First-Generation Trauma in the Latino Community

First-Generation Trauma in the Latino Community

Sharing My Story as a First-Generation Latina

After spending the past few years healing from trauma, I can look back at my past and acknowledge the trauma I experienced as a first-generation Latina. First-generation Latinos were born in a Latin American country and moved or were brought to the US, usually as children.

My intention in sharing my story is to help other first-generation Latinos who have similar experiences feel validated. After all, the norm in our community is not to talk about the trauma we’ve experienced. To break free from generational trauma, we must start talking about it.

As an immigrant from Mexico, I arrived in the U.S. when I was five. I remember feeling overwhelmed, confused, and numb being in a strange country. In Mexico, we lived in poverty in a pueblo. We lived humbly and connected to the land; we grew our food. Suddenly I was in an unfamiliar country, and this situation made me feel unsafe and uncomfortable.

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Common Struggles First-Generation Latinos Face

When my mom put me in kindergarten, she placed me with an English-speaking teacher. This teacher started calling me a name I had never heard before. In Mexico, my name, Mónica, was pronounced with an accent on the o. Suddenly this strange lady was calling me a different name and would get angry at me for not understanding her. She thought I was ignoring her when I didn’t understand she was addressing me.

During my elementary school years, I learned to make myself small to survive. As a new immigrant in this country, I learned that people like me were not safe here, which created feelings of shame. We constantly had to watch our backs and deal with racism, even from other white Latinos in our community. This took a toll on my mental health. I didn’t have any support from anybody, including my parents, to help me cope with the intense feelings of shame, overwhelm, and uncertainty. I felt like an imposter because I didn’t feel I belonged in this country.

Additionally, I lived in a home where both of my parents worked all the time, so my older siblings and I were constantly left alone to take care of ourselves. My upbringing didn’t prepare me for society’s demands. I had to teach myself, but how is an elementary-aged kid supposed to teach themselves things they don’t know? I grew up in a domestic violence atmosphere and being shamed for being a girl. Several family members told me not to let anybody know what was happing at home. My trauma took on more layers due to this.

In high school, I finally got fed up with my home situation. Living at home after high school was not an option for me. When I thought about this happening, I felt extreme dread and anxiety. I had to figure a way out! This was when I decided to go to college.

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My parents and family’s perception of me changed when I began college. Both of my parents put me on a pedestal. They thought I would be the person in our family to get us out of poverty and help make something of ourselves. This pedestal created a lot of anxiety in me. I felt the burdens of my parents’ dreams taking a toll on me. I thought it was my responsibility to create a new path for my younger siblings too. Due to this, I started developing anxiety attacks that made it challenging to attend class.

In college, there weren’t that many Latinos in my major or even in my school, so I felt isolated and had little support. I had nobody to look to for guidance since I was the first in my family to go to college. It was me trying to figure things out on my own. At one point, I started to see my school’s counselor for support, but she had no understanding of what it was like to be a first gen. What kept me pushing through this difficult time was the fear of failing to reach this goal and disappointing my entire family.

Even after I graduated from college, I started to have nightmares that I wouldn’t graduate. When I would wake up from my nightmare, I would remind myself that I already did that! These nightmares lasted for years.

After graduation, it took me six months to land my first professional creative job. This had its challenges. Even though I had a four-year degree that proved I could do the work, I felt like a fraud. I felt like I wasn’t supposed to be at this job. I worked long hours to prove my worth and continued studying topics I had already learned in school. Being the only Latina working with the “higher-ups” was also challenging. I didn’t feel like I belonged, so when I was at work, I was by myself unless I had to attend team meetings.

After a few years of working at this company, I thought about looking for another job to help me develop my career. However, every time I thought about moving on, I would experience intrusive thoughts like, “Who would want to hire me!” I felt shame for thinking I could grow past where I was. After all, in my head, I thought, “People like me don’t get this far.” Eventually, I left this job after a near-death experience in a car accident, but that’s a different story.

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My Advice to Other First-Generation Latinos

It wasn’t until I started to heal from my immigrant and first-gen trauma that I began to have compassion for all my struggles and how far I had come in life. If you can relate to any of my experiences, I welcome you to be more compassionate towards yourself. As first-gen Latinos, we have unique experiences that nobody else in our family has. They don’t know what it’s like to create a new path that has never been walked before for future generations. They won’t know what it’s like to figure things out on your own even though you have no idea what you’re doing. They won’t know how traumatizing it can be to be the first in your family to go to college. They won’t know what it’s like to try and advance in your career only to feel more like an imposter the higher up you go. There aren’t many people who look like us up that ladder. All they see are the final results. They can’t see all the struggles and traumas we experienced to create those results.

If I could do this over again, I would also not take on my family’s burdens. I love them, but having those burdens put on me was harmful. Let’s not forget that our parents are adults and they can put in the effort to reach their own goals too. They should not be living their dreams through us! Our responsibility is to pursue our own dreams, to live our lives authentically, and to heal from the challenges we had to overcome to succeed and grow as first-gen Latinos.

Article originally published in Epifania Magazine on May 3, 2023

Latina Healing Journey: Why They Leave When You Heal

Latina Healing Journey: Why They Leave When You Heal

The Latina Healing Journey and Its Impacts

As a Latina, when you start to do the deeper work to process trauma, it’s most likely that some people in your life will begin to leave your life when you heal. This is completely normal in the Latina healing journey and is not talked about enough in our community. As a Latina, a trauma survivor, a cycle breaker, and a Trauma Coach, I felt inspired to share why this happens.

Trauma creates distortions of how you see others and yourself. Many times it prevents you from recognizing unhealthy and toxic people. Unhealthy behavior becomes normalized. As Latinas, we can see this happening with the machismo phenomenon. This generational trauma is a behavior where Latinas are taught that men are superior to us, so we must make ourselves small and do everything they want – even though that often comes at the expense of our well-being and self-respect. Being raised in a culture that normalizes this makes it normal for us to be treated poorly, to have low self-esteem, and to lower our standards for how we should be treated in the world.

Once you start your healing journey of processing trauma, your eyes will become open to the harm that you experienced and what you’ve become accustomed to. You’ll start to see and own your value as a human being and a woman. You’ll also start to see toxic people for who they are: toxic. As you begin to heal, you’ll also start to set healthy boundaries with others. Doing this will trigger those who took advantage of you and were benefiting from your staying in your trauma. If you challenge their toxic behaviors, they’ll leave your life more easily.

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Breaking the Cycle of People Pleasing

As a trauma survivor, this is something I experienced myself. I also see it in my clients. Before I healed from my traumas, I was a people pleaser. I had difficulty stating my needs or even knowing what they were and setting boundaries. I was afraid that if I spoke up, people would leave me, triggering abandonment trauma. So often I was afraid to say something, and people would get away with their harmful behavior.

As I started to heal from trauma, I started to assert myself and my needs. Close friends started to get upset and stopped talking to me. It was a painful experience to realize that those I thought I was close to were in fact not truly there for me. It was also a lonely time in my life because it took time to start making new friends that were more supportive of who I was becoming. Because I work with trauma, I also understood this was normal. When I had sessions with clients, they also shared that after they started to heal and set boundaries with others – some people would stop talking to them. They felt confused by this.

Here’s the reality. Only because you’re healing, setting boundaries, and respecting yourself doesn’t mean that others will be supportive. Again, Latinas who have experienced trauma have become used to being treated poorly. Predators and people who are abusive or toxic many times consciously or unconsciously seek others they can control or take advantage of. They benefit from those people staying in their trauma. When you start to heal, they can no longer take advantage of you, so they have no option but to leave. This is a good thing and shows that the work you’re doing to heal from your trauma is working.

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Discerning Between Healthy and Unhealthy People As A Latina

As you continue to heal you’ll learn how to better discern between healthy and unhealthy people as you move forward in your journey. You’ll also learn which people are safe to open up to and which you should keep at a distance. These conscious decisions will support you in selecting friends, partners, and even family members that genuinely care about you and are supportive of your healing.

After a while, I started to make new friends with people who were not only supportive of my healing journey but inspired by it. When I set boundaries and stated my needs, they didn’t lash out at me or tried to shame me. Instead, they listened, and we found win-win solutions. This is healthy. Because of the healing I’ve done, I’ve also become super selective of who I allow in my space. Us Latinas who are trauma survivors and cycle breakers have been through a lot. With our history of trauma, it’s easy for unhealed people to use our past and vulnerabilities against us. Thankfully by healing from trauma, we can better discern between those people and not allow them in our lives.

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How To Cope When People Are Leaving Your Life When You Heal From Trauma

So then the question becomes, what do you do in the in-between? How do you cope when people are leaving your life when you’re healing from trauma, especially if they were close to you? Here are four tips that worked well for me:

  1. Create your support system: Whether it’s your therapist, a coach, or both, make sure you have one. They will be super supportive and help you work through all the changes. They’re people you can share your deepest feelings and thoughts without being judged or harmed.
  2. New healthier people will come into your life: As you’re healing, you’re also developing life skills that will help you be more discerning of others. Use these skills to find other Latinas like you who are also working on themselves and understand what you’re going through.
  3. Develop self-compassion: Remember that you’ve been through a lot, and this transition is completely normal. Only because old friends, partners, and family members are leaving your life, it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. You’re removing unhealthy people from your life to make room for those who can fill your cup. Remembering this and embracing self-compassion for yourself will be vital during this huge transition.
  4. Explore your passions: Use this time to reconnect with your passions and even discover new ones. Having this alone time is a blessing in disguise that can help you master other talents and areas of your life.

After reading this, I hope you have gained more clarity about what you’re going through, how to navigate it, and how to create the support you need.

Article originally published in Epifania Magazine on January 30th, 2023

How Mexican Culture is Influenced by Our Indigenous Roots

How Mexican Culture is Influenced by Our Indigenous Roots

As an Indigenous Mexican woman – reconnecting to my Indigenous roots has become very important in my life. During my journey of reconnecting, I have done ancestral healing work and gotten more educated about my roots and how they are connected to our Mexican culture. One book that changed everything for me was, From Indians to Chicanos, by James Diego Vigil.

In this book, I learned many things about my Aztec (Mexica) ancestors I didn’t know before! Mexico has a long history of colonization. So there are few Indigenous people in the country who continue to hold the wisdom and teaching of our ancestors. This is why so many of us have found it challenging to embrace our Indigenous roots and that way of life. As I was reading this book, one thing became clear: many aspects of the Mexican culture have always been part of our Indigenous culture, but we don’t know it.

If you’re Latina but not Mexican, I invite you to take what I share here and see how this could relate to your culture. Notice if there are any similarities. It’s also important to understand that Mexico comprises different Indigenous people, not the Aztecs alone. The book I’m referencing here mainly focuses on the Aztecs. To keep things simple, I’ll focus on the Aztecs for this example.

If you have roots to other Indigenous tribes, it’s important you learn more about them and see if there are any similarities between how they lived then and their influence on your culture now. In this article, I’m not speaking for all Latinas with Indigenous roots. Instead, I’m sharing my experience and education to inspire you to become curious about your Indigenous roots.

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The Aztec Culture and Survival Evolved Around Agriculture

During the times of the Aztecs before colonization, everything about their culture evolved around the land. The Aztecs lived in communities and operated in this way. Everything about the culture was about the whole and not just one individual person. Agriculture was important because the more land they had, the more crops they could grow, which meant they could feed and take care of the community. They also had a strong sense of democracy.

The Aztecs worked the land with the mindset of what was best for the greater good. Working the land was not seen as something only “poor” people did. As a community, the Aztecs understood that every part of the culture was important to the community. Instead, they saw growing food as a joyful thing and a way to be connected to the land and each other.

Interestingly enough, if you look at Mexican culture now, you’ll see agriculture is still a critical aspect of the culture. Working the land is something that many Mexicans are still doing over 500 years after.

Sadly, it wasn’t until the colonizers stole the land that working the land became a negative thing. It became a way to enslave the Aztecs and other Indigenous people. This is why some Mexicans no longer see agriculture and working the land as positive or joyful. It’s no longer about the local community but about being used for cheap labor and feeding millions or even billions of people that are not part of their culture. They’re also working the land that was stolen from them. All of these factors contribute to the oppression of many Mexican people who have Indigenous roots.

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The Aztecs Were Spiritual People

Another essential aspect of the Aztec people is they were highly spiritual. Their connection to the land strongly influenced their spirituality. They used the land to give purpose to their lives and their existence. If you look at Mexican culture today, you can still see this strong spiritual influence. Even though a lot of spirituality changed to Catholicism due to the impacts of colonization, many of the Mexican spiritual ceremonies and events today are traced back to their Indigenous roots. For example, the Day of the Dead is originally Indigenous. La Virgen de Guadalupe is linked to the Aztec goddess, Tonantzin. Their spirituality also inspired them to create the Aztec Calendar, which is a guide to their way of life.

There are many more examples! You have to look beneath the surface to find traces of Indigenous spiritual practices and beliefs.

The Aztecs Were Great Builders

History has shown that the Aztecs were expert builders. They built a whole city (what is now Mexico City) on top of a swamp. In addition, they also built pyramids and giant structures. Their ability to build also inspired them to create a sophisticated mathematics system as well as creating an advanced form of astronomy for the times.

It’s no wonder many Mexicans naturally gravitate to working in construction and building beautiful buildings, and they are great at it! It’s something they have been doing for over 500 years!

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The Aztecs Were Highly Creative

Finally, creativity is another huge aspect that was important to the Aztecs. Their connection to the land inspired them to create music, art, pottery, clothes, jewelry, and dances that honored the land and spirituality – just to name a few. Most women in the Aztec communities were encouraged to be creative. Creativity was a natural ability for them. If you look at Mexican culture today, you can see strong influences of this everywhere. It makes sense why Mexicans are naturally creative and love music and dancing.

These are a few examples of how the Mexican culture today has strong roots in our Indigenous past. Although the Spanish tried to erase these roots, they were not thoroughly successful. Mexico is an Indigenous country no matter how many European countries have tried to colonize it.

With this information, I invite you to look at your own Latino culture and become curious about the various aspects that make it unique. You might be surprised at what parts of your culture are Indigenous too. The challenge then becomes removing the elements that the colonizers forced on us so we can reconnect to the true essence of who we have always been.

Article originally published in Epifania Magazine on November 28, 2022

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming A Latina Entrepreneur

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming A Latina Entrepreneur

As a new Latina entrepreneur, I felt inspired to share the hard lessons I learned from starting my coaching business. I wish someone had shared these valuable lessons with me before beginning this journey. I thought I’d share them with other Latinas who are thinking of starting their business to help save you years of confusion and struggle.

1. Build Your Foundation – Create a Business Plan

Before I committed to my current coaching practice, I dabbled with being a spiritual coach. Unfortunately, during that time, I was exposed to many so-called entrepreneurs who told me I had to use their services to make money. The reality is that new entrepreneurs don’t know what they don’t know. Because of this, it’s really easy for them to become lost in the process, like spending years doing things that will not help them move forward or become prey to people who want to take advantage of them.

I spent years thinking I needed to take this and that course to be a successful entrepreneur when in reality, I needed a business plan.

Everything for me changed once I finally created my business plan. It did the following:

  • Helped me think about what I was doing.
  • Allowed me to test my idea to see if it was needed and marketable.
  • Helped me explore my competitors and how to make myself stand out from them.
  • Helped me create and see a 360 view of my business idea and create a path that felt realistic to follow.

My business plan also included financials, which changed everything for me. I also got my business plan reviewed by a professional in the financial industry from a large bank. Having that extra approval made me feel more confident about committing to this path.

Also, if you plan to get a loan for your business, you will need a business plan. Financial institutions want to see that you thought your business idea through before they give you money. Having a business plan is how you’ll show them you thought this through.

Business plans are the foundation of your business. It’s what you’ll use to keep you on track, and it will help you remove any confusion or doubts about your business. You need this if you’re an entrepreneur. Many states have organizations that help entrepreneurs create their business plans. I highly suggest a quick Google search to see if this is available!

2. Know Your Financials

One of the biggest fears I had before I started my coaching business is that I didn’t know if I could make a living doing this. So, one massive part of my business plan was that I had to look at this. Finally, I could see how much it would cost me to run my business and use this data to create financial projections. Doing this changed everything for me! It helped me see that I could make enough money to live comfortably. Being able to see this on paper helped me feel better about moving forward with building my business.

3. You’ll Only Be Spending A Small Chunk Doing What You Love

Many entrepreneurs start their businesses because they have a passion for something. Sadly many of them don’t realize they won’t be spending as much time doing what they love in the beginning.

Marketing, networking, and getting the word out about your work will take up most of your time. The rest of the time will be spent on taking care of other parts of your business. When you start to make enough money to justify the extra expense, you might want to hire someone who can take on some of these tasks on. This is how you’ll find the time to pursue what you love.

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4. Don’t Quit Your Job

It’s easy to idolize the idea of working for yourself and not having to work for someone else. You might even consider quitting your job because you think you’ll make lots of money as soon as you start your business.

My advice is don’t do it! Unless you have an emergency fund of some sort – keep your job. Or you can do what I did and work as an independent contractor –for example, I also do creative work – so you’ll still work for yourself and have a stable income while you build your business.

Here’s the reality, unless you have a lot of connections, investors, or a comfortable amount in savings – it’s going to take time to make money when you start out. The last thing you want to do is put yourself in a situation where you have that added pressure to make money when you’re beginning your journey and you don’t have any funds to keep you afloat.

If you’re considering getting a loan, this will also be a red flag to financial institutions. They want to know that you’re a reliable customer that can continue payments if anything happens. They most likely won’t let you borrow money if you don’t have a steady cash flow.

5. Be Cautious of Buying Too Many Courses

Before I started my journey of creating my business plan, I believed that I needed to learn different things to begin. So I spent a lot of money buying courses I didn’t even finish.

Looking back, I wish I had kept my money because many of those courses didn’t do anything for me and only caused more confusion, stress, and overwhelm. Instead of this unnecessary step, I should have realized that having a solid business plan is what would help me the most.

6. Starting a Business is Hard

Again, people glamorize the idea of working for themselves. They think that because they have a passion, they can use that energy to make lots of money but don’t realize how much work it is to make money.

Building a business will be hard. You’ll have to dedicate a lot of time and effort and be okay with getting very little back in the beginning. At least in my industry – it takes at least one year for coaches to start making decent money. And this is if they have the proper support and don’t give up. So, know that if you feel like this is a lot of work – it’s normal to feel that way.

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7. Everything is Research

As a new business owner, you must see everything as research and stay in the mindset of being curious. The reality is that when you’re starting, you might be making projections and even assumptions about your target market and your financials.

It’s not until you put your business plan into practice that you’ll get to see if what you’re doing works. If it seems like nothing is working – take that as information, and try something else. Notice what works, and keep doing that. So, for example, if you created a video on social media and it did poorly, maybe the topic you chose didn’t resonate with people. It might be the presentation. Staying in that curious mindset will also help you from taking things personally, and this will help you keep moving forward.

8. Watch Out for Coaches That Claim They Can Help You Make Lots of Money in a Short Period of Time

Many coaches will promise to help you make six or seven figures within the first few months. Be cautious with them. Starting a business takes time, and so does making lots of money.

Success hardly ever happens overnight. These coaches won’t show you all the years and effort they had to put into making the money they make. Some don’t even make that much or have no clue what they are talking about themselves.

9. Starting a Business is a Journey That Will Challenge You to Grow

A lot of inner fears and mental blocks will show up. It’s a part of the journey. This is why it’s important that you don’t do this alone and get the support you need to help you overcome these internal obstacles. I personally did a lot of inner work and healed from a lot of trauma before I started putting myself out there. Because of that, I feel more confident and prepared for this path.

Even then, I still get doubts and fears that show up sometimes, and it’s been so helpful when they show up to go to my team of exceptional coaches and therapists that help me process what’s showing up. Doing this has been vital, so I don’t give up on my dream. Overcoming my internal obstacles helped me stay focused on my goals.

10. Entrepreneurship is a Way of Thinking and Being – It’s Not for Everyone

It takes more than having a passion to start a business. Being an entrepreneur is a way of thinking and being. If you’re starting a business because you want to make lots of money that might not keep you going for long. There has to be a much deeper purpose.

Many entrepreneurs become entrepreneurs because they can’t see themselves working for someone else; they’re courageous free thinkers who like to challenge themselves to grow. It takes a particular kind of person to take on this responsibility and keep going. There’s a reason not everyone can be an entrepreneur. But if you think you can do it, I encourage you to try.

Article originally published in Epifania Magazine on November 28, 2022

This is the most empowering thing Latinas can do By Mónica O. Duarte

This is the most empowering thing Latinas can do By Mónica O. Duarte

Latinas are some of the most resilient women on the planet. We are known to create something from nothing. This has been part of our culture for centuries. It’s because of the oppression we’ve had to overcome – as minorities and as women. But what if true Latina empowerment meant life didn’t have to be so difficult for us? What if there was an easier way to navigate life, reach our goals, and live our best lives? Well, there is, and I will show you how.

Before I do that, it’s crucial to bring up a topic we’re not addressing in our community. Unfortunately, that topic is…success is not always what it appears to be.

I’m the first in my family to graduate from college. After I landed my first corporate job, most people would have thought I felt successful. That was far from the truth. Instead, I felt like an imposter. I could not comprehend how someone like me, who came from el rancho, ended up where I was. Was this new life I had truly real? In order to compensate for not feeling good enough, I became superficial to an extent. This superficiality is what I still continue to see in our community today. We try to cover up our insecurities and traumas with possessions and degrees, hoping they will somehow help fill the missing parts of us. The ugly truth is they can’t make us feel better. At least not long term.

We think these possessions, degrees, and accomplishments will give us our value as women, Latinas, and humans. Yet when we try to do this, we give our power away to these trappings and society. The only way to reclaim your power is to be courageous enough to do the inner work that’s required. Then, you can heal and truly see your value as a Latina – not from anything outside of you but from within yourself.

This brings me to trauma. Trauma is the number one factor contributing to us following inauthentic paths in our lives and this prevents us from reaching our goals. Let me explain.

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When we experience trauma – internally, it keeps us frozen in time. This distorts how we see ourselves, others, and the world. For example, after I went through my first near-death experience in a car accident, I was terrified of being in cars. Being a passenger in a car made me feel extremely anxious. I was always on alert to make sure I would not get hit again because this time I might not be so lucky. This happened because both my body and brain believed I was still in that experience, even though it happened several years ago. This is how trauma works.

I shared that Latinas have experienced a lot of oppression and struggle. I also used the word: overcome. To the outside world, it appears we have overcome these struggles, but the reality is that internally they remain with us. These traumas stay because only doing inner work can heal them. Whether we’re aware of it or not, these traumas are only lurking beneath the surface. They’re still operating unconsciously in us. When you don’t heal from your traumas they begin to dictate the way you navigate your life and see the world. Your goals and your ability to reach them are affected by them.

For example, a Latina may have a dream of starting her own business. She thinks that’s what she wants. In reality, maybe she’s had a history of traumatic experiences in her career. So working for herself now feels safer than working for someone else. She thinks this is what she wants when in reality her trauma is calling the shots.

Another example is a Latina who has a childhood dream that she now wants to finally pursue. But every time she starts to pursue it, internally, she feels blocked from moving forward. She can’t move forward, no matter how much she tries. This mental blocking is another impact of living with unresolved trauma. She cannot move forward because that dream feels unsafe in her internal world. In this case, no amount of encouragement from others can help her move forward because the trauma has a hold of her.

So as you can see in these real-world examples (taken from past clients I’ve worked with), trauma can have a lot of power over us. It can make you believe that you have desires and goals due to these traumatic experiences. It can prevent you from achieving your authentic dreams and goals. This is why healing from trauma is vital to help you reach your goals in life as a Latina.

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Once you start to heal from trauma, you’ll start to:

  • Clearly see yourself, your goals, and your dreams.
  • Develop true internal self-confidence and motivation to move forward and create an authentic life.
  • See and feel your God-given value that nobody can take.
  • Tell the difference between healthy people and people displaying toxic behaviors.
  • Assert your boundaries in a way that feels empowering and safe to you.
  • Unburden yourself from the traumas of your past.

You can finally move on with your life, dreams, and goals in a way that feels authentically empowering to who you are. These are some of the impacts of doing this profound work. Many more that are unique to you may reveal themselves once you do this work.

So how can you move forward with starting this type of work? There are certified coaches and therapists that can help you on your journey. However, it may take time to feel a connection with someone who specializes in a specific modality, so you must do your research first.

One critical thing about trauma is that it takes time to heal it. It’s vital to understand this from the start because there are coaches and therapists out there that will give you dishonest guidance. They’ll tell you they can help you heal quickly, which is a huge red flag. In fact, when you go directly to the trauma it can create a new trauma or reactivate an old one. This is why healing from trauma takes time. You should be aware of this to prevent it from happening.

Furthermore, not all trauma healing modalities have to be intense. For example, Parts Work (Internal Family Systems) is a gentle, and compassionate modality that includes and respects the whole person. This is the modality I used to heal from my own traumas and what helped me gain clarity of my goals and dreams. This is the modality I also use with my clients, and it works wonders! Whatever modality you choose to work with, know that it takes a tremendous amount of courage to take that first step, and if you do this work, it will transform your life forever.

Article originally published in Epifania Magazine on October 17, 2022

Recreate The American Dream To Honor Your Latino Roots By Mónica O. Duarte

Recreate The American Dream To Honor Your Latino Roots By Mónica O. Duarte

We All Want the American Dream

If you’re an immigrant and Latina like me, you probably grew up with the notion of moving to the United States to live a better life and live the American dream. Your parents constantly discussed it in your childhood home while they struggled to put food on the table.

Talking about going to el Norte was mysterious to me as a child. Why did the adults talk about it all the time? Why was it better than the place I grew up in? And what the heck was the “American dream?” I never realized we were poor and how much my family was struggling. This drove my parents to move to the United States, and live the American dream.

Se Te Ve El Nopal En La Frente

I remember my mom reminding us many times not to forget our roots after we moved to the U.S. For example, in our culture, we have the saying, “se te ve el nopal en la frente” meaning “you can see the cactus on your forehead.” It means that you’re so Mexican we can see the cactus from the Mexican flag on you, so don’t pretend to be something else! My mom would often say this to me so I would not forget my humble beginnings and that although I lived in the U.S., I was still Mexican.

After we arrived, I would continue to hear about the idea of the American dream, not just from other Mexicans but also from Caucasian folks. When I watched T.V., I saw white folks in fancy cars, houses, and things – without a care in the world. Was this what my parents were talking about when they said they wanted a better life and to live the American dream?

Growing Up Around Systemic Racism

As I got older, the issues of systemic racism reared its ugly head, and I realized that if I wanted to live the American dream, I had to learn to assimilate. I had to put my nopal on the back burner and try to be and sound more Caucasian. As a Mexican, brown, and Indigenous young girl, it wasn’t easy to live in a country where who you are is wrong. To succeed and live the American dream you must try to be something you’re not. Being told this constantly by the media, other people, and how this country is set up started to impact my self-esteem so much that when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t like what I saw. I felt ashamed of being me. I felt ashamed of my roots.

So to cope with this shame, I started to assimilate unconsciously. I dyed my hair blonde and started to imagine what my life would be like if this country accepted me. What would my life be like if I could live the American dream? I can look back now and see how unhealthy this kind of thinking was. Yikes! I didn’t know better. And yet it was the idea of the American dream and wanting to belong that pushed me to be the first in my family to go to and graduate from college to actually live the dream.

During college, I immersed myself in everything Caucasian. My first boyfriend was Caucasian and I was exposed to a different culture and an unfamiliar world. It was a fancier world filled with privilege – something I had never experienced before.



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When Your Life Gets Turned Upside Down… You Grow From It

Then at the age of twenty-four, I went through a near-death experience in a car accident, which put my entire life into perspective. I realized that who I had become was not someone I knew nor recognized. I realized I didn’t know who I was. What did I like? What did I dislike? What were my dreams and goals in life? I had become what others wanted me to be and I almost completely lost myself.

I started to get into spirituality to help me find myself, but it was not until I began doing trauma work that I started to heal internally, see myself clearly, and reclaim my true self. During my healing process, I learned how much harm society inflicted on me when it constantly told me that who I was as a Mexican, brown, and Indigenous woman was wrong. Since a child, the Caucasian culture groomed me to create inner distortions of myself – to bend myself like a pretzel in order to belong, which caused deep trauma.

As I started to dig deeper and heal more, I realized the American dream I grew up being told about for many years was racist. This dream didn’t include people like me. This dream was a dream that Caucasian folks created based on their culture and lifestyle – based on what worked for them. I didn’t want to live a life with a white picket fence, a bunch of fancy cars, 2 ½ kids, working myself to death to make enough to pay for all the fancy things I had to impress others, and being detached from my feelings, my true sense of Self, and my humanity. I didn’t want it anymore if that was the American dream.

Recreating the American Dream

Instead, I realized I could create my own American dream – or is it a Mexican one? One that fits me as I am with my nopal el la frente and everything else that comes with it. I could still create an easier life while being authentic to who I am as a Mexican woman and to my Indigenous roots. I didn’t have to give any of that up. It was one of the most liberating feelings ever when I truly understood this! All I had to do was be myself and live a life that supported that – not the other way around.

Probing Questions to Help You Recreate the America Dream to Honor Your Latino Roots

You don’t have to give up who you are either to live the American dream. Instead, create your own as a Latina!

Here are some probing questions that will help you discover this. I highly suggest you journal your answers. Who knows what deeper insights you might gain that can shift how you see yourself?

  1. What does the American dream mean to you as a Latina?

  2. What parts of your idea of the American dream come from you and which come from the society you live in/the environment that you were raised in?

  3. What parts are you willing to let go of that don’t belong to you – to truly honor who you are as a Latina? Do you notice any fears that come up when you think about this? If so get curious about them.

  4. If you could look into your future self where you’re honoring who you are as a Latina and living your dreams, what do you see and feel? What advice would this future self give to you about how you might shift what the American dream means to you and how to create it?

Answering these questions will support you as you uncover what the American dream means to you as a Latina and how to begin to move forward in recreating it.

MOD unnamed 9 Monica O. Duarte

Healing From Your Traumas

The other part of recreating the American dream is working to heal from your traumas. Traumas create distortions of how we see ourselves and it’s not until we heal from them that we can finally start to see ourselves and others clearly. This also impacts our dreams and goals. We can create distorted dreams and goals due to these traumas. In my opinion, this is how the idea of the American dream originated in some aspects and why they forgot to include folks that are minorities and of other cultures.

You Can Create Your Own Dream

Know that you have the power in you to create whatever dream you want that’s authentic to you. You don’t have live someone else’s dream or be something you’re not. Instead, you can discover what your dream is by doing this deeper work.

Article originally published in Epifania Magazine on August 17, 2022