Tuesday, 08 October 2013 00:00

Studying far from home

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Twenty-year-old Sherry Loera Martínez is the first in her family to attend college in the United States, and she’s 1,400 miles away from home.

“I was prepared for everything but the culture shock when I got here,” Loera said.

Loera goes entire semesters without seeing her family because her closest relatives, her uncles, live in Altanta. Her parents are not legal residents of the United States, so they can’t cross the border at all. Loera only gets to visit them and her younger siblings during summer breaks.

Debajo de las escaleras de madera de la Iglesia Católica de Notre Dame en Greenville, Tenn., una joven muchacha lentamente camina por el pasillo hacia su condición de mujer.


Ella es escoltada por su madre y su padrastro, y sigue a una procesión de señoritas en vestidos rojos y señores en uniformes blancos de oficiales de marina. Su vestido es rojo brillante y voluminoso. Lleva puesta una tiara de plata en su cabeza. Su nombre es Leslie, y hoy es su día; hoy es su quinceañera.

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.”

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