Photo courtesy Julianne Saad
Photo courtesy Julianne Saad
Photo courtesy Julianne Saad

BY JULIANNE SAAD, Staff Columnist

With Hispanic Heritage month coming to a close, the Latin American Student Association ended it with a bang. On Wednesday, Oct. 14 on the UC stage, LASA hosted an Immigration Workshop.
LASA’s goal was to educate people on the myths of immigration. One of the various items laid out on the information table was a flier addressing common ones, such as these: “Myth: They [immigrants] drain the system. False: Undocumented immigrants do not qualify for welfare, food stands, and Medicaid. They require proof of legal immigration status.”

Students also had the chance to place a pin on a world map, indicating where they immigrated from or their family’s origin. I placed my pin on Lebanon, as I’m first-generation half-Lebanese. Also on the table was a white board, where students could write why they supported the rights of immigrants. For example, I wrote, “I support immigration rights.” LASA president Laura Sanchez wrote, “Immigrant rights are human rights” and Alpha Psi Lambda member Brenda Hernandez wrote, “Be a proud immigrant. Don’t blend in!”

Sanchez is a Mexican immigrant herself, so this workshop was extremely important to her.

“I encounter lots of ignorant comments online, or even in person, about immigrants and their rights, so I think it’s really important to educate people about what is actually going on with us, and what being an immigrant in this country is actually like,” Sanchez said. “I’m an immigrant myself so it’s hard to hear people talk about me or my family in a negative way just because we are immigrants, so it’s extremely important to me to point out the misconceptions people have about us. We are trying to dispel stereotypes of immigrants; that’s our goal today.”

“I am from Mexico, and I actually immigrated here when I started here at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, so I practically lived my whole life in Mexico. It was an easy process for me just because I knew so much about America already, and my mom is American, so it was easier for me to adapt. But lots of people don’t have it easy like I do, so I’m privileged in that sense.”

Sanchez is exactly right; most immigrants don’t have it as easy as she did. Most don’t have that prior exposure to our culture, and most don’t have the advantage of being fluent in the English language as she is. Especially from Mexico, immigrating to the United States is an extremely difficult and lengthy process. The stereotype that Mexican immigrants always bring over drugs makes that even more difficult. Personally, I give an exceptional amount of credit to immigrants from anywhere around the world trying to make a new life, and sacrificing so much to do so. Agreeing with what Sanchez said earlier, I think it is extremely important to dispel the stereotypes of immigrants and to educate people about the truths of what being an immigrant entail.
This can be applied to a general aspect as well, but we most definitely are not the stereotypes or stigmas that come along with being an immigrant or just being a part of a certain culture. All Hispanics are not drug dealers nor do they exclusively do lawn service for a living, nor are they all alcohol dependent, just like all Arabs are not terrorists or extremely violent people. People are not their cultural or race-bound stereotypes.

In relation to this issue and Halloween coming up, costumes associated with cultural stereotypes have been popular for quite some time, but this definitely does not mean it is okay; it is not at all. And all of these issues are the reason that I agree with Sanchez and believe that it’s so important to teach others that there is so much more to the Hispanic culture, or any culture, than the negative stereotypes bound to these cultures.

With Hispanic Heritage Month coming to an end, I wanted to reflect on everything I’ve learned about the Hispanic culture coming from my own Arab-American perspective. I wanted to give thanks to the Latin American Student Association and Alpha Psi Lambda for putting on some amazing events: Soup & Conversation, Salsa Night, Hispanic Heritage Month Trivia and the Immigration Workshop. Through these events, I’ve learned so much about the Hispanic culture that makes it so much more interesting and amazing to me. The Hispanic culture is so amazing and so colorful. Some of these events I went into completely alone, stepping out of my comfort zone, so of course it made me a little scared, but everyone I have met this month at all of these events have been so inviting, and so welcoming, and it made me feel really great.

The Hispanic culture is so amazing and inviting, and orientated towards making others feel welcome. Just comparing my own Arabic culture to what I’ve learned this month, we both are extremely family oriented, and making others feel welcome is equally important. Being a part of events associated with another culture made me realize how many walls are set up around the world. It is kind of like cliques in high school; there are the jocks, the theatre geeks and those who excel with academics. And then when you apply this to cultures around the world, there are the Hispanics, and the Asians and the Arabians, but this divide in my opinion is so saddening. The Coexist movement is something that is extremely important to me, and these beliefs were with me the entire month. I’ve learned about all of the parallels that cultures share across the world. Speaking in general terms, we all have this bond with food associated with our own cultures, and we all have this tight-knit bond with our families. We have tight bonds with our culture’s music and cultural dances. The Hispanic culture has Salsa dancing; the Arabian culture has belly dancing and the Dabke, a wedding line dance, and the Scottish have Highland dancing. However, these are all parallels. If we broke down all of those barriers that are associated with us living in different parts of the world, we would notice all of the similarities we have. But most of all this month, I have learned to appreciate my own culture more, and appreciate the differences we have all over the world that make us so unique, but beautifully bring us together as a whole.