope that my dad would be taking us all there on a trip. My mom, brothers, and I rushed into the living room and huddled around my dad while he spoke in broken English, constantly grinning at us. Little did I know that our “trip” was going to last an indefinite amount of time. It turns out that my dad had been offered a job in a town we had never heard of: Austin, Texas. Nevertheless, my parents could not pass up an opportunity for their kids to succeed in a First World country, especially with the economy in Argentina spiraling downward. It took us several months to sell almost everything we owned and pack up the essential belongings we just couldn’t leave behind. I celebrated my ninth birthday crammed into my aunt’s apartment with everybody that mattered to me, and two days later we were off. I would now be thousands of miles away from them.

Leading up to our moving day, my mother started having terrible nightmares of the family arriving in Texas and seeing nothing but tumbleweeds rolling down abandoned streets. Alas, as soon as we arrived all of our pre-existing stereotypes disappeared. We spent the first two weeks sleeping in a hotel suite, and by day we were house hunters. After a lot of hard work, the home we ended up renting could not have been more perfect. Equipped with a large backyard, something we never had while living in an apartment in a city of 12 million people, the house also came with new friends. It was located on a corner with a cul-de-sac across the street that consisted of three different households with children our age. I did not speak much English, but with various hand gestures and lots of laughs, I had made my first American friends.

Our move took place in April, and since the school year in Argentina is from March to December, I had long finished third grade and had until August to start fourth grade. My parents, however, always thinking of their children first, had arranged to have my brothers and I attend the last two weeks of classes at Patton Elementary School, where we would officially start the following Fall. The point was for us to meet other students, get to know the teachers, learn more English and become familiar with the school grounds. For me, personally, it was torture.

I hadn’t fully recognized the change in my life until I was exposed to the American classroom culture, and my first experience with that was when I attended those two weeks of school. Everything was so different. The students’ faces were not the ones I had spent the last years getting to know. People were talking in another language. I did not comprehend the assignments. The school day lasted longer. Everything was off and I wanted to be home with my mom. That tough day lead to another, which went by faster than the first, and then another, which went by even faster. Before I knew it, the trial weeks were over and I had survived.

It took me the whole summer of 1998 and the first few months of fourth grade to accept and enjoy the fact that I was now a resident of the U.S. Thanks to my absorbent nine-year-old brain, learning English was relatively easy and within a year, I lost all traces of a Spanish accent. By the time Halloween rolled around, I had at least five close friends with whom I felt I’d known for years. I learned that kids were accepting of foreigners and were interested to get to know me. I started celebrating holidays we never had in Argentina, like Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. There were definitely days when I missed my family and friends terribly, and several nights when I begged my mom to move us back. Little by little, one day at a time, I began to like my new life in Texas and appreciate the one I’d led and left behind in Argentina.

Editor’s Note:

Her story among the experiences of thousands of immigrants who leave their country to come to the U.S. each year. Many people move to the United States for so many reasons, and each one holds as much importance as the next.  An estimated 13.1 million immigrants were legal permanent residents in 2011 according to the Homeland Security website.  Starting a new life in a place where everything is foreign to you is extremely difficult, but sometimes it’s a better living than what you were used to. Sometimes it’s more difficult for some than for others. It’s not always easy trying to live in a new place, but as you adjust you see your new world through a different perspective.

Mother & Daughter Bond

My mom is my best friend. She is there for me when nobody else is. She has a way of making me laugh when I don’t even feel like smiling. My mom is my role model. Everything about her is perfect in her own way. My mom only wants the best for me, and she reminds me every single day. That is why I love her with all my heart.

Georgina Bernadette Diaz is my momma’s name. She is beautiful in her own way. I must say my mom is very smart. She is a tech pilot in the school district. My mom is irreplaceable. I honestly do not know what I would do without her. I would be completely lost. I can tell her anything and everything. If there is anyone who knows me the best, it would have to be my mom. My mom supports me in everything, even if she may not agree to it at first. My mom knows exactly what to say and exactly when to say it. My mom and I have the best memories.

We do everything together. We get manis and pedis. We shop until we max out her credit card. We sing like crazy girls in the car. We fight over silly things. We go to church together every Sunday. We clean house together every Saturday morning. Simple things like this make me grow closer to her.

As a teenager, many girls tend to drift away from their mom or not listen to a single word they say. In my case, I think that being a teenager has only brought me closer to my mom. Some girls may think it is strange. I have a boyfriend, and I think she likes him as much as I do. She loves meeting my friends and seeing who I hang out with at school. Through the years, she has always been there. When I was a little girl, I remember my mom would always do my hair for any occasion. My mom always wanted what was best for her little girl, her only daughter.

Through the many years, my mom has been my number one supporter.  She was always there to watch me dance in the “Little Darlings” dance group.  Every Friday night football game, she watched me cheer when I was in the third grade “Junior Knights” cheer team even if it was out of town hours away.  To this very day, my mom is the best supporter.  I am doing the Miss El Paso Teen pageant and she supports me. She tells me to follow my dreams. To my mom, nothing is impossible. My mom is my best friend and I would not trade her for anything on the face of this earth. I love her with all my heart!

Sibling Rivalry

“I get annoyed with the way she does things or says things,” shares Gabriela Garza when she talks about her sister.  “We fight about clothes and money, or even plans we’ve made like if we want to go to a movie or to a restaurant.”

Sound familiar? This kind of behavior is common among brothers and sisters. Siblings live together for most of their lives and living in close proximity will eventually lead to rivalry. It is healthy to fight. It builds not only character, but also strengthens the bond between siblings. Although it may seem stressful and annoying at times, it is important to always keep each other’s feelings in check.

When Lindsay and Noel play X-box together, it usually ends in an argument. They each want to play something different. When they disagree, that’s when the problems begin. Lindsay is the younger sibling and always ends up losing. “I feel annoyed and frustrated and I feel like getting my brother back,” said 13-year-old Lindsay Sanchez.

Arguments can often lead to fights, but it’s important to hold yourself back and be a better person by talking through the problem. The easiest way to deal with this is to talk about it. Siblings should know how each other feel all the time. To ensure a happy life together, it’s okay to say things like “that hurts my feelings” or “I would never do that to you” or “please stop that.” Just remember to be respectful. It leads to a positive response. If you are full of emotion, it’s okay to step away from the situation to let things cool off. Just make sure your brother or sister knows and understands how they made you feel.

Lindsay’s older brother Noel Sanchez is 15-years-old and is far too familiar with this. “I get annoyed when we argue and I go to my room to be alone. Later we talk about it and get over it and we play video games again.” It is important to steer away from physical fights with siblings. Fighting never fixes the situation and it hurts family bonds. Always talk about it or involve a parent.

According to www.childdevelopmentinfo.com, “communication lays a solid and important foundational element and nature to the family relationships and unit. It strengthens it and deepens the bonds, by doing so family’s bond together and work through things as a family by caring and supporting each other.” This means that when brothers and sisters fight, you may want to  let your parents help you try and resolve the issue. Don’t ignore it or let it boil over.  They love you both equally and will help you fix the situation. Therefore, notifying a parent will help everyone be happy and parents will keep a lookout for the both of you.

You may feel like it is hard to get along with your brother or sister now, but as you grow older you will probably get even closer.  Another important thing to remember is that sibling rivalry for the most part is a situation that goes away with maturity. Usually around the age of 18 those problems may start to diminish as the early teen will begin to flourish into a young adult.

“As kids we fought about everything,” says Gabriela. “We would compete over our parent’s attention, and we’d try to outdo each other. As you mature you learn to let things go, especially the little things. I know family is super important and I’m thankful to have my sister in my life even though we’ve put each other through some hard times. It’s only made our relationships that much stronger. “

Siblings look alike, act similar and will remain a part of each other for the rest of their lives. Gabriela Garza is a 22-year-old student at University of Memphis.  She and her sister Adriana have become closer as they’ve gotten older. “My happiest moments with my sister were when we moved out together, and we got to know each other all over again as adults. We realized that no matter what would happen we’d always have each other.”

Sometimes siblings will argue when they’re older, but it rarely turns physical and forgiveness is usually around the corner. “Even though she hurts me at times, I know it’s not intentional and I know it won’t last forever because the love I have for her allows me to forgive her always…No matter what, she is my blood and I know for a fact that she will always be there for me.”

Three Generations

One of my favorite memories growing up was when I was a little girl sitting at the kitchen table looking up at my mom and grandmother as they made tamale. I remember the masa leaving globs of off-white goo on the table, while everyone around the table shared their stories, memories and happy tales. Now, I take place in the tamale making process with at least three generation of Hispanic women in one of the longest traditions taking place in my family.

My mom and grandma would tell me how they made the tamales when they were younger and how their mother would teach them how to make them just right. Now, I am starting to learn how to make them just right as well. “When I was your age and helped my mom make tamales, we went a whole different route” said my mom, Maria, right before she started explaining the differences. They had to make their own masa, chile, and any other ingredients needed from scratch. They did not buy anything already pre-made for them. When I found this out, I suddenly became grateful to know that we take the “short cut” in the making process. I cherish these moments the most.

My grandma Julie as well shared the traditions with with her own mother and now we spend time on the holidays with her. She says “having my sons and their families come over every year to continue a tradition that was started by your great grandma is one of the best parts of the year that I truly look forward to.”

My grandma also speaks of Dia de los Muertos. She would take all her daughters across the border to Mexico, and they would clean up the tombstone and burial area for her mom, my great grandma. “Even if they had school that day, I would call then in sick so that they can continue and experience the tradition,” said my grandma Grace. They would then celebrate, make altars, listen to mariachi and enjoy the great celebration. This tradition was great but over the years and generations the tradition has changed. I learned how it was celebrated and how the process takes place, but I have not really taken part in the tradition.

Another tradition that my family celebrates is el Día de los Tres Reyes Magos, or Three Kings’ Day. This tradition usually takes place at my grandma’s house with the whole family there. We would buy a rosca. For several years, I would be one of the family members to find the little toy baby in the pastry. The tradition goes as follows: the kids in the family would leave their shoes out and in the morning they would find small gifts in them. That part of the tradition we never did in my family. The important part of this tradition is spending time with the family.

The Hispanic culture is rich and thriving, having many traditions taking place all year long. Family togetherness and happy memories make the simple traditions in the culture continue living from one generation to next.

February 2010

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