I noticed this is kind of a US-centric place, so I feel some Canadian POC perspective is needed.
I go by Maria and I am from El Salvador, the tiny country next to Guatemala and Honduras. My mom’s side of the family came here the same way many immigrants from El Salvador did- fleeing from civil war. My aunt came later when she got a graduate studies scholarship, and my grandma, mother, twin and I came last.
Getting to Canada was a nightmare of bureaucracy because really only middle-class/upper class people have enough time and money for the application. You have to get medically tested, fill out a bunch of paperwork, wait for it to come back, and if your application expires because the mail took too long then you’re going to have to start the process all over again. Our application was sponsored by our relatives here, but it was heavily delayed because 9/11 happened right as they were reviewing it. As you can guess, pretty much everyone had to start their applications over after 9/11.
I’ve been in Canada since I was 8 and haven’t gone back to El Salvador, so it really feels like home. My Canadian citizenship is something my family and I are super-proud of. Growing up, I‘ve never really had much trouble personally because of my race, I think for two reasons. One: We lived in the third-largest city in Canada, with an incredibly large population of POCs. If you pass someone on the street, it’s likely they’re not white. Second: Latinos were so rare when I moved, and especially in the suburbs where I grew up, that we were more a curiosity than a threat. My best friends were usually “minorities” in the neighbourhood, AKA white. (Don’t get me wrong- I still pause when I get asked “where are you from?”. I have been approached by a number of people asking me if I’m anything from Persian to Italian. I still have to slow down in order to pronounce words properly. It’s just not as bad as it is in the States, where I get dirty looks and followed around stores.)
Despite being university-graduated engineers, Canada refused to acknowledge my uncle and aunt’s degree, so they had to take whatever jobs they could while going back to school (and taking care of my 3 cousins). The same thing happened to my mom, but as a single mother it took her a lot longer to earn her degree again. There were nights when she would work for 12 hours at her terrible job, then go to school and get back home around midnight. I grew up taking care of the house and my sister, with help from my grandma. We lived in a rent subsidised building, and the neighbourhood around was on the brink between the “shady” part of town and the rich suburbs.
It’s a bit frustrating coming to a new country so young, because I feel more like a second-generation than a first-generation immigrant. My memories of my birth country are so far back that I might as well have lived here all my life. Honestly, I had no other latino kids my age to interact with, so I ended up growing up like a white person. There were two other Hispanic friends I had: A younger girl who I didn’t see much after middle school, and a half-Peruvian half-Chinese guy who’s family had been in Canada since time immemorial. I can talk Spanish, but it’s very proper, grammatically correct Spanish in contrast to my mom and grandma’s slang-filled vocab. I can write at about a grade 2 level, and read at about a grade 1.
I love writing and history and I am trying to get more connected to my heritage recently. It frustrates me to no end that there’s very little pre-Europan history of the Americas, and that there’s very few fiction books with people who look like me. (So protip: write a time travel story about a latina going back to the Maya empire. A few other remarks: Latino families are close-knit and have usually conservative values (The younger generation doesn’t as much. We get along by not bringing up social issues.), I and most people I know hate getting asked “Where are you from/where is your accent from?’(If you mention an accent you’re going to make me self-conscious for weeks),I would like to see the actual body diversity of latino people in fiction, and quite a few of us can claim mixed maya-european ancestry.