Isadora Machado, a staff member, reflects on the significance of Hispanic Heritage Month. Isadora Machado is a very familiar face to Country School, having worked at Country School from 2003-2010 in many roles including Kindergarten Apprentice and Art Teacher, and Lower and Middle School Spanish Teacher. She also continues to be an integral member of the Horizons teaching team since 2003. This year, Isadora joins us as a Plus Program Assistant primarily working with Beginners 4/5.
Dear NCCS Community,
We are currently celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, which calls for us to reflect on the composition of our community, and to honor and acknowledge members of our community whose contributions to the nation and world help make this country and community a welcoming place for all.
While the term “Hispanic” was intended to capture all Spanish-speaking peoples in the country, the vastness of the origins and cultures of those who identify as such spans continents, and reflects hundreds, if not thousands, of ethnic groups and backgrounds. In recognition of how difficult this may be to conceptualize, it may be helpful to personalize these stories, and see in individual reflections, the complexity and variety that exists. To that end, we are inviting members of our community to share stories about “What your Hispanic identity means to you.”
Following is one such story from Isadora Machado. Please send any stories you would like to share with the community to firstname.lastname@example.org
. We invite reflections from faculty and staff, parents and guardians, students and alumni.
Thank you, and Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!
Kojo ClarkeWhat does Hispanic Heritage mean to me?
by Isadora Gacel Machado Lecuona
I believe celebrating Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month is especially important in schools because it allows us to share pieces of ourselves that sometimes are only visible when we are alone or exclusively with other people who are like us. Sharing the unique pieces of ourselves with others encourages reflection and connection. It is a time when people are able to reveal the wonderful memories of our countries of origin and our customs as well as our contributions, and aspirations. Celebrating our heritage and being able to offer ourselves as who we really are is often fueled by the determination to remain steadfast to the magic and value of our identities. Being able to share our history, our memories, the intricacies of our experiences, in addition to the challenges we continue to face inspires transparency, necessary change, and growth.
As an immigrant, my identity is something I have come to experience as fluid and moldable. It has morphed with time and experience out of necessity and the need to adapt. I think of identity as synonymous with belonging and as something that is ultimately processed by way of emotions. Everything we experience as a result of what we look like, what we sound like, and where we come from affects how we are able to navigate the world around us, and how we express ourselves. Depending on the country I resided in, I have often identified as someone different. At times my identity has been something I felt I had a tight grasp on, while other times it has been an area of great difficulty and uncertainty.
I was born in Spain, raised in Mexico, and attended German schools in Mexico, the US, and in Germany until I reached High School. I came to the United States when I was nine. My younger brother, Gacel, and I learned English in two weeks watching Thundercats, He-man, and The Ninja Turtles. I remember not wanting to leave Mexico but also being mesmerized by New York City. We arrived in the wintertime and had never before seen snow. I remember holding up my blue cotton gloves to watch the brilliant white flakes fall into my palm and disappear into the warmth of my hand. It was magic. So many of these moments of childhood were truly captivating because we adapted quite quickly. As a child one is not aware of the cost of most things-like the family that is left behind, the culture, and language that is often replaced in order to assimilate and thrive in a new place.
We moved regularly and out of necessity, therefore, everything material was consistently left behind. When you are young adapting happens instinctively. I started to question my identity when I began having to prove it. I do not remember the specific moment when I stopped dreaming in Spanish, but I recall feeling betrayed that I no longer did so. This was especially the case when it was apparent that my identity in the US was tied merely to the status of an Alien number and that my stay and welcome were conditional. My very identity was tantamount to paperwork, legal terms, numbers, deadlines, lawyers, interrogations, limitations, and visas.
Celebrating one's heritage especially as an immigrant is something that comes with great pride and also great difficulty. For many, it is deeply tied to grief. It is the grief of the loss of extended family, country, language, customs, religion, certain foods, music, and the climate that formed our childhoods in order to blend in and minimize the expected discrimination and xenophobia. What I appreciate most about the United States is its diversity, which is why Horizons at NCCS feels most like home. And while there is clearly still a lot of work to be done, it is crucial that we take the time as a country to acknowledge the many differences that we have so that perhaps we can better learn to appreciate them. By recognizing that we are not all the same, we allow everyone to be unique and to be comfortable with who we are, where we come from, and where we are headed.
Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month is a vital reminder to make sure we get to know someone's story even while it may differ greatly from ours, who likely has fewer rights, less privilege, and yet have a great deal to contribute. I was lucky and am very grateful to the many people who are citizens and used their right to vote to reform the immigration system so that practices like the age-out law which separated many families like my own despite being documented (legally), could be put to an end. People who took the time to listen and be part of the solution stepped in when my immigration status affected my identity, my ability to stay with my family, go to college, accept financial aid, accept employment, get paid for my work, whether or not I would ultimately be granted citizenship and exercise my right to vote, which was a process that took 30 years.
Change and progress are driven by the stories we tell. Inclusion and equity happen effectively when we learn to listen with the intention of understanding especially when it comes to people whose experiences are limited based on their identity. I am highly aware that being white and fluent in English has made my circumstances easier despite the many hurdles. Having the right to vote in itself is a superpower. It is something not bestowed on everyone, but that affects many in this country who do not have and may never have the right to a voice. The acknowledgment and commemoration of the heritage of various distinct groups in the US who are responsible for much of its history and success is an invitation to stand out, stand proud, be seen, and be heard. Ideally, it will also serve as a tool for much-needed reform and change. Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month is the opportunity to showcase the richness and complexities of our identities with all its variations and eccentricities. In this way, we can be better mirrors for our students who are looking for and craving role models whose experiences and hopes are like ours.