Honoring Your Heritage and Loving Your Country

Growing up it took a while for me to realize that I was an American.  Everyone around me said they were Puerto Rican and told me I was as well.  I learned Spanish and English at home.  I watched the Muppets and Smurfs and Sesame Street while also watching Iris Chacon, Don Francisco, and every telenovela under the sun (Dos Mujeres, Un Camino was one of my favorites!) with my grandmother.

It wasn’t until I went to school that I truly realized I was an American.  At school, I said the Pledge of Allegiance in English but also learned Spanish from teachers who looked and sounded like my family.  I learned nursery rhymes in English and dressed in these big flouncy dresses so I could celebrate my Puerto Rican heritage.  I thought this was normal and you could be Puerto Rican and American because the people I grew up with were Italian and American, Portuguese and American, Cape Verdean and American, etc., etc., etc.

It wasn’t until I was in high school that I learned how threatening this was to people who didn’t grow up with the diversity I did.  Unfortunately, that ignorance still exists.

On Tuesday, Sebastien de la Cruz sang the national anthem at Game 2 of the NBA Finals. Boy, did he sing.  You see, Sebastien, who is of Mexican Heritage, is a known singer in Texas (and beyond) of mariachi music who stepped in at the last minute to sing the national anthem.  Personally, it gave me chills to hear him sing and it made me proud that a young Latino had the opportunity to shine on such a large stage.

But as I mentioned earlier, ignorance still exists and this young boy was attacked as an other because he dared to come out in traditional mariachi dress to honor is heritage and honor his country of birth with a terrific rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.  Of course, the backlash against the ignorance was swift but the best response was directly from Sebastien.  He made it clear that he was a proud American and part of a proud American family.

Hearing his response made me remember my childhood growing up as a Puerto Rican and an American.  But most importantly, it made me remember that I could honor my heritage and still love the country I was born in.  It’s a lesson I am passing down to my daughter.

By the way, if any of those ignorant folks are wondering what an American looks like.  Here is my American Salvarican (half Salvadoran and half Puerto Rican daughter) celebrating her Puerto Rican heritage last year.

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ALL Kids Deserve a Chance at Success

Today is El Día de los Niños, a day that originated in Latin America to celebrate children. Our nation has been celebrating this day for many years now and many libraries have taken the day to celebrate the importance of literacy for children.

While it is great to celebrate children, what we really need is to invest in them.  Our children are our greatest gift.  They are our future.  They are the ones that will lead our nation and teach our next generation but every day we are failing whole segments of them.

Why?

That is a great question.  I think many individuals will give different answers but I’ll give mine.  I think we allow it to happen because it keeps the power structure intact for those who make decisions.

Take this research.  No Rich Child Left Behind – NYTimes.com.  It details the growing achievement gap between the richest children and children who are middle class and poor, why this is happening, and what can be done about it.

But guess what?  We are not doing anything about it.  The President has a plan but the likelihood of it making it past Congress is probably zero.  As parents, we should be screaming from the rooftops of our homes about the need to invest in our children, but we are not.  The airlines can get Congress to help them stop the pain of the sequester but we cannot get them to stop 70,000 kids from getting kicked off of Head Start.

What does that say about us?  As long as it does not affect my child, it is ok?  I’m sorry to inform you but this will affect your child because your child will become a future leader who will have to deal with the consequences of not properly educating all of our nation’s children.

I, for one, cannot let that happen.  I will continue to advocate for all children because my daughter’s future is tied to the future of all of her peers.  Are you in?

Lessons for my daughter

I know it has been a bit since I’ve posted anything.  I have to try and get better at this and not let life get in the way.  That being said, I just read this blog post yesterday, Lindsey Mead Russell: 10 Things I Want My Daughter To Know Before She Turns 10, and it struck a chord with me especially since I have a 10 month old daughter.  I certainly agree with most of it (not sure about how #10 starts out) but as the mother of a Latina/SalvaRican baby, I think I need to add a few more.  Here are my additions to Russell’s list.

11.  Be proud of how you are and where you come from. Your maternal great-grandfather was a migrant farm worker from Puerto Rico (yes those do exist).  Your paternal parents came to this country from El Salvador without papers to give your dad the best shot at making it.  Be proud of that.  Do not let anyone tell you that you are less American because your family didn’t get here on the Mayflower.

12. Believe in your intelligence and don’t be afraid to show it.  Beauty fades much earlier than brain function.  While it is important to take care of your outside, take care of your inside and let others see that you do.  Read a lot.  Learn a lot.  And paraphrasing my friend’s favorite movie quote, don’t ever let anyone put Baby in a corner.

13.  Learn Spanish (and maybe even a third language).  Communicating with others is essential in this world.  It is especially important to communicate with your family.  I want you to be able to talk to your great grandma and grandparents in their language.  Sounds silly but you will appreciate it later on.

I’m sure I’ll add more to this list but if you have any that you want to share, please post in the comments section.

 

Health care as a basic human right

As I was thinking about which issue to write about first in this little series I’m attempting, I was starting to feel a little overwhelmed choosing which one to start with.  Well my daughter reminded me which I should choose: health care.  On Tuesday I got an email from my daughter’s day care saying she had vomited and wasn’t eating much.  Immediately, I left my office to go pick her up because all I could think was “here we go again.”  You see, my daughter has had a rough couple of months.  At the end of January she got a stomach virus, followed by pneumonia, followed by a second bout of pneumonia and an ear infection a month later.  Poor thing!  But then I remembered things were going to be ok.

My daughter is lucky.  She has health insurance.  Once I picked her up, I called a nurse who calmly talked me through what to do over the next 24 hours to make sure she stayed hydrated and got better.  Well it’s Thursday and she is getting better.  Turns out, she has three teeth coming in at the same time.  They seem to be doing a number on her.

Unfortunately, other parents don’t have the piece of mind I do.  There are many children who don’t have health insurance either because their parents work and can’t afford it or their job doesn’t offer it or because their parents are unemployed or because many states make it difficult to enroll or rather, stay enrolled, in Medicaid or their Child Health Insurance Program.  Their parents can’t call the doctor when their children are sick.  Instead, they ride their children’s illness out on their own until things get so bad they go to the ER.

I could put the stats out there about how important it is for children to have a regular source of care but the reality is when children don’t have regular access to health care, they suffer.  They are risk for little things like ear infections becoming bigger problems.  When they are sick, they can’t learn.  When they can’t learn, they can’t do well in school and that means they can’t provide for themselves when they get older.  You see, as much as we don’t treat health care as a basic human right, it certainly should be.  Today, I’m thankful that my husband and I are able to do that for our daughter.  I want the same for all children.