img_0234Kevin Torres-Jurado, Copyeditor

As a Latino-American child growing up in Queens, New York, my mother taught me a lot about the ways of the world and gave me lessons that to this day I still carry with me.

One of her favorite things to say to me was “todos tenemos una cruz que cargar mijo,” which translates to “we all have a cross to carry, my son.” Being in a Latino-American household, my mother always sought God for all of her answers, and instilled religion into a bunch of the life lessons she handed down to my sister and I. And with this saying, I learned to try my best not to judge people for we’ve all got baggage to carry, just like Jesus Christ did when he held his cross and walked.

But as my mother taught me all of these valuables lessons, one thing I never really learned to do was how to speak up.

Growing up, the only real “family-time” I spent with the other members of my family was at the dinner table. I would hesitate eating the “sopa de pollo” that my Abuelita made, my sister would make ugly faces at me and open her mouth while there was food in it so I would get grossed out, and my parents would both talk to each other about their days at work.

At the time, my mother worked in a factory building machine parts for military planes and she would always talk about how much work it was to be standing up ten hours a day with a 30-minute lunch break, arming plane parts one after the other. She would complain about how they wouldn’t give her the day off, and how her boss clearly had favorites in the workplace and would always find something to yell about.

One day I asked my mother why she doesn’t just stick up for herself when her boss was giving her a rough time. My mother stopped eating, looked at me like I was insane and said, “What are you crazy, do you want me to get fired?!”

As a child, I saw nothing wrong with standing up for what I thought was right but as I grew older, I saw in others the same resistance my mother had towards sticking up for oneself.

I wondered why she was like this, and I realized that a lot of Latinx-Americans are like this. We, as a people, work so hard for our families, but I realized that a lot of the times us Latinxs hold our tongue. We keep our fists clenched, but lowered. We accept the position we’re in as immigrants and it’s almost as if we accept the fact that we can’t progress in this world, but we can. We work in poor farming conditions for hours that seem endless, only to be paid so little. We have bosses and co-workers mock us for our culture, because of the little English we speak or understand, or because our first name is Jorge and not George. Why do we hold our tongues though? Is it because I am an illegal immigrant and am afraid of being deported? Or am I afraid of losing my job and not being able to support my family?

There are so many risks I found out that can harm us in both our personal and professional lives that it’s hard to obtain the courage and speak up. But I think as Latinxs it’s up to us to take a stand. To not stay quiet when we feel like our employers, co-workers, teachers, or government is mistreating us. We should not stay quiet while we see other types of people being oppressed as well. As the strong Latinx people that we are we need to stand up, unify, and fight for everything that seems off to us. Like the fact that Latinx Heritage Month is from September 15 to October 15. Why can’t we have a full normal month instead of being split in between two? Why can’t we be spoken to normally? A good portion of Latinxs do understand a good portion of English and do not need to be spoken to like they are a child.

Do not misinterpret my words. I am a proud Latino-American man. But I want more for my people. More opportunities. More respect. And more love towards my fellow Latinx. I refuse to hold my tongue to people who disrespect my culture, my race, and my heritage, regardless of what Latin-American country I am from. I am a Latino who yearns for respect. And add a full normal month to honor my heritage to the list of things I want for my people.

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