On the Importance of Affirming Identities & Sharing Culture
By: Yesenia Castro, School Leader, KIPP Raíces Academy
As we enter Latinx Heritage Month, I’ve been thinking about my family history. Both of my parents immigrated to this country as young adults; my father left El Salvador to flee the civil war, and my mother left Mexico to find better opportunities for herself.
When my parents share their stories of migration, there is pride in making the journey to find a better life, but there is also sadness. For both of them, it wasn’t easy to leave their families behind. My mom was the only one of her siblings to leave Mexico, and my father was the first of his family (more family immigrated in years to come). For my mother, there was solace in knowing that one day (as soon as she became a citizen), she would be able to visit her family about 2-3 hours away in Tijuana. For my dad, it was harder. It’s a long trip, and it’s expensive to travel back to El Salvador, so I know he was grateful when some of his siblings decided to move to LA.
Growing up, it was important for my parents to maintain cultural practices to keep our history alive. We only spoke Spanish in our household (my parents didn’t know English yet). Even years later, when both of my parents became more fluent in English, we continued speaking Spanish to make sure that my sisters and I would not lose the language. I am so grateful that they enforced this norm in our household because it ultimately led to my fluency in two languages.
As a kid, I was immersed in both cultures. We had mariachi music along with cumbias. We had traditional Mexican food in our household but had pupusas for all our holidays/festivities. We had large family parties with my dad’s side and traveled each summer to visit my family in Tijuana. There was so much history and rich cultural practices that were passed on to me that I look forward to pass on to my own children.
I am so grateful that we are working on affirming our students' identities. It’s important for them to learn about their heritage and to learn about others’ cultures as well. Huge shout-out to the Latinx Committee for all the work you’ve been doing to bring this celebration to our school!
To learn more about our whole-child approach to learning, which includes identity affirmation, visit kippsocal.org/enroll