Saturday, February 13, 2010

Family Unity
Posted on JANUARY 31, 2010 by juan post comment
Tags: Juan
January 31, 2010
From Fort White, Fl.

One of the primary things I ever learned about my culture had to do with the importance of FAMILY. I grew up in a home that consisted often of not only my siblings and parents, but also my aunts, sometimes their spouses, and my grandparents. I always try to explain this concept to people here as spending Christmas with your family nearly every day of the year. Not in the sense of the consumerist Christmas, but the more fundamental concept having to do with sharing quality time with family and sharing the love.

It was a completely different history of customs. In Colombia, as is applicable in many places throughout Latin America, most people never move out of the homes of their parents until they get married. Maybe I'm wrong, and this is only something that applied to the social class that I was a part of growing up, but that's a completely different blog. The point was that I was always surrounded by family.

When I arrived in this country I lived with family, lots of family. We lived together for several years as people began to settle in to more stable lifestyles, stable jobs, some getting married and moving out, while others slowly moving into greater forms of independence.

Regardless of the adjustments, I never lost my contact with family. We would get together every other weekend and have different kinds of diversions together: picnics, tourism, jump-roping tournaments, domino tournaments, card games, board games, bar-b-ques, pool parties, tennis, ping pong tournaments... etc.

Growing up in my family was like having a weekly subscription to some sort of theme park and you could always expect new fun experiences, discovering the most valuable aspects of existence along side your cousins, your uncles, your grandfather.

I wasn't ready for them to leave. Most days, I'm still not ready to think back to the day they had to leave the country and try to accept it. Why should anyone accept family separation as natural part of life? Why should pain and isolation ever be a standard emotion associated to someone's childhood?

This weekend, I was able to spend some time with the statewide leaders of the Students Working for Equal Rights (SWER) network. It made me remember my first conversations in this country about family and how people would describe to me their friends as members of their family.

"You mean, your grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins don't all live in your city?"

"What do you mean you haven't seen your grandmother since last Thanksgiving?"

"SURELY you couldn't POSSIBLY celebrate the 4th of July without being able to hug your sister!"

I've certainly been exposed to a completely different world, and it took me more than a decade to have anyone come to terms with the fact that I couldn't feel at ease with myself if I didn't stop by my sister's classroom at school every day to see how she was doing or visit her during lunch to tell her that I loved her. Or that, "NO, I CAN'T IMAGINE spending New Year's Eve with anyone OTHER than my family."

It was the losses that I had to suffer to this immigration system that pushed me to ever begin to learn what it meant to see FRIENDS as FAMILY and appreciate that "family" is something that should NEVER be taken lightly or for granted. It happened to me with Students Working for Equal Rights (, coming to the meetings in Miami every week and feeling that finally, there was a group that understood the pain that I was going through and that was committed to work with me to change it.

I'm so incredibly proud of them, and proud of having been part of this group that helped me to evolve as a person and better define the meaning of my existence.

Family means a lot of things to a lot of different people, and I'm not about to begin judging or dictating what that should be to any particular individual. All I know is that I shouldn't have to tolerate losing my cousins any more than I should have to tolerate losing my peers and classmates. Our community is crippled every time any of these people disappear; when they're simply taken from us under no moral basis.

Tell me ONE reason how raids and deportations are making this world a better place? Tell me how displacing people is supposed to be a rational answer?

We need to protect one another and not be afraid to stand in defense of those that have made our lives possible; that have motivated and guided us; that have given us the courage not to give up on existence.

-Juan Rodriguez

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