"Long before I followed my heart to teach in countries I had only read about as a kid, I traveled the south as my parents followed the crops.
My native tongue helped me create a bridge between new migrant families and my elementary schools in the north. The responsibility to translate school enrollment forms as an 8 year old lead to the overachieving attitude I have to balance today. With raven black hair in a sea of blonde and brunette, my uniqueness was celebrated by my peers and teachers. While my differences were celebrated, my parents realized their own differences made them targets.
As I grew up, I also felt my differences were a negative in the land I was born in. Years of hiding aspects of my cultural identity to assimilate to what a “true American” was supposed to act like led to shame. It’s taken a while, but I’ve been able to take back the narrative and use my mother tongue to help advocate for those in my community."
-María, the founder of Roots of Immokalee, shares a snippet of her story.