Translated by Katrina Hassan
The bleachers on the football pitch are full of people. The warm summer sun, is at its best at this part of the day. The weather is perfect. The people assisting are dressed in their best clothes. This is not just any day. It is the day when their kids graduate high school. Many born in the USA and others emigrated as kids but speak English without an accent. The memory of their place of origin is fading away more every day. Along with the idea of university, the grandparent’s house and the legal residence in this country.
Many families of migrant Latin people in the USA are formed differently than in the country of origin. Kids that live with neighbours, because their parents have been deported. The parents have decided to leave them so they can have a better future. Other kids stay on to live with aunts and uncles. Some stay on their own, with an older teenage sibling that works and studies looking after them. They might live in a room that someone has loaned or rented out to them. Nobody reports this to authorities so that the children will not be separated. They’d rather be together and helped by the community.
This community can be formed by members of a church, neighbours, and parents of kids at school. The group of help is silent. Between neighbours, friends and friends of friends they take turns taking the kids to school, to the doctor, or to extracurricular activities. They weave a complex web that makes the Latin migrant communities a completely different world with different realities and a concept of family that is not written in textbooks.
There are a myriad of families in which one or two parents have been deported. Usually they get caught on their way to work, at the bus stop, or at work. Usually, the father comes to the new country first. Slowly he brings his kids over. His eldest child usually living with him in the US and the rest of the family in their place of origin. They live alongside 20 other migrants, renting a room with people of the same condition: undocumented.
Then there is the single mother that emigrates and has later brought her kids. It would be wishful thinking that there would be no traumas about the horrors experienced along the way. Each and everyone of the family members have their own internal hells that explode in a thousand ways, consuming them in a thousand ways. This is how kids from middle school end up using drugs or alcohol or arrested. They are caught at school using, selling or stealing to pay for their habit. Only drugs let them to forget, at least momentarily their very own hell. There are also those kids that end up in the sex trade for the same reasons.
The problem with living in extreme poverty; this also exists in the USA, is that kids see their mom and dad work three shifts a day too try and bring the rest of their kids into the country. It gets difficult when you live in the colder climates, where it snows. There is usually no heating in the winter and no cooling in the summer.
After families finally manage to bring all the kids into the country, the marriages usually end in divorce. There are children that travel alone and are caught by border patrol, and not one family member comes to claim them for fear of being deported themselves. They en up in foster care. Then there are the kids that do make it, but later their parents are reported to authorities for neglect. These kids end up in foster care too. There are kids that cross the border every single day so they can go to school in the USA and go back home every night to Mexico.
There are the kids that are born in the USA and see their parents only a few hours a week. Like the migrant undocumented children, their parents work three shifts a day. These kids cannot travel to the country of origin to see their grandparents because of the economic situation. Parents barely have enough to pay the rent. They live just like the undocumented kids.
The warm sun made the perfect weather for the graduating class of mainly working class Latino parents. This is the month of high school graduations in the USA. These are few and a privileged bunch that graduate high school. For every high school graduate, there are thousands working without a choice to study. So many of them drop out half way. Hundreds die trying to cross the border trying to get to this country.
Those graduated kids, are in many families, the first generation to go to school. From those, very few will keep going on to further education. The majority have the burden of helping out with the house bills and bringing up the younger siblings just like it is in their country of origin. The same as their parents did and so did their grandparents. The majority will marry young, just as their parents and grandparents did. They are still kids, and these kids end up having kids young too.
This is a cycle that varies only a little and is difficult to break. That is because it is systematic and patriarchal, beyond territorial borders.
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Ilka Oliva Corado. @ilkaolivacorado