A Latina in Iowa
Today as I reflect on the new year, I try to be hopeful despite my sadness, disappointment and apprehension. You see, I have doubts about the direction that my country is going in and despite trying to stay positive, I cannot shake my disquiet nor my anger.
You see I am a Latina, first generation, from San Antonio, Texas who is proud of her Mexican cultural roots. My parents left Mexico, with very little money or prospects, to come to this country to achieve the “American Dream” to provide their American-born children with opportunities that they would not have had if they had stayed in Mexico.
However under this new leadership, racist sentiment is cultivated to spread contempt and hate against people like me, like my parents and anyone else who does not fit into the majority.
A door to oppressive, biased sentiment and rhetoric has been opened that illustrates the very real and very much alive problem that we have with racism, sexism, and accepting anything and anyone that is different. And if you cannot see that, it is because you are not Black, Latino, poor, or any other marginalized group who has been oppressed, denied, made to feel less-than because of the color of your skin, cultural background, whom you choose to love or your gender.
This shift in leadership, the turmoil that our country is in, is not due to a political party being a sore loser (there were other viable candidates to choose from from both sides). No, this is about a new leadership that, on an international stage, engages in rhetoric and behaviors that are oppressive, biased, contemptuous and misogynist, and that is what the world will think that America stands for. America, whose founding principles were created by people fleeing persecution for being different!
After the election I have never felt more conscious of my differences, of the dark shade of my skin, of the looks and - yes - fear I felt walking in a predominantly white campus and community. A few years ago, I relocated from San Antonio to work in an institution of higher education in rural Iowa and believe me, being different here can at times be a trying experience.
I pause to think that this must have been a small taste of what my parents went through when they first came to this country, so long ago. The courage that it took to face that, to leave everything behind, to persevere, astounds me and my pride in them know no bounds.
So how do I persevere in my new community that embraces the new shift in leadership? How do I reconcile to the fact that my neighbors, co-workers and community believe in this new direction that exalts bigotry and bias? Now, I do not believe that all who voted for our new shift in power are bigoted or filled with biased sentiment, but I do believe that racism and bigotry were not a deal breaker for them. How could it be, they are in the privileged majority.
I do not know how I will make peace with this but I do know that if I do not overcome this I will let the racist, hateful rhetoric and sentiment win. I will not let the new direction of our country breed fear, hate or contempt in me. I will continue to be myself, a proud Latina, fluent in English and Spanish, proud of her Mexican roots, her immigrant parents and poor socio-economic background.
I will not hide who I am nor will I be made to feel less than because I am not part of the majority.
I will share who I am and where I come from in the hope that the community that I now work and live in will one day at least display cultural empathy even if they never fully comprehend my point of view. And I hope that one day they will finally realize how their privilege handicaps them in their worldview.