Dear President Trump

My name is Sofia Quintero and even though I am a U.S citizen, I have lived my entire life in Costa Rica and come from a Colombian family; which makes me consider myself Latina. Nevertheless, I have always felt a tie to the United States; maybe because it’s where I was born or simply because I dream of living in the U.S. in a near future for my college education. Unfortunately, this bond was almost completely broken when I travelled with my Colombian grandparents from San Jose, Costa Rica to New York City in 2013. It was hard enough for me to travel with them because they don’t speak English, but our situation got even more complicated when we got to the Immigration and Customs line. When I gave the official my U.S passport and my grandparents gave him their Colombian passports, his expression became doubtful and full of concern. After closely examining the three documents, he went on to ask me questions. “Why don’t they speak Spanish?” “Why are you not traveling with your parents?” “What does your father do for a living?” “Are these people forcing you to travel with them?” “If they are really your grandparents, why is your passport American and theirs Colombian?” Being the naive 14-year old that I was, I followed his orders and didn’t question anything.

Four years later, looking back on this experience I can say that what happened at that airport was a complete sign of discrimination towards my grandparents. Unfortunately, this is not the only time this has occurred to me. Even when I travel with my parents who are also Colombian, they ask them questions that are unprofessional; some of them even inquiring that my parents are bad people just because of their nationality. I am stating these personal experiences because ever since your Presidential campaign, you have said stereotypical and rude comments about Mexicans and Latinos, which includes me. In this letter, I want to address the importance that the Latino community has not only on the U.S. economy, but on making the nation what it is today; a country full of diversity, culture, and people. By the time you finish reading my letter, I hope that you will change your mind regarding the Latino people and realize that we are not all criminals, rapists, and drug traffickers.

The American Dream is defined as “the belief that anyone, regardless of where they were born or what class they were born into, can attain their own version of success in a society where upward mobility is possible for everyone”. It is no doubt that this proposal of a new way of life will sound appealing to those living outside the United States who are going through hard conditions in their home countries. Most nations in Central America (Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua) along with Mexico and some Southern American countries like Colombia and Venezuela, find the “American Dream” very appealing. My parents themselves left Colombia and moved to Miami in the 1990’s in search for a better life.

Because of the American dream, “since the 1960s, the nation’s Latino population has increased nearly ninefold, from 6.3 million then to 55.3 million”. Today, states like New York, California, Texas and Florida hold the biggest population of Hispanic people. During my visit to Los Angeles during the summer of 2017, I met three Latino men who moved to the city of entertainment in search for opportunities and a better life. Unfortunately, ever since your presidential victory, they have been afraid and felt discriminated against and unfortunately, are afraid of you Mr. Trump.

The first man I met was named Armando Ramirez; he is from Jalisco, Mexico and works at Grand Park in downtown L.A cleaning the area. Ever since your presidential term started, Ramirez is concerned about the future of the U.S. He believes that “[you] are not fit to be the President because [you] only care about the rich and [your] businesses. [You] isolate the poor and there isn’t any form of communication nor interest between the social classes.” His biggest concern is his son’s future because of the cuts in public education funding. “They closed the English reading program in which my son learned English as well as the soccer team.” That same day I met Jose Martinez from Guadalajara, Mexico who is a colleague of Ramirez. He’s been living in the U.S for about forty years and just until now, he is greatly afraid that his right to public services such as Obamacare, will be taken away from him and his family. “I only earn $1,100 a month and neither him or the government understand that I have to pay rent, food, and my other necessities.” Martinez could only ask himself, “what will happen to me when I retire?” The third man I met on the Arts District in downtown Los Angeles. I entered a little food store and I couldn’t help but notice the “chile picante” sauce in the counter next to “cajeta” cookies. This immediately told me that the owner of the store had to be Latino. As I approached him, I began to speak in English but soon enough, we both noticed we were native Spanish speakers and the conversation rapidly shifted to Spanish. He told me he was from El Salvador and had moved to Los Angeles about three years ago in search for a better life and also to reunite with his family that was already in the U.S. The first question I asked him was what he thought about what you had said about the Latino population during your campaign. Without thinking it much, he said, “Well, I think that here in California especially, the economy is based on the latino population and the majority of the jobs that the American people do not want to do, are the jobs that the latinos are doing. I think that if there weren’t so many Latino immigrants living in the United States, many of the jobs that favor the U.S. economy, wouldn’t be done.”

Armando Ramirez (left), Jose Martinez (right)

Regardless if you want to believe it or not, this store owner is speaking the truth; the long term effect that Latinos have had on the U.S. economy is immense. One influential businessmen is Sol Trujillo, who is the co-founder of the Latino Donor Collaborative, “a non-partisan group dedicated to changing the perception of Latinos in America”.

American snack meets salsa

Sol Trujillo brings me to the second point of this letter; stereotypes. Trujillo is a strong believer along with the millions of other latinos that the Latino stereotype is completely overgeneralized and frankly Mr. Trump, you have helped on the strengthening of this awful stereotype. “It’s everywhere — look at entertainment. Either the bad guys are Latinos, or its ‘Maria the nanny’ or ‘Pablo the gardener’”. A good example of these stereotypes used in Hollywood entertainment is the Colombian actress Sofia Vergara playing Gloria Delgado in ABC’s series Modern Family. Her character has been criticized before for stereotyping “Latino women with [their] sexy bodies and hot-tempered personas”. One of the lines in the show says “We need more corn Gloria, where is your garden? I will harvest some.”

Overall, what I’m trying to show Mr. President, is that the Latino population actually does more to your country than what you think. Whether it is CEO Trujillo, my Colombian grandparents, or fictional character Gloria Delgado; there are millions of Latino immigrants living in your country who face these acts of discrimination in their daily lives. As a U.S. citizen from a Hispanic background, I hope that during your four years living in the White House, there will be a change regarding how Latinos are viewed in the U.S; as hardworking individuals who sustain the economy of the United States along with other minority groups.

Sincerely,

Sofia Quintero