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  • Writer's pictureCarmen Hernandez

Think about your village

As Hispanic Heritage Month comes to a close, I want to write something of an ode. An ode to our common culture of community and collectivism. An ode to our way of life and collective reason for being. An ode to our over-arching purpose as we see it.

I want to talk about the contrasts and the merging of our differing generations, and the unnerving realization that we’re all just a part of some greater entity outside of ourselves that is also interweaved within ourselves. I want to talk about the innocence of childhood merging into the arrogance of adolescence and young adulthood, to then become the wise knowing of old age. The child knows nothing but is the most innately themselves they will ever be before the world makes it change. And it changes into this person who is only full of themselves, only sees themselves and all things to do with themselves, effectively blocking out all interference from the world around it that they perceive as having nothing to do with themselves.

And then as life turns and age grows, the elder comes to realize the connection between themselves and everything in the world around them. The elder understands how each person, regardless of their stage in development, plays an important role in the system of us all; In the making of community, of society and life. It isn’t till the end that we realize how important and intricate it all is. And how sad is that; If only we could have the youth of the young and the knowledge of the old packaged into one.

…I wonder if we would’ve saved ourselves and changed our ways by now if we had.

…or if we would have just brought our demise upon ourselves much quicker.

Anyway, I want to talk about our Villages. I want to talk about what a village means for everyone, and the implications we don’t normally associate with the saying “it takes a village to raise a child.” The village topic is two-fold for me, because in a sense that is what I attribute to Hispanic/Latino culture – the family unit is everything to us and community is one of the biggest things we center lives around. The second reason I want to talk about the village is that I have been recently moved by a man’s brief, abrupt story in a book I just read.

I’ll get to the book eventually – maybe I won’t get to it at all – but right now the most important thing is our collectivistic culture as Latinos and as Humans in general.

Us needing a village is a literal fact. It really doesn’t just take two people unfortunately - even though the west would like for you to believe this - it takes more than just two people to raise a child. To fully develop, a child needs to experience different people. And I don’t just mean in the early stages, even though they do need to bond with their parents at infancy. But they can also create a real bond with other people around them at that time as well; like their grandparents, aunts, uncles, even cousins. Mainly though, I’m talking about all ages of childhood, from toddlers, to elementary school to high school, and even in young adulthood because that in itself can be its own form of childhood.

We tend to have this version of a nuclear family - of mom, dad and maybe siblings - and we think that’s enough. No. The village encompasses aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, great aunts, second cousins, neighbors, family friends, teachers, classmates, even administrators. All of the people that come across that child and have any sort of impact in that child’s life; those people are part of their village, and if everyone in your village looks exactly the same you will be limited as a person. If the people around that child are only young people, they will not have the gift of the wisdom that comes from older people. They will not understand that there is life after a certain age. And it is rich, and it is powerful, and it's all-encompassing.

A lot of young adults in the late teenage phase, and early 20's phase, do not get to see any babies or children or people in their old age. But if you don’t get to experience and live life next to someone who is just becoming, or someone’s whose life is coming to an end, you don’t get the bigger picture of what all of this entails. It doesn’t click in your head how we came to be and you don’t understand your biology. How we grew, like lizards grow appendages, inside someone's body and how amazing that is. And how amazing it is that these beings who feel like they grew out of nowhere have their own personalities without you having to teach it to them; their own likes and dislikes from the get go.

The same thing goes when you experience someone in their old age, and you hear them talk about their lives; hear them reminisce and reflect on their life so far. And you hear them coming to terms with the things that have happened to them, and the things they have seen. There is nothing like sitting with someone who is 60, 70, 80+ and them telling you about their lives, and you recognizing and realizing that “if it wasn’t for this person who paved the way for me, I would not be here.” You think, “because this person went through this thing, I am where I am today.” Because several people created this life, this entity that we call society in the way that they did, we are here today.

If you don’t sit down with people who are not like you, who are not of the same age range as you, of the same race as you, the same cultural background as you, people who are not of the same geographical background as you – geography plays a big part in perspective – you’re doing yourself a disservice. Remember that what someone from East Asia experiences, they do not experience in South America. And the same is said for people in different countries within the same continent. You’re not going to speak to somebody from Uganda and then expect that someone from Sierra Leone feels the same way; someone from Ethiopia and someone from Tanzania don’t have the same experience.

I know some experiences are very universal and I won’t take away from that, but not everybody experiences the same things. For you to just not be given the opportunity to intake all of this information because the people around you all look the same, it’s terrible. It’s really a terrible thing. So, I say, be a little more intentional about your village – they will inform almost all aspects of you and your children’s lives for better or for worse. Make sure you're surrounded by young and old people alike. Get the perspectives from people who come from different geographical environments. Talk to those who are at the margins of society, forgotten and displaced. Make sure you become a part of their village as well. Learn from each other. Grow together. That is community. That is Humanity. That is life.

Thank You,

Carmen Hernandez

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