The smell of seawater washes over an 11-year-old girl like waves on a beach. The aroma is losing a battle to the smell of fresh flan from her grandmother’s kitchen. It is Sunday and Beatriz Cano Diaz’s family has gathered as it does every week at her father’s family home in Cuba.
“We would go to church in the mornings,” Cano Diaz recalled. “After that, we would come back to my grandma’s house. My parents and the adults would all be drinking. It was a good time … but we had to leave, for different reasons.”
It all started in South Texas. As a kid, Esmeralda Lopez loved visiting “raspas,” street vendors selling finely shaved flavored ice with traditional Mexican toppings. In 2011, with daughter Sam graduating from high school, she saw an opportunity for a new business.
The summer after Sam’s graduation, her parents, Esmeralda and Miguel, bought her a food truck and helped her start what is today Sam’s Snoball Paradise.
"Let's go Devils! BLUE, BLUE, BLUE BLUE BLUE!" screams a line of girls in blue jerseys. The sun is starting to go down as the players on the sidelines cheer for their teammates on the soccer field. For the six seniors, this is the last home game before graduation. By the end of the game, the girls are on their feet, barely ahead. As the time runs out, the girls jump up to embrace one another in a massive huddle, celebrating a win for their last home game of the season.
Two years ago, Unicoi County High School didn't have a soccer team. Head coach Bettina Chirica has been surprised by the amount of community support for the new program.
It is a Tuesday at the Johnson City Public Library around 5:45 p.m. Callie Longo, 24, is preparing for members to show up for a discussion group that she leads every week.
The conversation group usually spends half of the two-hour period speaking in English and the other in Spanish. Longo began the group as an alternative for people who wish to continue learning and speaking Spanish but do not have the time, or the money, to enroll in courses.
“I noticed when you’re in school, it is really easy to keep up the language skills,” said Longo. “But once you get into the adult world, there is not really anything available unless you’re consistently engaged in conversation.”
Being caught in the middle between two cultures but not truly belonging to either: This is an everyday struggle for many in the United States. This struggle is one that Latino American author Marcos McPeek-Villatoro knows well.