Artwork by Alonzo Lepper.

Honoring Hispanic heritage

October 13, 2017

Making the dream come true

I am from Mexico, but I left when I was 2.

My family and I have been living in Texas for 14 years.

We have learned a lot during our time here. Anyone can get anywhere with hard work, determination and an American citizenship.

I am proud of where I come from and how hard my parents had to work to get my family where we are today. We’ve faced many difficulties, but we got through them by never giving up.

To me, being Hispanic means having determination and drive to make the impossible, possible. To have a passion that burns so deeply with the thought of achieving dreams others claim are not possible.

I had that passion and determination in me when I was younger. I never stopped to achieve the aspirations I had as a child.

I never thought I’d get a job with good pay, without having to lie about my status. Thanks to my parents’ hard work, I got my work permit and am now a DACA recipient.

Growing up I had many Latino friends, but as time went on I started distancing myself from them. I never really questioned my behavior, however, now looking back at it, part of me wanted to feel more American because at times being Latina made me feel like an outsider.

Having a darker skin color made other kids see me differently. I went to a predominantly white elementary school where I was bullied because of being different. The aftermath of the bullying led me into a depression that would follow me for years to come.

The bullying carried into middle school where I would be called a wetback, along with my personal favorite, Dora the Explorer. I was repeatedly told to go back to a country I hardly know. But now the role of my childhood bullies is being played by the current president and his following, not just naive middle school boys.

When my family moved from Mexico to our first apartment in Lewisville, my dad used to always take me to the park. One afternoon I was stopped by a boy older than me who said I couldn’t get on the slide. At least, that’s what I figured he said because at the time I didn’t speak any English. I don’t remember much but my dad used to tell me that I ran over to him crying and told him I would start learning how to speak English, no matter what.

I learned how to write, read and speak English all before the age of 8.

I may have learned a second language, but I was losing my native tongue as a result. I was losing my culture.

My first language is Spanish, but when I entered second grade I stopped taking Spanish classes and I started speaking more English. At home I spoke more in English but because my parents only spoke Spanish, it made communication difficult. It became a more of a struggle as I got older and started speaking more English.

My mom started taking English classes late last year and can currently understand what’s being said more than she can speak it, but it’s a step that’s making communication significantly easier at home.

The American Dream is my dream. It’s my family’s dream. And it’s anyone else’s who dreams of making it big in this country, without fear of oppression.

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Embracing being different

When I was 5.

It never occurred to me I was different than all the other kids in my kindergarten class. I didn’t know that every other day I had to go to a special teacher not knowing I was there because I spoke a different language and they wanted to help me improve my English. I still watched and listened to all the same shows and music my friends did. I didn’t feel like an outcast because I was a little different. Being Hispanic didn’t mean anything to me; I was oblivious to the topic of race. I was young and nothing mattered to me.

When I was 9.

I realized I was different than some of the other students in my class. I celebrated holidays differently, the language I spoke at home was different, and the TV shows I watched resembled a completely different culture. I started to become ashamed of who I was because it seemed as if my identity wasn’t good enough for people. I didn’t feel normal or similar to any of the other kids I knew.

I felt different and I hated it. I wanted to change myself.

When I was 14.

I started to become more aware of what people thought about me, and it made me distraught. My parents started to worry; they didn’t want me to be afraid or ashamed of who I was. I didn’t feel like I could fit in with the my classmates. Being Hispanic and playing a mostly white dominated sport, I felt judged. Throughout the last few years that I have been playing tennis, I have received dirty looks from both players and parents. After my matches my mom would talk to me in Spanish about how I did while I was playing, and they would look at us with confusion in their eyes. I didn’t feel welcome in a place where I should feel my happiest.

At home I felt safe. I was comfortable. I could speak Spanish and be my genuine self without worrying about thoughts from other people. I began to feel appreciative of the traditional Hispanic upbringing my parents chose for my sisters and me. My dad read books in Spanish to me almost every night when I was younger. My mom cooked traditional Mexican dishes for dinner. It was easy to understand the American culture by listening to my two older sisters. Eventually I copied everything they did, hoping it would help me fit in.

Now, I am 15.

I have learned it’s good to be different. I know that sometimes it’s going to be difficult, but I have learned that it’s OK. I am no longer ashamed of who I am. At school and tournaments I am not afraid to be myself. I am proud of who I am, what I do, my language, my culture, my family and the many traditions that have been passed down to me. My upbringing does not make me less important than someone else, I should not be treated unfairly because of who I am. I am different, and that is amazing. Being Hispanic is something I will forever be proud of. Nobody should ever feel insecure about who they are.

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