Once more the newspaper is full of photos related to festivals, entertainment and fun activities. By highlighting those activities we want not only to encourage people who are going through very difficult times, but also to express our amazement at the resilience of people in bad times.
For people who have the right to work in this country, the matter has been partially solved since they have, and in many cases continue to, receive unemployment benefits. So if they have been able to downsize their expenditures they have managed to survive with less.
For the undocumented workers the situation has been entirely different. Even though they paid into the system, they are not getting anything out of it. They had their taxes, social security and Medicare deducted and those moneys went to a special fund (it has never been clear where or what happens to it, since nobody can claim those moneys), but now they have no resources or benefits.
Many of them have lost their houses already, but those who still had a chance have been able to bring into their houses other families and individuals to live with them and in that way are able to pay for at least one mortgage with everyone’s contribution to a common fund.
Relatives and others are sharing food, child-care, transportation and other expenses; that is how they are weathering the bad times.
People who have been here for many years and whose children were born here refuse to go back to their places of origin. Most of them have nothing there. They have settled here and expect their children to have access to the kind of education they lacked in their respective countries.
They have stayed because they are working, even though jobs are not regular and do not cover for expenses as before. They have managed to stretch their savings, pool resources and wait for an immigration reform that every two or three months seems to be pushed further away.
Many employers acknowledge that the work ethic and hard labor of the immigrants accounts for much of the incredible wealth that exists here. I remember seeing workers come to English classes after a long days work. They had been up since very early in the morning, when most people are still in bed; their labor was hard manual work, many times involving carrying weights that others would not consider lifting. They had to rely on those who knew more English to receive instructions. They worked long hours, unexpected over time and sometimes 7 days a week without complaint. Those same rough workers came to class and did their best to learn English. They also, if free on week ends, would play or watch others play soccer and were the ‘padrinos’ of many social events that were only possible thanks to the collective generosity of those involved.
They also liked to attend the local festivals and get acquainted with this culture so distant and different for them. But they felt pride in their children’s home. They wanted them to be involved in the country where they were born.
Hispanic Heritage Month is dedicated to acknowledging the contributions of the Latino people to US. The undocumented Latinos who have worked here are part of those who have made this country great.
Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!
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