Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Latina Whom Attained a College Degree & Stayed at Home

As I took in my fill of daily news from vast resources, I toppled over a depicting article on the record number of Latinas attending College and staying at home. An article which sparked a sense of nostalgia for me as I can understand this observation.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center -- 611,000 Latina Females are enrolled in two year colleges. Unlike African-American and Whites, there are further and deeper factors to approaching and attaining a College Education.Based on the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute in 2003, factors of family, cultural tradition and community factoring in a young Latina/o's decision on where to attain a College education. The sense of familismo, personalismo, machismo, marianismo all factor in (of course, on different levels according to individual experience).

Not only am I first-generation Latina in the United States, I am also the oldest in my family. As the oldest, I took on many responsibilities. Taking care of my brother, helping my two hard-working immigrant parents in every aspect. One can say I grew up rather quickly; at eight years old I spoke English and Spanish fluently becoming my family's advocate in all aspects of life. I learned of the importance of family in order to succeed in this world and thus it resonated (still does) through everything I do.

Education is an important pillar of my family. Attaining it was and is the best inheritance my parents could have instilled in my brother and I. Be that as it may, attaining it had its differences compared to many of my peers in High School.

My senior year was crucial as the question of whether or not I would continue my education was fervently present! I did not come from a top-tiered high school. It was actually a poorly funded school. We had a small prospective graduating class and many of the same were already struggling enough in trying to stay on a passing scale. Many of us came from struggling social and economic backgrounds so the idea of College seemed far to most.

However, an opportunity opened at the start of my last year. A scholarship to DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana!!  Out of eight candidates, only two scholarships were available and I was offered one of those opportunites. My hard work in school and support from my family helped me get there. The question was, would I take it? One signature of acceptance would grant me the opportunity to attain the education my family & I desired.

Reflecting upon this question, unlike other cultures, as a Latina I was not able accept the scholarship. Not only for my family who did question as to why would one have to travel in order to attain an education; but for myself. My family's support was pivotal in my success in academia and moving away from that, I was confident it would only hinder my goals to attain a College degree. Instead I chose to attend a CUNY College and pursue my Masters within the CUNY system as well. A decision rewarding me with amazing and inspirational Professors and peers.

Looking back to this decision, I have no regrets. At first it was difficult as boundaries of understanding were established between my family and I. We relied on each other but they established a support system in which helped me attain a standard GPA and willingness to pursue an advanced degree in Political Science. Yes, I still was my family's advocate but THEY were my foundation to attaining something no one can ever take away from me.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

In Two Worlds, Love & Life Turn It Into One

What we assumed to be a routine doctor’s appointment for my husband and I, turned out to be a life changing point in our lives on May 9th, 2012 – we were pregnant! Both excited with the news, we knew our lives would forever change.   

After notifying both sides of the family, our cultural differences would evidently be present in the next chapter of our lives. And while it all has been positive, my husband, our families and I would have to again, re-acquaint ourselves with our cultural differences.

Living and interacting with women in my suburban community has led me to observe a difference in which Michelle Fine and Lois Weis stated on their book, The Unknown City: The Lives of Poor and working-class young adults.  A perception that good mothering was mostly present in a circumstance of money, time and excess; what I have recognized suburbia to be, to a certain extent. Despite this broad perspective of positive mothering, Latina mothering would challenge this concept through its cultural values of familismo.

While a mother/father’s economic capabilities are essential within any cultural realm, family is equally as important. Coming from a predominantly Latino neighborhood in Queens and growing up with a vast amount of Latino peers, family was recognized as a core foundation to growing up. Most of us might have been part of large families, with a low economic background nevertheless, there was always mamita, papito, ñañito, tio/a, abuelito/a; among many other family members to raise us, instilling values education, morality, spirituality augmenting our cultural traits.

Our parents represent these two separate but equally important perceptions of what good parenting would be. And while many new parents might have a huge checklist to cover on preparing themselves to be a parent, our parents seem to be providing much of it.

My in-laws have been very much present in this journey they have been so helpful in making sure our home is ready to welcome a baby. Home repairs have been the order of the day from my father in law and an essential commodity check-list from my mother in-law has been and I know will be useful in months to come.

On the other hand, my parents are equally as amazing. As a first time mom-to-be, there are vast amount of changes that I have been going through – psychologically, physically & spiritually. My mom has been a great mentor and adviser. Her love, example and words have been encouraging and essential from day one to both my husband and I. My fears and concerns are comforted by her maternal experience and love. She brings my Ecuadorian roots to life with home remedies, embodiment of maternity and motherhood and self-empowerment.  My dad’s words of experience and sense of openness as a parent provides a foundation for us, as parents to be.

According to an African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child” and in our case, it seems as such. Our parents bring two important aspects essential to soon to become parents such as my husband and I. And we are both confident and ecstatic there are grandparents, parents and even a loving uncle that await to bring two worlds together into one unique and exciting adventure!

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