Category — community

Guest post about Lateens

guest post by Laura Elena Morales Garza

My name is Laura Elena and I’m a psychologist and an English teacher, with a Master’s Degree on Linguistics in English. I started teaching at 17 and have been doing so for the last 30 years. I’ve taught ESL in all levels, from elementary school through University, and from beginners – advanced. For the last 13 years I’ve been teaching at a private university in Mexico, and have been in charge of the language department for the last 5. I’m currently teaching the advanced level and my main focus is to have students become proficient in the use of the language; most of my students have  had contact with English since they were toddlers, and have studied in bilingual schools, or private schools where ESL is a very important part of the school curriculum.

As part of my Advanced English class I decided to use some of the material from brandlateen.com.  I selected 13 different entries, printed them out and gave a different one to each student. My students read them on their own and then we all sat down together to share and discuss each story.

My class is made up of 19 students with an Advanced English level, with a TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score of over 550 pts. They are all freshmen in a Private University, and most of them started learning ESL since they were 5 or 6 years old.

The whole activity took about 80 minutes and students shared and discussed personal experiences:

  • A girl had lived for some time in the USA and she had the experience of working as an interpreter for some government agency; among the things she had to do were to tell people they had lost their job, or that they were required to have certain papers in order for them to receive some service. She had to do this with people who spoke only Spanish, and she had to live difficult moments when these people asked her to help them and to tell her employer not to fire them or to ask for something. She said she couldn’t do all this, she only had to translate and she couldn’t help these people, making her have mixed feelings.
  • Several  students have had the experience of helping their parents when they have gone to the States as the parents don’t speak English and they do; so they’ve been translators several times and under different circumstances. One of the boys has not only been a translator when traveling, but he’s had to help with the business; his father has  a franchise from an international company, and he’s had to help with contracts and business issues. He feels the pressure, as a  lot depends on his performance, and not only the written papers, but also on the interviews and phone calls he constantly has to make.
  •  The students mentioned how they identify with the description of Lateens depicted in several stories, even though they are Mexicans living in Mexico, they feel they have the same roots, share cultural experiences and family stories.
  •  About homosexuality they feel that it’s a big taboo in our society, so they concluded that it must be really difficult for a lateen to accept his/her homosexuality. Mixed feelings, which are normal in these cases, become even stronger when lateens are living in an “open” society, but in a very narrow-minded culture at home.
  •  When talking about reading students reported how little they read! It is a big problem in our country, and students are used to reading only when it is mandatory for school – several of them even reported that the only reading they have done this semester are the two books that are mandatory for my subject!  I asked them if they were read to when they were children, and only 3 or 4 students remembered being read to before going to bed.  We have a Chinese exchange student girl in this class and she had never had this experience, she even had trouble understanding what I meant, but then she grasped the idea and was happy to report that her grandmother always told her stories before going to bed – reading to children is not part of her culture, but telling stories is, and it normally is done by elders.
  •  There were a lot of comments on how Hispanics will be taking over a few years from now, as long as they become aware of the power they can have should they decide to continue studying. Given the large number of Hispanics living in the US, education and unity can make the difference.

All in all the activity proved to be very productive, not only because students were able to practice their English, but because through a meaningful experience they were able to analyze and discuss current problems that we sometimes don’t know about. We normally look at immigration problems related to deportation or jobs our migrants may obtain. Brandlateen blog gave us an insight into everyday situations, and it gave us an opportunity to reflect and analyze our own life.

After class, and to round up the activity, the students were asked to go into the web page and give feedback to either the entry they had read in class, or to a different one. It was very satisfactory to learn that most of them read some more of the entries and gave feedback to a different one from the one they had originally read.

March 26, 2011   3 Comments

Niños Californianos: A New Face For California Youth

Last week, early census numbers revealed that more than half of the children in California are Latino.  The country’s most populous state is the first to follow the forecasts of Hispanics overtaking whites as the largest minority.  If you’d like to read a little more about this new statistic, check it out here.

This confirms that Hispanics are indeed the face of California’s future (as if we didn’t already know).  A state like California, rich in culture, and the once main destination for many Americans, is yet again in a state of flux.  Only this time, it is facing a different challenge.  Regardless of what the numbers say, this reality is a tough one for many people to swallow.  California is the setting for a bulk of Hispanic history in America, so this news seems very fitting, especially for the time.  And considering the state’s political landscape, changes like these are more welcomed than they are in other regions of the country.  But California will not be the only state where Hispanics take the lead for long.  So any local or state initiatives that affect Hispanics will serve as a model for other states soon to follow the trend.

The most important initiative must be education.  With most children in Cali now being Latino, efforts to revitalize and sustain quality education, maintain schools, and recruit and retain well-qualified teachers can no longer be segmented.  When you live in a state where most of your children are Hispanic, and when Hispanics are more likely to drop out of school than any other group, reaching them is not an option and should not be taken lightly.

In our work with the local Hispanic high schools, we have met so many promising students with the will and the wit to not only get into college, but excel in college.  Young Hispanics in America stand out.  Many times their focus is on the wrong thing, but under no circumstances does this mean they’re not smart.  They’re born with a common sense many adults don’t even possess, and whether it’s through their own experiences, or witnessing their parents’ drive, they understand hard work.  If California is going to continue serving as a pillar of this nation, the state’s leaders much begin connecting with its children now.  And although education needs to remain the focus, merely getting to know them, and learning to understand how they think must be achieved as well.  And it needs to happen now.  I read a distasteful article the other day published by Tulsa World titled “Hispanic Population Growing; we must deal with it.”  Granted, even though the home of many Indian reservations, Oklahoma isn’t exactly considered famous for its embracement of diversity.  But this article was published less than a month ago, and proves that if the kids in California are already mostly Hispanic, then the rest of the country still has quite a ways to go.

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March 15, 2011   1 Comment

Adios 2010

It’s been a little while.  First of all, Happy 2011!  Brand Lateen has been up and running for almost a full year, and we’re excited to see what this year has in store for us.  As we gear up for yet another year of discoveries about our evolving young Latino consumer, let’s first bid a proper despedida to 2010.

I’ll start with an update on how our program at W.H. Adamson High School finished out.  Our four classes did a wonderful job, and we saw a positive change in attitude in many of the students.  From having little to no interest in advertising, and very limited knowledge of the field, a lot of the students had done a complete 180 by the last day of the program.  As they came closer to a finished product, enthusiasm we had not seen prior began to emerge from many of them.

We ended it all with a day at the agency and then each class presented their campaigns to a board of judges.  The judges chose the Boost Mobile campaign as the winner based on how well-thought out and consistent it was throughout.  Their presentation had the least hiccups of any of the groups, and they kept their audience engaged and informed.  Their creative was very in touch with the brand, and much of the artwork done for the project was outstanding.  Each person in the Boost Mobile group was awarded a $10 gift certificate to Target, a free extra value meal and a free hot chocolate from McDonald’s.

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January 3, 2011   1 Comment

Some Hip-Hop

What is hip-hop to you?

Is it black?  Is it white?  Is it brown?  Is it rich?  Is it poor?  East coast?  West coast?  South side?  Is it Snoop and Dre, or is it Tribe and WU?  Is it bling and success?  Or is it struggle and pain?  Can we still hear it today?  Or de we have to go back a few years…or even decades?

If the above doesn’t really make any sense, I’ll try to explain.  For BrandLateen purposes, the important thing to know is that true Hip-Hop is the one music that tells the intricate stories of unpredictable inner-city life.  Samples from jazz and blues rhythms, mixed with heavy beats and harsh lyrics, the music has experience rapid evolution since its inception almost 40 years ago.  Most Hip-Hop artists are black, and the majority of songs are written from an African-American cultural perspective.  A handful of black artists and fanatics will argue that musicians of other races robbed the black culture of one of its creations.  That’s a radical argument considering it’s a music that originally sprung from a passion for exaggerated, emotional expression (like most music, arguably).  But the real students of Hip-Hop understand that it’s an art form that bridges and transcends cultures.  After all, inner-city life is a culture in itself, infused in all of its inhabitants, regardless of background.

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September 10, 2010   1 Comment

A Lateen in a Latin Country.

Visiting another house isn’t always the easiest or most comfortable thing to do. Now, in case you haven’t already, imagine visiting a country. Meeting new people can be challenging, so think about meeting over 100 individuals and living in the same space with them for over 300 hours. Sounds scary I know, but I can honestly say that my recent experience in Costa Rica was one that made me grow into a better person.

It all started Friday, July 16 at 4 in the morning, maybe even earlier since I couldn’t fall asleep due to excitement. I got up, looked around my room, and noticed my blue backpack, a small luggage bag full to the brim, my money next to my passport, and my ID. Before I knew it I was hugging my dad and saying my goodbye.

Shortly after, I got a hug myself, but it was actually just the security guard wrapping his arms around me as he searched me (a little too slowly I might add) at the DFW Airport. First stop: Houston. I felt like we arrived there as soon as I closed my eyes. I continued to absorb my surroundings. And all of a sudden it hit me – I was all on my own. After a couple of hours I was finally walking onto the next plane. I made sure I had both of my cameras and my cell phone. I knew the island wasn’t going to have signal for my mobile, but I carried it to listen to music. Hours after I buckled up, the plane’s captain made two announcements: First, to be courteous to the people next to you. Second, to enjoy the first view of the Costa Rican coast. [Read more →]

August 4, 2010   1 Comment

Little Adults

When I was in, let’s say, the third grade, one of the most fun things I got to do was help my very Mexican grandmother pay bills.  She moved to the U.S. from Puebla to be close to us, and as a result, it turned out that she also took on a serious amount of cooking responsibilities.  Anyway, when the first and middle of the month came around, my dad would take me to her apartment (about 2 minutes from our house) to visit, and do chores that to this day I feel they completely made up.  Part of the task was to help Abuelita look after her finances.  Small apartment, so there was rent.  Utilities consisted of electric, water, and trash.  Cable wasn’t important so she didn’t have it.  Mi abuela, Vicenta, never bothered to learn even the slightest bit of English, therefore, the mail she didn’t toss consisted of bills.  My dad thought it would be a nice gesture for me to help her make the payments, not so much because he thought he was teaching me a vital duty, but probably more because two adults got a kick out of watching a 7-year-old write checks.  Either way, I learned how to write a check as a young kid.  Think about that playground banter.  “You beat me in a race?  Whatever.  I write checks!  Para mi abuela.  ¿QUÉ?”

That was me, then, different situation too.

Today, there are still plenty of young second generation Hispanics not only filling out checks, but translating medical conversations, city ordinances, legal documents, and a number of other adult-like tasks, trust me.  Most of the time, the young people who are in charge of these kinds of things tend to be older now.  But regardless of age, they’re often faced with important matters to resolve.  How do you think it must feel in between a doctor and your mother, when you have to translate the doctor’s bad news and serious concern regarding high blood pressure?  Once negative predictions and details are revealed, immediate worry may settle in fast.  How would you react to having to tell your parents that the house you’re renting is soon to be bulldozed to make way for new condominiums?  I know, these are extremes, but for immigrant families this is often an unkind reality.  As kids, it’s not their concern, and they’re not expected to do anything about it.  But as the interpreters, they know everything.  I’m not totally sure, but I think it’s safe to say that no matter your background or culture, you strive to shield your children from these types of malas notcias.

Most Lateens don’t get that guard though.  In many Hispanic families, the role of sole interpreter is always established.  It’ll usually be the oldest kid, and that child has an actual job.  It’s almost like a service.  I wouldn’t say they mature faster, but they do acquire this sort of skill set early, early on.  And when times get tough, they’re right in the heat of it.  It doesn’t necessarily make them smarter of savvier (well, maybe), but in a way it does rob them of their innocence and childhood.  Do you think this role exists in non-Hispanic families?  Highly unlikely.

So what do you think?  Advantage or disadvantage?  It’s a fine line.  Does possessing knowledge of adult burdens make you more mature?  I don’t know.  Nevertheless, Lateens today carry more weight than you think.  This might add some insight to the rough edges you notice once in a while.  The grownup persona could be there for more reasons than you imagine.

July 27, 2010   6 Comments

Am I Latina Enough?

Am I Latina enough? That was the question. I decided that the best way for me to try to come to grips with my new-found “mini identity crisis” was to talk to my parents about it. If anyone can help me understand where I fit on the Latina spectrum, surely it would be the people that raised me.

I started filling them in on my hesitation, when my dad says to me, “So, are you finally going to start being a Latina?” Thanks Dad—all my doubts are now confirmed—or so I thought. My mom’s take on the situation is a bit different. We’ve never really talked about our cultural identity, but now that the subject has been brought up, the floodgates are opened. I learned that my mother and I share the same struggles about where we fit in as Latinas.

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July 26, 2010   2 Comments

Lateens and Authority

It is a common characteristic for teenagers (and no differently for Lateens) to act tough, to portray invincibility, and to pretend nothing hurts them, especially when they are around each other. But are they pretending? How tough are teenagers, really? When it comes to dealing with authority, how “invincible” are Lateens?

Let’s just pretend for a second that the most sacred of Lateens’ rights is violated by, say, a teacher, priest, family member or family friend, would they be brave enough to admit it to somebody else? Would they tell their parents? Would they defend themselves? And if so, how?

Say a Lateen is deprived of lunch at the school cafeteria for a day or two due to misbehaving in class, unjustly graded by a teacher, or assaulted by a professor or cop. Where would they go to denounce it?

Lateens are at an age of vulnerability. They are discovering themselves; they are exploring and learning their limits. They are sometimes lonely, and this is what makes them the most vulnerable. Harassment, abuse or an unjust situation can confuse them. If that happened, what would they do next?

Most of the time, Lateens come from a tight family bond, but would that be enough to confront a problem of this magnitude? If they reach out to their teenage friends, the friends might be just as confused as they are, and if they reach out to their parents, that can end up creating more problems than solutions.

Second-generation Lateens might be the little adults (see related post here) walking their parents through the American system and in certain instances, defending them from injustice. The chances of the Lateens’ parents being naïve or inexperienced about the American legal system, the language and the legal rights of a teen are high. As much as a parent loves their kid, their main concern is survival, providing for their family and not creating problems for society or getting attention, especially if they are undocumented.

So, where does this leave the Lateens and their problems? Again, as teachers, friends and mentors, we need to empower them, to teach them their rights, and to let them know that they are tough and have them say it over and over again until they believe it. Society, communities and schools have the responsibility to create bonds with these kids for them to succeed, to have a trusted mentor, and to have someone that can watch their backs for them and give them hope if something bad does happen.

July 22, 2010   7 Comments

Problems/difficulty of translating to Parents.

The following entry serves as another personal recount of the struggle Lateens face when they’re assigned the role of “translator” for their families.  This is a supplement to a previous entry titled “Little Adults.”

Unity is power. Since early chilhood my dad invoked the belief that our family (he defined our family as my three brothers, Julio, Fabian, Eric and my mom, Zenaida) should always do what’s best for the family. Even if it involves one NOT doing what he/she desires in order to make the family happy. This is an unwritten law that we go by, no exceptions, and no allowance for doing something different. This way of thinking, ironically, has led to much improvement in our lives. Even though my dad is the guy that makes the decisions for all of us, before he does we discuss our opinions as a family. That’s what the system has been for a very long time. But the truth is it’s not really an option. This system is further complicated by my dad’s one obstacle that makes him ask my brothers or me for help, and that is when he needs a translation. Although he can speak and read the English language to a certain degree, and is one of the smartest people I know, he needs help sometimes, especially when things get tricky like words with double meaning.

I have so many experiences with my family involving their lack of understanding English. As a child I remember going to the bank where my dad was served by a non-Spanish speaking employee and it was difficult to watch him become frustrated when they made the wrong transactions. All because they didn’t understand what he was trying to say. When we go out to eat, my dad’s English occasionally is misunderstood to the point that he gets the wrong order. When my mom would go to the store to return an item and they couldn’t understand her, she would just leave the store without doing what she needed to do. When she goes to teacher conferences, she often struggles to understand everything that is said. We have also been pulled over by the police, and when this happens both of them become so afraid. Not afraid because they did anything wrong, but because they did not know how to defend themselves or even ask why they were pulled over. Those are only a few of the experiences I encountered as a younger child. A couple of years ago there was a major change – I learned English and Spanish well enough to translate.

To be honest, at moments in the beginning, I enjoyed the responsibility of translating for my parents. I loved ordering pizza, or explaining my report card to them. Unfortunately as I grew older it began to get more complicated because I was learning more and more English. A great example is when we were on the road and I had to ask for directions. I didn’t know what highways meant or avenues actually were because I didn’t drive. So then I would tell my parents the little that I understood and we would get lost, making the situation even more frustrating. As I continued to get older I started to make purchases and payments online and I didn’t understand how to explain the procedures properly, but my parents would get mad thinking I was just being lazy and didn’t want to help. That’s not the case at all, but I’m only a teenager! My parents receive letters from businesses and the government and I need to tell them what they say. This is even harder because I don’t understand the content. It’s stuff I shouldn’t have to understand and they get mad and blame me for not knowing enough. [Read more →]

June 28, 2010   4 Comments

Lateens Join The March

A group of people each with distinct character, yet a group of people wanting something in common. That’s the group of people that gained the world’s attention on May 1, 2010. These special groups of people are mostly immigrants, but are known as illegal aliens. No, not the kind of aliens from some far off galaxy, but humans that are born outside the United States of America. From sea to shining sea, across the plains of Texas, to the monuments in Washington, under the lights of New York, to the hot sun of Arizona and over the hills of California millions and millions of feet marched, leaving a message in every step. The need for opportunity to give back to the nation and the desire of no discrimination.

We filled up roads, we filled up highways, and we even filled up cities. You might be wondering why I mention “we.” It’s simple, I choose to march. Yes, I am legal, but like most Lateens in the U.S. some members of my family are not. Well over 200,000 people per city marched peacefully demanding immigration reform and condemning racial profiling by the state of Arizona.

Still confused? We demand the DREAM Act. Under the rigorous provisions of the DREAM Act qualifying undocumented youth would be eligible for a 6-year-long conditional path to citizenship that requires completion of a college degree or two years of military service. On the other hand in Arizona SB1070 requires officials (in state and local levels) to make a “reasonable” attempt to determine the immigration status of a person “if” they come in contact with someone they have “reasonable suspicion” to believe is in this country undocumented. These laws affect all of us that marched, but the real point here is what happened to me at the march.

When I got out of the car, I looked around and I noticed I was not the only teen out there. In fact I would guess that at least 65 percent of the people marching were between the ages of 15 and early 20s. While it was a great march, I lived a dramatic experience that I hope no one goes through. When I started walking into downtown I could see City Hall full of white shirts and American flags waving in the air. It was inspiring. As I got closer to the spot where everyone was, I realized I was behind the “Minute Men,” also known as the anti-immigrants. At first I thought, “How cool will this be? I can see how the other side views us.” But I was not prepared for this awakening.The group of about 50 people looked at me and my family, pointed their speaker and said “Look at these Mexicans! They don’t pay taxes, they are committing crimes, they are taking our jobs, these aliens need to go back to Mexico.” I could feel my heart skip a beat, my soul burn, my fist clinch hard, and I was ready to attack. The only thing that could save me from acting out was my mom, an alien in their eyes. She held my hand and told me, “Not to get down to their level. To set the example for my little brother that perseverance is the tool to success.” Never would I think that in my own country of birth I would be screamed at like that. Never will I think again that I’m fully safe in this country. I think experiences like this help create a separate American identity for Lateens; it makes us even prouder of our roots because our own (other Americans) will not accept us.  I knew that I could not stoop to their level and judge them. Everyone had a reason to be there – their personal beliefs…which because we live in U.S. we are entitled to. But I will never forget the hate I felt directed toward me and my family. It was just like in elementary school when I read about hatred between whites and blacks, except this time I was not reading about discrimination. I was living it myself.

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June 15, 2010   3 Comments