(This essay was originally posted @ GALEO.org website. We are re-posting in an effort to increase awareness of the voices and opinions of Latinos in Georgia)
I am the son of Latino immigrants, whose footsteps crossed the deserts of Mexico, whose sweat, blood and teardrops stained the path that crossed 3 countries and 4 states as they escaped a country torn by civil war.
My parents are from El Salvador, the smallest country in Central America. In the 1970s they both ran away from the one place they called home in hopes of a better life in America. I was born in California, but I might as well have been raised in El Salvador. I remember growing up not being allowed to watch TV, but helping my dad work and living off whatever we could afford. $2.50 an hour, that’s what my parents earned because they did not have “papers.” From a young age, I learned that we had to help one another (no matter what age) so that we can eat and have a place to sleep in.
“No hables inglés,” is what my mother told me when I was home. She made sure that we acknowledge our culture and heritage as I grew up in American and learned English at school. At home I learned how to make the food of my parent’s country and speak Spanish. My father taught me one of the best lessons in my life, “el que no quiere su patria no quiere a su madre.” I am American pero soy Salvadoreño tambien.
Being Latino means so much to me. It means my roots, unity, family, my past, present, and future, it means my daughter, it means my culture, and it is the one thing you cannot take away from me for I own it, accept it, and embrace it every step I take and every move I make. Being Latino is doing what they say I cannot do, it’s about being who I was born to be. Being Latino also means upholding the spirits of my ancestors, fullfilling the dreams of my people, and continuing the footsteps that got us here.
Being Latino in education to me means I am breaking the status quo and enlightening the world of my culture and heritage.
One thing we can all do to support my community is just listen to the stories of my people. History class does not tell one either the true stories of ours or all of it, so we need to listen to the voices and stories to better understand and then we can stand for our human rights as well.