By Ana Champagne
I am a mental health clinician and a former refugee from Nicaragua – raised in two cultures or shall I say “two worlds”…"this one” and “that one” or “The Latina” and “The Americana.”
Upon arrival in the U.S. from Nicaragua – I experienced firsthand the difficulty of acculturation and assimilation into a new culture. As Latino immigrants, we are often faced with the fact that we are a product of two different cultures.
We have had to or have chosen to leave our native lands in hope of a better future and establish a new culture with and for our families, in a new and different world. Oftentimes we’ve been faced with language challenges and economic hardships.
The Challenges – Barriers
Language was a barrier keeping the foreign apart from the new. As Hispanos or Latinos we have had to survive and adjust to a new world with a foreign language and different culture, norms and way of life. I can personally identify with the emotional struggles Latino immigrants have endured.
These struggles that at one point in our lives may have brought depression, financial hardship, anxiety, or exacerbated mental health issues as we adjusted to our new lives.
It is very important to acknowledge and pay respect to the efforts and journey every Latino immigrant has made. If you are a Latino immigrant, feelings of being out of place, lost, sad, depressed, and like you just don’t fit in are feelings I have found, both from personal experience and in my clinical work, are completely normal.
The Adjustment & Joining; the U.S. Community
There is a period of adjustment that depends on several factors. Your desire to become part of the dominant culture versus isolate yourself from those different than you will play a major role. In many cases, we learn the English language in order to make a living and become part of the workforce.
It is very important for those new immigrants to establish a sense of community as soon as possible. Some helpful things are to attend church, live near family or a supportive network of friends. Familiarize yourself with your surroundings, don’t be afraid to go out and enjoy yourself, after all you are an important part of your community.
Remember you are living in a world created by immigrants – the U.S. – and there are people from many different countries around you feeling the same way you are, you are not alone.
Latinos have played a major role in history and you too are a part of this. Learn to develop and recreate a new culture for yourself and take pride in being a bi-cultural Latina/o.
You don’t have to be neither from here nor there — but simply, just be!