Monday, August 03, 2009

The Worst of Times for Latinos? Two Stories

In an interview with NPR's "Latino USA," author Sandra Cisneros ("The House on Mango Street")lamented that right now is the worst time in history for Latinos in the U.S. Deportations, the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, and crippling poverty for many in our community, are the evidence she uses to paint a bleak portrait of the Latino experience in this country. And while I've written about some of these things, specifically the uptick in violence against immigrants and the inflamatory rhetoric of the anti-immigration movement, her comments shook me up. They made me feel like the uppity, self-made and self-righteous villain in a Tyler Perry movie. I realized, listening to Cisernos' interview on my iPhone at the gym, that I have deliberately distanced myself from the issues of the 'hood I grew up in and I have made every attempt in my life to never go back there.

But my parents - whom I love dearly and whom I'm lucky to have a wonderful relationship with - are still there. And they probably won't ever leave. So they'll keep it real with me and they'll tell me about the things that are going on around them in el barrio. In between our conversations about the trips they're going on and where they'll meet James and me for dinner, there are real, true and disturbing stories about people who can't get their act together or who simply were never given a chance to do right by themselves. My mom is on the front lines of this divide - she works in the public school system, making sure kids are fed and that they have somewhere safe to go to until 6 when most of their parents can pick them up from work. She sees parents younger than me picking up 10 year-olds, she talks to teenage mothers who are raising their kids out of shelters, and she consoles children who are missing a parent. But sometimes there are problems that can't be hugged away or laughed and talked about in Spanish in the schoolyard. For many Latinos it is indeed the worst of times, as Sandra Cisneros said. Here's one such story.

On July 17, Yorceli Flores,a 26-year-old immigrant from Puebla, Mexico, was stabbed to death in her apartment in Sunset Park. She was pregnant, and left behind two boys, aged two and six. One week later, her 22-year-old boyfriend - who claimed to have found her body - was arrested and charged with murder. The children, with no father, are now in the foster care system.

Yorceli's oldest son spent a year in my mother's classroom at the after-school program at P.S. 24. She didn't form much of a bond with his mother, who had obtained a restraining order against the boy's stepfather - who has since been deported - and then took up with a younger guy who would ultimately kill her. The alleged killer had come on numerous occasions to pick the boy up from my mom's program - even while the boy's stepfather would come in and ask my mom and her colleagues for help, saying that the kids were not safe in their home. My mom spoke up about this, but ultimately, there wasn't much the school system could do for the kids.

So you have the perfect storm of domestic violence, broken families, dubious immigration status and all-around hard living here. Was Yorceli's death avoidable? Did her kids really have to suffer as they did in the months leading up to their mother's death - there are claims that the children were underfed and lived in a cramped apartment with other families - was there anything that the victim could have done for herself and her kids to avoid all of this? And while Yorceli was being sentenced to death and her alleged killer was making small talk with my mom, I was across the river, sipping cocktails and toasting life.

The victim was two years younger than me but, as we say in Spanish, had done a lot more living. She probably came to my neighborhood long after I had left, seeking opportunity that I never thought existed there. And our common denominator is my mom - always eager to help, always uber-involved, always unnervingly task-driven. I wonder if these two women had formed a relationship if Yorceli's life would have turned out differently - I don't underestimate my mom's power of persuasion.

Where Yorceli's story and mine begin and end, in the place I grew up but always wanted to leave, the divide between esos Latinos who are making it and those who are scraping by isn't really that wide. It's a fact that gnaws at me and questions everything I thought was good and fair about a system that has worked for me.


oakleyses said...

michael kors pas cher, polo outlet, longchamp outlet, jordan pas cher, christian louboutin, ray ban sunglasses, nike free, ray ban sunglasses, louboutin pas cher, christian louboutin uk, ray ban sunglasses, christian louboutin shoes, ugg boots, air max, oakley sunglasses, louis vuitton, louis vuitton outlet, uggs on sale, tiffany jewelry, replica watches, tory burch outlet, gucci handbags, longchamp outlet, prada handbags, louis vuitton outlet, nike free run, ugg boots, christian louboutin outlet, cheap oakley sunglasses, jordan shoes, louis vuitton outlet, nike outlet, chanel handbags, longchamp outlet, prada outlet, tiffany and co, louis vuitton, oakley sunglasses, replica watches, polo ralph lauren outlet online, kate spade outlet, oakley sunglasses wholesale, longchamp pas cher, burberry pas cher, nike air max, nike roshe, nike air max, polo ralph lauren, sac longchamp pas cher

oakleyses said...

kate spade, coach purses, mulberry uk, vans pas cher, new balance, true religion outlet, uggs outlet, nike air max uk, nike blazer pas cher, nike free uk, sac hermes, hollister uk, guess pas cher, michael kors outlet, oakley pas cher, burberry outlet, converse pas cher, michael kors outlet, michael kors outlet, michael kors outlet online, michael kors outlet online, nike air max, abercrombie and fitch uk, true religion outlet, north face, ralph lauren uk, michael kors outlet online, michael kors, nike tn, hogan outlet, nike roshe run uk, lululemon canada, ray ban uk, true religion outlet, ray ban pas cher, nike air force, coach outlet, true religion jeans, hollister pas cher, polo lacoste, coach outlet store online, burberry handbags, sac vanessa bruno, michael kors outlet online, timberland pas cher, michael kors, nike air max uk, north face uk, replica handbags

oakleyses said...

north face outlet, gucci, jimmy choo outlet, celine handbags, longchamp uk, nike air max, hermes belt, lululemon, herve leger, bottega veneta, reebok outlet, nike roshe run, vans, iphone cases, nfl jerseys, soccer shoes, mac cosmetics, mcm handbags, timberland boots, ferragamo shoes, oakley, mont blanc pens, babyliss, converse, nike huaraches, wedding dresses, asics running shoes, soccer jerseys, p90x workout, beats by dre, hollister, chi flat iron, ghd hair, instyler, baseball bats, converse outlet, ray ban, valentino shoes, nike trainers uk, hollister, nike air max, new balance shoes, north face outlet, hollister clothing, abercrombie and fitch, vans outlet, ralph lauren, giuseppe zanotti outlet, louboutin, insanity workout

oakleyses said...

thomas sabo, replica watches, moncler uk, hollister, ugg,uggs,uggs canada, barbour, canada goose jackets, swarovski, moncler outlet, canada goose, coach outlet, swarovski crystal, canada goose outlet, barbour uk, supra shoes, moncler, lancel, links of london, canada goose outlet, moncler, karen millen uk, moncler, louis vuitton, doudoune moncler, ugg uk, canada goose outlet, moncler outlet, louis vuitton, ugg, louis vuitton, canada goose, pandora jewelry, moncler, toms shoes, ugg pas cher, marc jacobs, louis vuitton, montre pas cher, wedding dresses, canada goose, pandora jewelry, louis vuitton, juicy couture outlet, ugg,ugg australia,ugg italia, canada goose uk, juicy couture outlet, pandora uk, pandora charms

dong dong23 said...

moncler outlet
nike blazer
ray ban sunglasses
true religion outlet
cartier bracelet
free running
timberland boots
guess canada
nike outlet store