By Lucia Alfaro
A piece advocating for equality and respect. Let us latinos show you our side while respecting yours.
Being from Latin America does not equal living in trees. It does not equal crime and it certainly does not equal lack of education. On the contrary, we tend to be cultured people, people who have learned from the best teacher: life.
Our countries may not have the latest technologies or play massive roles in world issues. We might be flooded by corruption, murder, and terror, afraid to leave our homes past a certain hour and struggling to get a loaf of bread. Us Latinos will be the first ones to accept that our countries are far from being okay. We do not think we are the world’s greatest power. Instead, we humbly accept that we need the aid of others. Most of us belong to the third world and are stuck in it for good. Despite all of this, we have deep love for our land and we do get offended when people degrade us. Our situation has only taught us to be strong and hardworking. We have to make a living and we live life with little to no luxury. I grew up seeing people in need. It breaks my heart to see my people begging for food and wishing for the money my country does not have. We are sorry we are forced to leave. We are sorry we are forced to go to the extremes to earn minimum wage. To feed our families. To prevent our kids from starving to death. Latinos are willing to take anything. Anything to provide. We are sorry to succumb to desperation when we are not even greeted politely at embassies. We do not seek to take anyone’s jobs. We seek to take those you don’t want. I am from El Salvador, and just so you have an idea, our minimum wage is around $0.50 per hour. Meanwhile the United States’, at its lowest federal minimum, is $7.25 an hour.
Our countries are dominated by poverty and achieving a decent life is a constant struggle. Fortunately, some of us have had the luck to go to international schools, receive education abroad and make a comfortable living. We are the ones responsible for advocating for our countries. Our families have worked hard. Endured pain. Started from the bottom. We are tired of being degraded. We are also victims of our own countries where corruption is swallowing money and lives. We are the ones looking to save our countries and stand up for them.
Sorry if we have an accent when speaking English. We make the effort to learn another language. Sorry if we speak too much Spanish between us. It is our mother tongue and part of our identity. We have learned how to coexist with other cultures but also preserve our own. We are not all killers or thieves. Women are not always mere curvaceous, sexual objects but intelligent and hard working human beings. We are not illegal. If we are undocumented, this does not mean we are evil people, but desperate ones. We know what internet is. We do not all look the same; blonde Latinos are real. We can be clean and have manners. We are normal people like you. We have evil people just like you. But this is not all of us. We do not deserve to be subject to generalizations and discriminated against because of poor assumptions.
“All Latinos abroad: admire them for leaving their home behind for a better future. For having to deal with the pain of being forced to leave everything behind. For going to bed concerned with the safety of their relatives back home. For being able to keep their cultures while miles away from home.”
There are millions of us living abroad. Don’t worry. Believe me, we know we are not home. We have grown to respect you and your land. We are thankful for the opportunity. We only ask to be treated like the humans we are. Those working for less than the minimum wage: admire them. They are willing to clean your house to feed their children. Forgive them if their English is not perfect. Most of these people have had little to no access to bilingual schools and cannot prioritize English lessons over the need for food. They make the effort to communicate. Recognize them for their courage to leave their country for the totally unknown. To leave their loved ones behind with no certainty they will be able to ever see them again. Imagine going to a place where you do not understand the language or recognize the land. Alone. Expecting the worse. Admire these people for having hope, something that most of us have lost. Those who belong to the working class and have made a life abroad: respect them from being able to emerge successful. Treat them with courtesy. They add to your community. They bring diversity and profit to your country. Admire them for being able to leave home and establish a new one. For adapting to a different lifestyle that includes learning a new language. Latino students studying abroad: respect them for seeking to succeed when the only way is to leave their home. Admire them for carrying out an entire education in another language. Esteem their or their guardian’s hard work to afford this education. All Latinos abroad: admire them for leaving their home behind for a better future. For having to deal with the pain of being forced to leave everything behind. For going to bed concerned with the safety of their relatives back home. For being able to keep their cultures while miles away from home.
So let us keep our homes close to our hearts the way we know best. Let us be part of your world with no discrimination. Let us be human with you. Let us learn from your culture and teach you ours.