She is 12 years old…The story of how I was saved

She is 12 years old… yet inside she feels much older.

She is scared and confused. She is unloved and unwanted. Her clothes are worn and tattered, her hair is frizzy and uncombed. Her family has cast her aside. She is just a few shades darker, her hair just a few layers thicker, yet somehow that is enough reason to tell her she does not belong. She is naive. She is shy. Her self-esteem is utterly broken. Although she has visited a few churches in her life, she does not know the Lord. She has heard His name spoken. She has read a few verses. Yet she is still empty, with a void no one can fill.

She is 12 years old…and already thinking suicide.

Her mother is nowhere to be found. Her father just doesn’t get it. She wonders if there is a God, and if He notices the words that have been carved into her heart. “You are good for nothing,” “You will never amount to anything,” “Why can’t you be more like your sisters?” “Why were you born?” “Are you even mine?”

She is 12 years old…and walks into a Friday youth service

She is wearing a navy blue dress down to her knees. The dress has red and purple flowers. She will forever remember this dress, and the details of this day, yet she does not know it yet. While the music plays she begins to cry. She does not know how the tears started, and why her chest feels like it will burst. She sobs uncontrollably. She cannot make it stop. She is broken. The preacher calls all the youth to come forward. She watches from her seat as about 10 of them go up. He begins to pray over their lives. When suddenly he looks over at her, signals her with his finger, and tells her to come forward. She doesn’t notice the finger pointing at her, her eyes are closed. But she feels the finger of God pointing at her heart. She walks up, trembling and scared.

She is 12 years old…when God speaks to her heart

The preacher tells her to stand in the middle of a circle formed by the youth. He looks at her and asks the congregation “Does this girl know the Lord?” Her eyes are still closed. She cannot hear what people are saying, she does not want to hear them. She just wants to hear the Lord. Suddenly he says to the youth, words coming from the very mouth of God “Look at her, all of you! For she is my mirror. Every time you want to know how you should be, how you should act, how you should look…look at her, and you will see Me.”

She is 12 years old…when she gives her heart to the Lord

She did not know the Lord, but He had known her all her life. He had been watching her steps, He had been following her closely, and He has saved her from all the pain and hurt that tried to hold her captive. And though she may seem to be just a young girl, she is signaled out with a divine purpose. She is saved, and from this day forward her life will never be the same.

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11 Things I learned from my Chilean father

1) Not to leave things for the last minute, but to do them….Altiro!

Altiro is a term meaning fast, like a shooting bullet. This is the speed things needed to be done when he was home.

2) To ride a bicycle….con muchas ganas mi hijita

My father immigrated to America over 30 years ago and opened his own bicycle store in New York City. He had the Chilean entrepreneur spirit, and began his bicycle business from the ground up.

3) To eat raw onions…like a boss.

Chileans love onions. In fact, a traditional Chilean salad consists of only peeled tomatoes and onions. Eating raw onions is good for the heart, for the breath…not so much.

4) Not to cry over ex’s…No hay mal que 100 años dure

No pain lasts forever, and definitely no ex is worth crying over.

5) …and if I felt like crying anyway, to drink water because… agua no puede entrar y salir a la misma vez

I learned that drinking a glass of water helps stop you from crying. His theory is that water cannot come into your body and leave at the same time.

6) To always say a prayer before driving off…Padre Santo Celestial Jesus del Cielo..

Saying a prayer before driving off keeps you from car accidents on the road.

7) To keep my big mouth shut…en boca cerrada, no entran moscas

While eating raw onions is definitely a good reason to keep my mouth shut, another reason was to stop me from becoming a gossip. Keeping my mouth shut stops flies from getting in and ruining a good conversation by saying too much.

8) Not to be gullible or naïve and provoke the expression: Te falta una chaucha pa’l peso

Meaning, you are a quarter short of a dollar in your common sense.

9) To always carry a pen and a handkerchief in my pocket…Por si las moscas

I learned to always be prepared in case I needed to sign something, or blow my nose. According to my father, there is nothing more degrading than asking a stranger for a pen, or a handkerchief.

10) The words to the Star Spangled Banner…y despues me la canta mi hijita

It was important to him that I be knowledgeable of the American culture. He insisted I go to the Library and pick up a book on the National Anthem of the United States, and learn it word for word.

11) To be proud of my heritage and honored to say….Viva Chile!

Growing up Latina: The Blended Family

A blended family is one that is made up of children from previous marriages.  Growing up Latina in my house, I can attest that my family was definitely put through la liquadora. There is no other way to describe my family other than a strange hot mess. And while not all Latino families are blended, I would dare say that a big portion of them are, or have been. This is because men (not all, but some) just had to make for themselves “una casa pequeña” (a small house) meaning the house shared with their amante and not the mother of their children. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am by no means judging my father. After all, we all make decisions that are not always the best. Still, it seemed to me that my father seemed to create way too many “casas pequeñas” and when it comes to bleneded families we are pretty extreme. How extreme? Let’s just say I have 3 brothers, and 5 sisters from different mothers….oh, and then there’s the one sister who also claims she is a sister, but the paternity test has not yet confirmed it. Too bad there is no Hispanic Maury, or we would have totally gone on the show….and rocked it.

Growing up in a blended family is actually not as bad as it may seem. Some of my siblings are from both set of parents, and others like me, are los unicos. Yet to be honest, I never felt them as anything less than my siblings. We don’t all look the same, and that is often what you get when you have blended families. I did always feel like I was different than the rest though, and in large part that is due to my mother being Puerto Rican and the rest of the family being exclusively Chilean. Still, we learned to embrace one another despite the image barriers and not all having the same biological mothers.

I think the only way things like this ever work is if there is a parent willing to overlook the differences and say hey, you guys are hermanos…no matter what. And that is exactly what our father did. He reunited us for holidays and tried as much as he could to make us be present in each other’s lives. At the end of the day, although I am the only child of the union between my mother and father, I have a lot of siblings, and could not imagine my life turning out any other way. I also just recently came into contact with siblings on my mother’s side as well and all I can say is that now I find myself even more complete. So all in all, despite my blended family being pretty darn loca, I have come to the conclusion that it is what it is. If it wasn’t for my father’s choices, I would not be here today. This just proves that God can bring beauty even out of brokenness.  This is the family that was chosen for me, and I could not imagine having grown up any other way.

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6 Annoying Questions to Quit Asking Latinos

My name is Elizabeth, and I am a Latina currently living in the south. I moved here about eight years ago, and it seemed almost instantly after the move that I began getting approached by people asking me some pretty awkward questions. After several years of putting up with these types of questions and brushing them off as sheer ignorance, I decided I would take a stance on it, and outline once and for all some of the most annoying questions you should quit asking Latinos:

1) Do you speak English?

The problem with this question is not the question itself, but the automatic assumption that it comes with. Yes, we speak English, but the fact that you took one look at us and automatically assumed we didn’t is what makes this the number one question on our list. This one comes in many forms, such as “Wow, your English is really good!” or “Where did you learn to speak English so well?”  Unless you hear us say “No hablo Ingles” please don’t assume the contrary.

2) Are you legal?

Straight out asking a Latino’s legal status is not only rude but incredibly offensive. The question might seem innocent to some, but what are you really asking here? Are you asking me if I am a criminal? Are you assuming based on my ethnicity that I do not have the same right to be here as you? Unless you are wearing an immigration badge on your chest, you have no right to ask this question, so please don’t.

3) What part of Mexico are you from?

Mexico is a beautiful country full of color, life and diversity. However, one thing that needs to be made perfectly clear is that we are NOT ALL from Mexico. We are a people made from all over Latin America. We speak the same unifying language of Spanish, but it comes from different parts. So no, we don’t all have the same definitions for every word. Please don’t make the assumption we are all from the same place, it actually makes you sound quite ignorant.

4) Is that like…a culture thing?

I hear Maria has 5 kids. Or Juan lives with all his cousins. Or Carlos cheated on his wife. Is that like, a cultural thing? NO. It’s not. Sometimes it’s not always a cultural thing at all. Sometimes it’s just a female thing. A religious thing. A male thing. A generational thing, a stupidity thing. Don’t jump the gun at making assumptions.

5) Where are you from? No really, where? Seriously….where?

We get asked this question all the time. What makes this an awkward question for us is that it never just ends there. Complete strangers feel the need to shake up our family tree until they get something out of us. If we like you enough, we will be glad to share all about our awesome heritage with you, but please respect when we don’t feel the need to give your our entire genealogy typed up. My father is from Chile, my mother is from Puerto Rico. I’m a mixture of both, but since I was born in New York, that’s where I’m from…..yeah, seriously.

6) That’s funny, you don’t look Latino (a)?

Well, what did you expect me to look like? Dora the explorer? We come in many shades of color. Some of us have fair skin and blue eyes, while others have dark skin and textured hair. This is the beauty that makes up our people. We are all so uniquely different. Yet at the end of the day, we are no different than you. We are a hard working community made up of thousands of entrepreneurs, laborers and teachers. We are law enforcement, bus drivers, and daycare workers. We are mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. We love deeply and feel deeply. So please, think twice before asking us these annoying questions.

Photo: photo.elsoar.com

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Because I did not have a mother…

There are millions of motherless daughters across the country. Sadly, they often go invisible. The impact that losing a mother can have on a young girl is powerful and ultimately shapes her into the person she will become. When I was 3 years old, I lost my mother to AIDS. This was in the 80’s when the drug era was booming. She ultimately contracted the virus through the use of needles and forced me to have to say goodbye long before I was ready. Sadly, this is how her story ended, and how mine began. As some motherless children will tell you, there is a sense of insecurity that creeps up on you after losing a mother. Feelings of under value and lack of self-worth take hold of you. Am I beautiful? Do I need make up? Who will teach me the basics? How will I learn to take care of myself? The pain of having such an important role model ripped out of your life never really goes away. Instead it lingers quietly. It followed me around all through childhood. Unlike most of my friends, there were no ribbons in my hair. No cute matching outfits. No pretend jewelry. I didn’t dress up in my mother’s high heels. There were no scrapbooks of my drawings. When I found out I was pregnant with my first child I must admit I was terrified at the thought of being a mother. The one thought I struggled with constantly was “How can I be a mother, if I never had one?” It was at that point in my life that I allowed this tragedy in my life to turn into a blessing

Because I did not have a mother…I Allowed God to Guide me

I put my trust in the Lord wholeheartedly. I knew that because there was no one to show me how to be a good mother, I prayed that somehow He would show me. Even in the most basic things, like potty training my daughters I prayed. I asked God for His hands to guide my heart. I asked not to be a perfect mother, because I knew there was no way anyone could be perfect, but rather, I asked to be the kind of mother that honored Him, and brought Him glory.

Because I did not have a mother…I imitated Godly Women

I had the wonderful opportunity to work for a Christian family when I was in my teens. The mother of this family had 5 children and was in need of a babysitter to help her while she home schooled. I watched her as she spoke to her children. There was a firmness in her voice, but also a sweetness. I watched her as she did activities with them, held family traditions, and family dinners. Because I did not have a mother, there were many different parenting styles I observed, and somehow they had great impressions on my life. Years later, I now find myself imitating a lot of what I saw this godly woman do with her children.

Because I did not have a mother…I Taught Myself to Cook

The basic things girls pick up from their mothers were absent to me. So I made it a point to learn from others. I kept a small notebook (and have it still) of all the recipes I learned from the older women in my church. I practiced these after I got married, and honestly burned a lot of meals. However, I did not allow that to deter me from learning how to cook.  I asked my neighbors if they would teach me recipes when something they cooked turned out good. I also searched the internet constantly looking for things to make, and I can’t help but smile when I think of how far I have come.

Because I did not have a mother…I Value Myself

Because I know that pain, I value my own life. I take care of myself and hope every day to be there in the life of my children. Because I never want them to feel what I felt, I make every effort to be there for them.  I realize my life is not my own. That I am indeed loved and needed by three little people, and want to be there for them for as long as God will allow it.

 Because I did not have a mother…I Love Deeply On My Children

I give hugs throughout the day. I kiss round cheeks several hundred times. I embrace them every chance I get. See, a motherless daughter knows what it’s like to not feel the arms of her mother around her, yet my children will never know that feeling.

To you who are a motherless child, perhaps your mother was not there for all the important moments in your life. Maybe she missed your first steps, your graduation, or your first date. Maybe she didn’t get to see how beautiful you looked walking down the aisle, or hold your hand as you labored with your children. However, do not allow this to hurt you any longer. Instead, allow yourself to rise. Be there for your children. Love on them, encourage them and continue to support them. May they never feel the hurt, but remember always the beauty and grace in which you carried them in the ways of the Lord.

Photo:http://weheartit.com/rastedfromderejn

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God’s letter to the stay at home mom

My Daughter,

I see you every morning when you rise. What time is it you wonder? You fumble in the dark searching for the light. You slept an extra 5 minutes today which means you need to hustle. I see you as you wake your children for school. You brush their teeth and place ribbons in their hair. Their tummy’s are full and they are rushed out the door. Did you get anything to eat? No time. Yet as long as they are fed, that is all that matters. I listen to you as you sing along to the radio on your drive back home. So many errands, so little time.  At home you pick up toys, and sweep your kitchen floor for the 4th time. You rock your child to sleep, and thank me when her tiny eyes finally close. Do you use this time to nap? To shower? To do something for yourself? No. I know you. This is the time you use to do as much as you can around the house, even though no one will ever notice it.

My child, every day you sacrifice your needs for the needs of your children. I see that hot dinner you prepared today, and how it makes you feel when no one will eat it. “Thanks for the dinner hon, but I picked up something at work,”You know I don’t like that mom,” “Can we have something else?” The banana bread you baked, that will sit untouched, I can feel your heart sink.  I see the the laundry you washed and the dread in your eyes knowing you have to match every sock for the 100th time.   I see your hurting feet, your aching back. Your desire to mingle with other moms with kids your age, and your longing to go back to work. I have watched you from your birth. I saw the day you placed  your ambitions on hold for something more important. You decided the pay cut was worth watching those first steps. You let your degree collect dust, because collecting memories was more important. You walked out on the work force because walking out on your children was not an option. You are raising the next generation, and I could not be more proud.

My daughter, there will be many days you will feel brokenhearted. There will be many nights you will feel completely and utterly defeated. There will be days when you will receive no thank you’s, no hugs and no I love you’s. But know this….you are amazing. You are precious in my sight, you are greatly loved, and I SEE you.

All my love,

Your Heavenly Father

Photo: YazolinoGirl/istock.com

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A Love Letter to New York City

Dear New York City,

What’s Poppin’? It’s been so long since I visited you. So long since I waited for my train and been serenaded on the platform by musicians who dream of making it big one day. It’s been a while since I rode inside one of your subway carts and seen the young teens do their acrobatic stunts, nearly kicking me in the face in hopes to raise money and “keep themselves out of trouble.” I wonder at times how you are doing. I miss your cold shoulder. The rush of people always having somewhere to go. I miss my $1.50 slice of pizza, and my Snapple that goes with it. It doesn’t bother me that you had three locks on your doors or bars on your windows. It doesn’t scare me that your fire escapes sent pedestrians right up to your bedroom windows. Your beauty was everywhere. It could be seen in the pigeons who wander central park. It could be tasted in the Italian ices sold on street corners. It could be felt in the backseat of taxi cabs, where the drivers  might as well be NASCAR racers. Take me to your restaurants once again, where Latin food is on point. Where people can order to their hearts desire, and not be over charged. Where mom and pop businesses are around longer than we can remember, and the corner store man still remembers your name. Take me to El barrio, to the small breakfast joints, where you can meet the lady who sells you the latest bootleg dvd for $5.00, and you know it’s a gamble if it works. Please know I think of you often, and hope to visit soon. You are and forever will be, the greatest city in the world.

Photo: PEXELS (under CC0 Lisence)

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5 things to keep in mind when raising a bilingual child

I’ve been wanting to write on the topic of bilingual children for quite some time. I have three children myself and being that our heritage is very diverse (Chile, Puerto Rico, Mexico and El Salvador) it was only natural that we would want our children raised bilingual. The question however was how to do it. As I began my bilingual journey with each of my children, I soon realized there were 5 things I needed to keep in mind:

1) English can wait
It is only natural that we would want to teach our children English first. After all, we want people to be able to communicate with them and understand them early on. However, I have found that allowing your child to become familiarized with Spanish first actually works best. There is no better way to teach a child a language than to have total immersion in it. In those early years, parents can create that immersion for them. Do not rush to push English. English can wait. When your child is old enough for school, he will be surrounded 8 hours a day by English speakers. It will be a complete immersion all over again, but this time it will just be adding on to the already solid foundation you have created in Spanish.

2) Embrace the setbacks
There will be many setbacks that come with raising a bilingual child. One of them is that your child will likely be behind his peers in the first years of school. The reason this happens is because while other children are learning basic vocabulary words in English, your child is learning them in a different language. I first noticed this when my daughter Sarah entered Pre-K. Her vocabulary scores were low, yet it wasn’t that she didn’t know the words. It was just that she knew them in Spanish. If you notice that scores are coming in low, don’t panic. I know we all want our kids to earn good grades, but trust me, this will not stay this way forever. Eventually, your child will catch up and even surpass his peers. Those first few years will sting, but once you’re able to come to terms with those setbacks you will be able to move on successfully.

3) Rules matter
It is easy to set rules in the home, following them faithfully however is a different story. Having language rules at home is a great way to encourage your children to speak Spanish. There are many rules you can set, for example one rule could be no English in the home, or no English at the dinner table. Other rules can include only listening to music in Spanish while in the home, or only watching movies or tv shows in Spanish. If you set consistent rules, your child will appreciate them and be inclined to follow them. As always, be prepared to lead by example.

4) Be patient
There will be times when you will feel like giving up. After all, we live in America right? Who needs Spanish here anyway? Do not give up! Even though we are in America, the demand for bilingual individuals is growing constantly every day. Even if your child refuses to speak the language, continue to speak it to him constantly throughout the day as you see appropriate. Even just listening to it has huge impacts. Do not yell at your child, or punish them for not speaking Spanish. Doing so will only make them even less willing to try. Remember that patience is key when raising a bilingual child, so don’t let it wear thin!

5) Ignore the negative voices
There will be people who will wonder why you are only speaking Spanish to your child. They will probably want to judge you and say you are creating a disadvantage to your child. Do not listen to them, they could not be more wrong. If you ignore their words, you will come out a winner in the end. Although it is true that there will be many people who will have a hard time communicating with your child. Remember, your child lives in America. Learning English is guaranteed to them. Learning Spanish is not. Raising a bilingual child is a journey, there will be days when you may fall off track. However, it is never too late to jump back in. Keep at it, you will be glad you did!

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Hispanic American

5 things Hispanics born in America want you to know

My name is Elizabeth, and I was born in the United States, specifically in New York City. My father was a Chilean immigrant, and my mother a Hispanic American born in the US as well. While being part of two cultures is in many ways rewarding, especially when you consider the benefits of being raised with dual languages, there are also several unique hurdles that are faced only by Hispanic Americans. So if you are reading this, and you know someone who is a Hispanic born in the United States, here is a list of 5 things they probably want you to know about them:

1) We are just as American as you are
Many times people look at us and ask us where we are from. When we respond we are from a certain state, the response is typically “No, really…where are you from….originally?” What Hispanic Americans want you to understand, is that this is our country too. Even though our parents may come from other countries, this is the place of our birth. We are not here illegally, or undocumented. We went to the same schools, we learned everything the white, black and Asian kids learned. We know the culture. We listen to the same music, watch the same television shows, and enjoy the same movies. Although we may visit the countries our parents came from, it will never be as familiar to us as this one. We pledge our allegiance to the same flag. We are American too.

2) We must speak Spanish, there is no choice

There is no way around this one. If you are Hispanic, and your parents are Hispanic, you need to speak Spanish, period. Being born in the United States does not give us a free pass on this one. This is because of the shaming that often occurs within families. Sadly, a Hispanic that does not speak Spanish will often be singled out and made to feel less of him or herself.  Most households believe that not speaking the language makes you not proud of your heritage. Even worse, they believe that a Hispanic who refuses to speak the Spanish language is considered to be “Americanized” in the sense that they have lost an important part of who they are by opting to only speak English. This is what we have to deal with. Now here is where it gets tricky. We want to be recognized as Americans yet there is nothing more shameful to our own family members than being an “Americanized” Hispanic, ironic isn’t it?

3) Other Hispanics think we are arrogant

There are several Hispanics in the United States that were born in other countries, and have come to the United States for various reasons. Often times, they consider the Hispanics born in this country to be rather arrogant and cocky. They think we consider ourselves better than the rest, simply because we were born on the “other side” of the river, so to speak. However, just because we speak English does not mean we look at ourselves as high and mighty. Sadly, this is just a misconception.

4) We have a hard time fitting in

The Americans don’t find us American enough, and the Hispanics don’t find us Hispanic enough. This is a struggle we face constantly. We have the best of both worlds, yet we can’t find a 100% mesh with either side, and honestly I don’t think there will ever be one. Hispanics born in other countries will look at you funny if you mispronounce a word in Spanish, or even worse, don’t know the definition. Try explaining to them that you were born here, and that’s a whole other story. We never hear the end of it.

5) We love our dual heritage

We love everything about being Hispanic. We love our food, our music, our diversity. We watch Spanish Soap Operas with our grandmothers, and dance to music while we clean our kitchens, or cook our dinners. This is who we are. We cannot change it. We will not change it. We are proud of who we are and where we come from. Yet we still love America, its freedom and everything it stands for. If that is not what makes up this amazing melting pot, then I don’t know what is!

Photo: Mettus/Shutterstock.com

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