[portfolio_slideshow id=6140] By Jason Fuller
Imagine waking up to a world that restricts your opportunities and places little value on your life. Your expectations and contributions to society are perceived to be minimal and you have another strike against you, you are a Latina woman. This is no dream. For Latina women across the country, the opportunity to better themselves is often a weight upon their families. It becomes a battle of short-term and long-term quality of life; often, individuals are encouraged to go off to college and better themselves, but at the same time, they feel an obligation to find a job after high school and support their families right away. This reality is faced by two of the young ladies within the PBS documentary “The Graduates/Los Graduados”.
I found myself especially touched by Chastity from The Bronx. This young lady’s family is homeless (an issue inadequately addressed within our country), but she still treasures her family. She is the oldest child in her family and took the pain from homelessness and channeled it into academic excellence. Moreover, her passion for multimedia journalism (which came out during her college interview) is directly related to our work.
Another captivating story was that of Darlene from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her father’s absence from the home when she was growing up helped form her identity. As a result, she admitted to herself that she felt that education & poverty impacted her decision to simply want a family. Although she isn’t in the greatest position, she draws her strength from her son, who attends Head Start. The fact that her child pushes her to pursue higher education shows that positive influence has no age requirement.
The backdrop of each story is the family support system. This system is the backbone that propels communities of color academically. This holistic support system is a vital piece to how I have navigated UNM over the last 5 years. I have the highest admiration for Latinas in academic settings. The reality of being a young Latina is something which I can never fully comprehend or experience. In academia, people of color are subliminally asked to leave their culture at the door, and as a young Black male, I can relate to these alienation efforts that institutions engage in.
The documentary The Graduates was touching, and showed a reality too close to home. The Latina experience is not far removed from the African American experience. The clear cut theme was that location seemed to have very little impact on the status of these young Latinas. It didn’t matter if they lived in The Bronx, Tulsa, or Chicago. The socio-economic status (SES) of Latino Americans has drastic implications for our country as a whole. This is due to the rising number of Latino families and the lack of resources within their grasp. As a result of such a rising demographic, systems of support must be launched if we as a country have the ambition to be great. This documentary yet again humbles me, which is why I believe young people have experienced a great deal allowing us to be experts in this world.