By Jacob Factor, Features Editor (Photos by Factor/The Bison)
“Familia es todo. Familia es mi motivación. Familia es mi felicidad. Cuando veo a [mi familia] me da esfuerzo para salir y trabajar mas duro para que pueden tener una vida que desafortunadamente no tenia. Quiero que mi familia nunca les hacen falta algo. Yo llegue aquí para ayudar a mi familia y no voy a parar hasta que me Dios me dice.”
“Family is everything. Family is my motivation. Family is my happiness. When I see [my family], it gives me the effort to go out and work harder so that they can have a life that unfortunately, I did not have. I want my family to never need anything. I came here to help my family, and I’m not going to stop until God tells me to.”
This is what OBU graduate Vivianne Garcia’s dad, Jose Alfonso Garcia, said was his motivation for leaving his home country, Mexico, and coming to the United States.
He left Mexico when he was 13 years old. He was by himself, and he knew no English.
He said he came to the U.S. to help his mother and had arranged to live with a relative who was already here, but once he got across the border, he was deserted.
Eventually, Vivianne said, he made it to a farm in Kansas, where he made enough money to get his mother to the U.S.
“Stories like this aren’t unique,” Vivianne said of her father’s experience.
Vivianne is a lead advisor to youth for LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens.
She has worked with high school students in Oklahoma City schools as an advisor
for the last two years, and she said there are many students who have similar stories.
One of Vivianne’s students, Jonathan Ortega, a sophomore at Southeast High School, came to the U.S. with his parents December of 2005.
He was five years old.
He said he can remember crossing a river on his dad’s shoulders and going through a desert.
“The police were after us.”
He said his parents wanted him and his brother to graduate high school, an achievement their parents didn’t get to accomplishment.
“[My parents knew] even if we were undocumented, we’d have a better life here than in Mexico,” Ortega said.
Ortega said since he got to the U.S. before 2006, he qualified to be part of the D.A.C.A. program, and he said he got approved for the program just last week.
“Being undocumented is devastating because a simple mistake can send me back to where I ran away from,” he said.
Ortega said he won’t let his parents’ sacrifice be in vain.
“Even though I’m a minority, it’s not going to stop me.”
Vivianne also didn’t let being a minority hinder her.
She is the first person in her family to graduate college.
While at OBU, she said she tried to start a chapter of LULAC.
She wanted OBU to be a place where Hispanics could be unapologetically Hispanic.
“There’s a saying, ‘Tienes el nopal en la frente,” which means you have a cactus on your forehead.”
Vivianne said this means being outwardly Hispanic and not being ashamed of it.
Sadly, she said, at OBU, the opposite is usually true, which is why the LULAC chapter idea didn’t take off.
The few Hispanics at OBU (41 accord- ing to the 2016 Fact- book) aren’t involved in Hispanic culture or the community.
This comes from OBU not having an appreciation of Hispanic culture, Vivianne said.
Dr. Paul Donnelly, professor of criminal science, said it’s a minority’s regular struggle to want to fit into society, but he said he thinks there are ways to lessen one’s struggle at OBU.
“We all have to do as effective a job of “engaging a diverse world” here on campus as we do on trips to lands far afield,” Donnelly said.
“That begins with individuals being willing to get out of their comfort zones and reach out to others and ask questions about what [Hispan- ics] would like us to know about their unique experiences on a predominantly white campus, what we would like to know about them as individuals and what we as a campus community could do to honor the beautiful and unique contributions they have made to this great nation.”
Vivianne said it’s important for Hispanic students to be able to embrace their culture, and for the OBU community to embrace them without judgment while they’re embracing their culture.
“I want them to feel comfortable in their own skin,” she said.
This isn’t what Vivianne said she felt like, though.
She said she was constantly judged for speaking Spanish because people couldn’t understand her and thought she might be talking bad about them.
“I learned to embrace and love my culture more at OBU because there was an absence of culture,” Vivianne said. “I learned to value and stand up for who I am as a Hispanic by going to OBU because there was nothing for me. I learned how to do it myself.”
She said people who aren’t Hispanic don’t make an effort to get to know about her culture.
“They feel like it’s not their culture, so they don’t want to participate in it.”
She also said there are double standards about culture.
“You don’t see anyone judging when someone’s blasting Ed Sheeran or Chris Tomlin. I want to be able to blast Mexican music and not be judged.”
She doesn’t want being Hispanic to be something that is used as a descriptor.
“It shouldn’t be something you have to point out. It should just be there,” she said.
“You at OBU should be you. You shouldn’t be that Hispanic kid.” Not everyone’s voice can be heard without help, Donnely said.
“Sometimes you have to raise your voice to be heard,”
Donnelly said. “However, that should not fall to our Hispanic brothers and sisters alone. We all (faculty, staff, administration) must be interested in their issues and first listen to how we can make them feel fully a part of the OBU experience.”
Donnelly said this is so Hispanics will know they are welcome as a part of OBU’s community.
“That is just the beginning of a number of actions and steps that can be taken so that we can work toward a campus community that reflects the rich diversity
found in imago dei, a place where all students will be welcomed, respected and