By Sienna Beck / New York City
That’s the estimated number of Latino kids and their families, familias, who migrated from all over South and Central America to the United States, undocumented, in October 2022 alone. Each and every one of these families is hoping for a better start and better life. Crossing through many borders, fronteras, taking many buses, cars, carros, trains, trenes. Their journey took months and months, meses y meses. All in the hopes of a better life.
Crossing through the border of Texas with almost nothing, casi nada!, is very difficult, muy difícil. It’s even harder for families that arrive speaking only Spanish in a country that speaks mainly English.
When the migrants crossed into Texas, Governor Greg Abbott shipped the new arrivals by bus all over the country. Many, muchos, ended up in homeless shelters (very hard) and on the streets, calles, as beggars (even harder). Some were offered better choices, but there was not enough money, dinero, to help everybody.
New York City (well, a lot of us New Yorkers) welcomed the Latinos with open arms. Some New York City schools set up donation rooms and the Latino families received the necessities-clothes, shoes, zapatos, and toiletries.
My class welcomed eight fifth-grade Latino kids in the middle of October 2022: (three, tres, from Venezuela; three from Ecuador; one, uno, from Nicaragua; and one from Colombia). Five, cinco, boys, niños and three girls, niñas. I think the class adjusted rapidly, rápidamente, but there was a lot of change. For about four months, my teacher was alone, sola, in handling 26 kids, eight of whom did not yet speak English. That was not easy, facil!
To make their English-learning faster, designated people, personas, renovated their classrooms, aulas, and met with each Latino kid at the designated time, tiempo. At the beginning of this month, February 2023, Febrero, we acquired an amazing assistant teacher, maestra, who had lived in Mexico for a couple years, años, and knows Spanish. She’ll be with us on Tuesdays, Martes, Wednesdays, Miercoles, and Thursdays, Jueves. Now, it’s easier for my teacher because the work, el trabajo, is shared by two teachers.
Lately, I’ve been wondering, pensando: how exactly did these families arrive in the United States? What made it so difficult? I asked around my classroom, and here’s one of the responses I received from a new friend, amiga, 11 years old:
“I felt very sad because I thought we would never make it to the United States. It took me two months to arrive there. And I was cold and hot while sleeping–on the floor of the earth–on the mountains. We would walk without stopping for 12 hours, not eating, always in danger, always hurting and scared. Getting caught by the Juarez cartel. We were always thirsty and hungry. I was with only my younger sister and my mom; my dad was in Venezuela. It was a very painful journey. But I think the United States is beautiful.”
–Translated from Spanish by the author
We’ve had these new friends from Latin America in our classroom, aula, for several months now, and now I feel like they’re part, parte, of the class. If they were to go away, si fueron, we would all feel very sad and empty.
Sienna Beck is a future author. She would like to become president when she is older. She lives in New York City (the best city in the world!) and spends her days ping-ponging between her two sisters, Willa and Olive.