Latino Families Are Trailblazing A New Culture For Deaf Latinos And It’s Giving Us All The Feels
For some deaf Latinos, being a part of the deaf community can mean losing the Latino part of their identity.
In the United States, the deaf community signs using American Sign Language (ASL), which is based on American English. It’s rare for deaf schools to teach Spanish and rarer still to teach a Spanish-based sign system like Mexican Sign Language. So for deaf students from families like ours, the one place they are least understood is in their own home.
For one Latina mom, this just wasn’t acceptable.
After giving birth to three deaf children, Irma was convinced that she had done something wrong in life. Often in our culture, women are taught to believe that if a child is born differently it’s because she, the mom, is being punished for something she did wrong in the past. Irma knew this just wasn’t true.
Even though she saw her children as beautiful gifts, she struggled to cope with the difficulty of raising her three deaf sons: Felix, Hector, and Enrique.
Language plays a major role in defining communities. Therefore, language can be a bridge or a barrier among cultures, and it can also be a source of cultural identity.
For Irma, one of the greatest worries was not being able to visualize a future for her children. It was hard to see her own kids in these Deaf white role models whose lives were fundamentally very different.
So then Deaf Latinos Y Familias was born.[
Irma, who had been struggling to find Deaf Latino role models for her three boys, made it her mission to bring light not only into her boys’ lives, but for all deaf Latinos. In 2010, she founded the organization Deaf Latinos as a resource for people like her children and their families.
Irma’s three sons are all supportive of their mother’s newfound mission in life, saying they saw many parents struggling to connect with their children and that his mom wanted to bridge the connection between them regardless of how much they can hear.
Some parents struggle to communicate with their own children.
Another mother, Saira, came into Deaf Latinos after struggling to connect with her own deaf child, Jose. Saira refused to believe he’d forever be deaf and came to the U.S. from El Salvador hoping to find a ‘cure.’
Communication became super difficult and at times Saira would become so upset she’d sit outside of her home to cry. She felt alone and lost as if she was the only one with a deaf Latino child.
Discovering Deaf Latinos y Familias was a miracle in her eyes. Since joining the organization, she’s started learning new signs and new ways to communicate with Jose. But most importantly, she’s meeting other Latino families and realizing she’s not alone.
A family learns to grow together after challenging times.
Evelyn and Wilson have three children: Richie was born deaf, Darlin is disabled and requires therapy and wheelchair assistance, while Heaven was born prematurely at just six months old. Yet despite these struggles, they have persevered as a family and found new meaning in their lives.
After years of struggling to communicate, together they’ve started learning sign language with Deaf Latinos and feel closer as a family.
Fierce moms will do anything for their babies and these three fearless women show how powerful a family can be.
Saira, who is now pregnant with a girl, wonders if her little daughter will be born deaf. Her son Jose has asked the question which would she prefer and Saira responds: “It doesn’t matter, either way, she’ll learn to sign.”
While Irma, reflecting on her life and family, proudly proclaims that she wouldn’t change a thing about her life nor her journey. She’s grateful for her opportunities and vows to continue so long as she still has breath in her.
Now please excuse me while I go get a box of tissues to wipe away these happy tears.