“Preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures”.
“It is important for all of us to appreciate where we come from and how that history has really shaped us in ways that we might not understand”.
I remember the day when, at the very young age of 20, I discovered my own strength. There was much sobbing as I packed my valuables, kissed my parents goodbye, and moved alone to an entirely new and unknown country. I wanted to build a better life for me and my family.
Today I am writing this article in English (my second language), and I am working as a Spanish Teacher, sharing the knowledge of my native language in this wonderful school and community called Ambleside; this fills my heart with immense gratitude.
My story is the story of many hispanics/Latinos that have experienced immigration firsthand. Others are a generation or two from such an experience. Someone once said, “The voices of latinos, as diverse as they may be, come together into a familiar and united chorus; we are resilient, funny, caring, hardworking, and love our family above all.”
As an educator and an immigrant I have experienced the positive impact of learning another culture, and how much it helps us grow as persons as we gain an understanding of other points of view. Learning another language, we learn more about ourselves as well. Understanding another culture, language, and heritage enables us to see the world with a wider lens, and it enhances our ability to connect heart-to-heart with others. We easily recognize differences between our native and adoptive lands; these are possibilities for mutual enrichment, celebration, and connection.
When my daughter became an Ambleside student, she told me how amazed she was that they were studying many different countries in geography, and that one of those countries was Chile, her mom’s native country! She expressed how this made her feel connected to her Hispanic cultural heritage and at the same time connected to her school where teaching about the world surrounding us is important; therefore, she felt important. What a blessing!
In Spanish class each week we learn about a new Hispanic country. When one student heard the country named El Salvador, and saw its flag and geographic position on the map, she couldn’t hide her excitement and suddenly burst out, “That’s my dad’s native country!” I immediately could see in her bright eyes how a connection to her own heritage made her feel proud and motivated. I said silently to myself: “This is a memory I am grateful to treasure in my heart as Spanish teacher.”
Charlotte Mason also believed in a global perspective in education and promoted a multicultural approach for the students. She said, “We cannot live sanely unless we know that other peoples are as we are with a difference, that their history is as ours, with a difference, that they too have been represented by their poets and their artists, that they too have their literature and their national life”.
We believe that “education is a life,” which encompasses so much more than knowledge of facts! We also believe that, “the question is not how much does the student know, but how much does he care?” How do we lead our students to show concern for vulnerable people? Do our kids know how to make friends with immigrants or those from other cultural backgrounds? Do they know how to come out of their comfort zone in order to heartily connect with others whose native culture and/or language may leave them feeling isolated? Will they show interest in and move towards people who come from another country?
Hispanic Heritage Month is an invitation to explore the heart of Hispanics/Latinos in our community, to appreciate our multi-faceted contribution to American culture, and to fortify the bridges that connect us as human persons. It is also a reminder to offer belonging the Hispanic people in our midst, welcoming knowledge of their traditions, appreciation for their foods, dancing some of their dances, reading some of their literature, engaging with some of their poetry, and so much more. It’s an invitation to celebrate together what we are: One body, one community, united by God’s love for all.
A small glimpse of a Hispanic Poet:
“Education is, perhaps, the highest form of searching for God” —Gabriela Mistral, Chilean Poet, First Latin American to receive Nobel Prize in Literature, Consul and Teacher—