As powerful Latinas, we are encouraged to build spaces in our community whenever they are needed. We open these spaces to promote diversity, resistance, and union with our people — not only for ourselves but also for the generations to come.
But what happens when you need to adapt to a new culture and your community does not have resources? Pues te pones las pilas, and become resourceful. No one knows your struggles and those of your community better than who experiences them firsthand.
In the process of emigrating from the Dominican Republic to Baltimore, Maryland, 19-year-old Yamilex Acosta Cruz, with four other innovative teen Latina creators, decided they needed a space for themselves to discuss their journeys and experiences as immigrants in the city.
Acosta Cruz and her friends set up their website Parqueología Migrante (translated to Migrant Parkology), where they blog about their advice, resources, discussions and ultimately strive to welcome youth in Baltimore to connect with people that are currently going through the same changes.
In the website’s ‘about’ section, Acosta Cruz states in Spanish, “I believe that this project shows that the young people who arrive are not alone and that in Baltimore they will find support.”
These teen Latina’s initiative has become a fantastic resource for creating that sense of community that helps newcomers feel a little less alone.
“This page is born out of a participatory action research project where we want to learn how to improve the experiences of immigrant youth in Baltimore,” their organization’s mission statement reads. “Through interviews and our own experiences (testimonies), we show what obstacles and opportunities we find in the city.”
“Baltimore offers opportunities, but young people still feel disoriented, lacking motivation and information,” the website concludes. “That’s why we came up with the idea of creating a website to help young immigrants find their way around and feel like they belong.”
Since it’s focused on Baltimore’s immigrant youth, they share local tips and information. For instance, contributor Tatiana Segura wrote a piece on the neighborhoods of the city. She shared estimated travel times via bus and car to each area, information, and photos of restaurants, museums — she even included tips such as which locations had more of a Latin/Hispanic population and a screenshot of the map.
While they do write about light subjects such as entertainment and share music, they also get into more in-depth discussions and strive to spread inclusiveness with the city’s immigrant youth.
One of the website’s creators, Melisa Argañaraz Gomez, said in an interview with Baltimore Sun that this space allowed them to feel “more confident talking about topics that are difficult to talk about in spaces of formal education; topics like immigration or race and ethnicity, or why we are not welcome in certain spaces.” This helps these teen Latinas to trust their community and makes their bond even stronger.
In order to build a strong community in a city that may not currently meet your needs, one effective option is to network with like-minded people who share your same story, such as these young Latinas did.
Surely, this Baltimore Latinx community serves as an innovative example for others who need that extra push to create their own network.
Here are some tips we have rounded up as an inspiration to those looking to initiate their own support circle.
Tip #1: Mingle!
As one of the teen Latina’s articles on Baltimore neighborhoods points out, the beauty of our melting pot of cultures as immigrants is that you will find your raza in specific places. Once you find them, you will also find gems such as particular foods, bodegas, and representation. Take the East Los Angeles area in Los Angeles, CA, for example.
Tip #2: Create a culture art + book club.
An excellent way to connect with your peers and your home is to share arts from your country. This could include sharing your favorite author or perhaps a musician that embodies the essence of your home.
Sharing art that translates your country’s history is a great way to connect with others and pay respect to your roots. Doing so will also educate others about your home!
Tip #3: Connect with Latinos and BIPOC in your school.
Network with your fellow scholars who can share their own resources and stories to help you feel less alone. That’s one of the main priorities of connecting with people that know your path — to support you emotionally. It’s a struggle to come to a new country, especially when you’re a teen Latina and don’t relate to the culture and the language. If there is not yet a Latin-led club in your school, you can initiate it by organizing it just as Parqueología Migrante did in Baltimore. Remember you are not alone, and chances are someone is going through or has gone through the same culture shock you are or have experienced.
Tip #4: Seek professional help if needed.
As mentioned above, it is essential to feel supported at any time of this transition. Not only is emigration a toll on mental health, but it is also another weight on top of the anxiety we may already be experiencing because of other circumstances, like the COVID pandemic, for example.
Having someone to speak to in a professional matter will do wonders for you in the long run. They will keep your best self at ease and you in check to help you achieve your goals in this new community. Your home may now be far away, but your loved ones are always a phone call away.