How My Community Has Helped Me Heal
Three days before my third birthday, my mom crossed the US-Mexico border with me attached to her hip. Only in her mid-twenties, she made the treacherous journey from Honduras to the United States eventually settling in Northern Virginia. Fortunately, my mom did not have to face this alone. The group she was traveling with offered to carry me every few miles, so she could rest. During breaks, they gave us extra food and water. At times when there were shouts of the Border Patrol being around, they prioritized hiding us first. These acts of kindness and solidarity are what first come to mind when I think about celebrating Latinx Heritage Month. Despite all of the attacks we are facing, my community has continued to help me heal.
During my final years of high school, my classmates were getting their driver’s license, filling out college applications, and planning senior trips. As an undocumented student, I was not able to experience these rites of passage with them. I came up with excuses on why I didn’t have my learner’s permit and on why I hadn’t committed to a college yet. When in reality, I had started to give up on the idea of higher education. Because of my status, I was not able to apply for federal or state financial aid. At that time, scholarships were also very limited for undocumented/DACAmented people. On top of the financial barrier, the application process was foreign to me. Unlike most of my peers, my family was unable to provide the most useful tips on writing personal statements or which boxes to check off.
Feeling frustrated and desperate, I would come home crying to my parents telling them I was never going to be able to make up for their sacrifices. My parents admitted they knew this part of my life was going to be difficult, but they were confident they had raised a daughter who was strong and capable enough to power through it. Immediately, I got to work and combed through every single resource that my school and universities had to offer. Eventually, I met a group of students that were facing the same barriers as I was.
This community was a mix of undocumented/DACAmented folks, TPS holders, green card holders, and citizens. They embraced my fears and feelings of defeat by telling their own stories. We shared tips and resources on college applications, DACA renewal funds, and legal aid. We were there for each other when any of us or our family members had run-ins with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). When anyone was detained, we organized and fundraised to free them. Once I went through my college journey and finally graduated, I realized that I was not only part of a community, but also a movement.
It is a movement that fights ferociously for the LGBTQ+ community, Black lives, reproductive justice, labor rights, and environmental justice. It was born from the pain of growing up watching how cruelly this country treated our parents and the injustice that brown and black bodies continue to face every day.
Even before the Trump administration, my community faced ruthless and endless attacks. From the US-funded death squads terrorizing our homelands to the ICE raids that separate our families, we are still doing our best at being resilient. But quite honestly, I’m exhausted. I am tired of the band-aid solutions to systems that were created to break us down and destroy our mental health. I am tired of corporations decimating and occupying indigenous lands. I am tired of our youth experiencing the trauma of being separated from their parents and loved ones.
With all this painful history, my community continues to heal and support one another. This Latinx Heritage Month, I celebrate the solidarity and love that they share with me.