I Didn’t Ask to Be Born Latina — No Más Tuve Suerte

Estefana Francisca Tabares, a Latina born and raised in Mountlake Terrace, Washington. Here she grew up in a white neighborhood. And with both of her parents being Mexican, she and her family obviously weren’t white. Surprisingly, she never picked up any of the Spanish language, despite her heritage and the fact that both her parents spoke Spanish. Her mom spoke a more formal dialect while her dad spoke a more informal dialect, slang if you will. Because of this, there was a sort of a conflict and misunderstanding when they spoke Spanish. So they mostly opted to speak English. This meant that English was the main language in my mom’s household growing up. In this way they encouraged my mom to learn and utilize the English language in her everyday life.

There was also another reason for the lack of Spanish speaking between my mother and her family. “We lived in a pretty…white neighborhood, so my parents…wanted to Americanize us more I’d say, so they didn’t really teach us [Spanish]…” My mom took this a step further. She wanted to fit in with the popular white girls in school and did this by changing her name. Yep, she went that far. From here on out she was known as Stephanie. I guess that sounds like more of a white name. Don’t think Estefana is completely gone though. Technically, my mom has two identities. She even gets two ballots in the mail; one for Estefana, and one for Stephanie. I’m not really sure which is her legal name, or if they both are. What she and her family did was assimilate into the culture and norms around them, and in turn lost or didn’t embrace some parts of their own culture.

The letter grade D on a lined piece of paper written in red ink with a circle around it also writtten in red ink.

When it came to school, she really struggled to have good grades and to keep them steady. “I was a D student. I really struggled to…be a C student… If I wanted that C I would’ve really had to try… ” So much extra effort had to be put forward in order for her to even reach those average grades. Sometimes it can just feel like it’s not worth it. This is completely understandable of course. School is hard for everybody, and anybody who says it’s easy is most likely lying. Many factors can lead to somebody having trouble in school. For my mom, she felt one of these things was her teachers. They never really were seeking to help students who were struggling; instead they just gave instructions and didn’t clarify that much, and let students go at things alone. It was work that encouraged students to be independent in what they were doing and to not seek help. This wasn’t very helpful for my mom, and probably other students as well. Another big contributor for struggles in school is the fact that all students are different learners, and they all learn in different ways. This was definitely the case for my mom while she was in school.

“I take things in much better when somebody reads something to me, then me reading it on my own. I don’t understand it; I understand it more when somebody reads it to me, and it’s just hard to find somebody that will take the time to tutor me or to help me…”

Mother reads to her two daughters while they all sit on a couch.

To this day this is the way she understands things. And it’s a shame that no one ever really took the time to help her. Some people have a hard time reading by themselves and then being able to comprehend what they just read. She feels like this had an impact on how much she can help her kids when they’re struggling with their own schoolwork. It’s difficult to be of much help to someone when both sides don’t have a grasp of the material. But my mom did find ways to help herself and us kids at the same time. One of these ways was having her kids read to her. Be it emails, or books, or recipes, or manuals, or even food labels, she would have us read it all to her. Not only was she helping her children become better readers, she was also helping herself by having them read things to her. When others didn’t really help her that much, my mom found a clever way to help herself and her kids.

With her struggles in reading and the overall lack of help she was given, my mom found it hard to keep up with her other classmates. She had to work harder to be able to comprehend what she had to do and read, and it was becoming difficult to keep her grades steady and from dropping. “…I was just like well I’m not doing good…I have to do more school to even graduate with my class…and there was no way I was going to be able to do it; I wasn’t going to walk down the aisle with them.” At this point it made sense to put more effort into things that she could accomplish and that she felt she was good at. And for my mom this was getting a job and working. She would directly get something out of the hard work she put forward; she would be getting that money. And that was a much better reward than average grades. At that point, there was really no motivation for her to stay in school. She then stopped going to school, and yeah, she dropped out. My mom didn’t really receive any backlash because of this; at the time people just weren’t too focused on it.

“I’m sure if I would’ve got the ‘oh, what are you doing, you can’t do this, you need to stay in school, you need to finish’ I would’ve, but I didn’t get any of that… I didn’t get that [discipline] or people yelling or telling me that…you’re not going to go anywhere or that it’s going to hurt you in the long run… Because everyone else was too busy [with] those things going on in their life at the time that they just didn’t really care…”

If she would have gotten the encouragement from anyone to stay in school, it’s very possible that my mom would have continued to attend high school and could have even graduated. But she never did get that. Her situation was just happening at an unfortunate time when people had their own personal problems they were going through, and they couldn’t offer the support or anything else that my mom needed to keep trying in school. If no one was telling my mom and that she should stay in school, you couldn’t blame her for seeing dropping out as an option. My mom is by no means unsuccessful in life just because she didn’t finish high school. She has done many incredible things, one of those being raising an amazing family that she is so very proud of. She would go back and change nothing, because everything in her life has led to the wonderful family she has today.

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Hailey Moyer

Hailey Moyer

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