Gripping the wooden handle of a shovel, a young man stiffens his arm muscles to force the metal tip into the ground, breaking up a heap of sod. He dumps the sod into a wheelbarrow and begins the process all over again.
For some, this scenario might bring to mind a day of tiring yard work or an episode of a do-it-yourself television show. For others, repetitive, physical labor is a way of life.
“El valiente dura hasta que el cobarde quiere.” (The bully stands only as long as the coward wants him to.) — Mexican-American proverb
They hid the physical and emotional scars of abuse for years, suppressing fear, pain and isolation behind the curtain of a “normal” life. However, silence nearly cost them their lives.
Irene Castellon, 19, is a bright, beautiful college student who hopes to use her Spanish degree to help Latino Americans. Yet until a year ago, college wasn’t an option for her because of her immigration status.
Currently, undocumented immigrants in the U.S. cannot receive financial aid for college. And because proof of legal status is required to open a bank account in the U.S., they cannot receive loans, either.
Javier Martinez Vargas sat in a booth one day last fall, counting the money he made waiting tables that afternoon at El Matador in Johnson City, Tenn.
A customer asked him if he was planning on doing anything for Hispanic Heritage Month. Martinez Vargas, a Mexican national and legal permanent resident of the U.S., shook his head. Then the customer asked him what he thought about the word ‘Hispanic.’
“I don’t really care what they call me,” Martinez Vargas said. “To me, [Latino] sounds better than Hispanic or Mexican.”
A group of young men run down the soccer field, shouting out plays and words of encouragement to each other. What they’re saying is understandable, but their accents don’t sound the same. That’s because this group of guys is a melting pot of students from all over the world.