Anabel Hernández Cortés

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Anabel Hernandez Cortes is a coordinator in Enlaces with the Durham Region Affairs Office and Duke University. She has been widely involved in her community, and now provides educational resources for her community in Durham, N.C. She is originally from a town near the city of Irapuato, in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico. Cortes explains her personal immigration story and her parents' hard work and dedication to provide for her and her brothers and sisters. Because Cortes is a first-generation college student, she is able to provide insight into understanding how parent and children's education differences impact their family relationships. Even though Cortes's mother does not understand her daughter's academic and professional life, her mother accepts Cortes unconditionally. They might have educational differences between each other, but their mother-daughter relationship is a tight one, where communication thrives. She emphasizes her strong family values especially the value of living with her family, which may prevent her from leaving her home. Cortes eventually plans to expand her education with a non-profit management degree. At the end of the interview, she also talks about her brothers and sister's relationship to her mother.



Antonio De Jesús Alanís: This is Antonio Alanis interviewing Anabel Hernández Cortés, on the 29th of March of 2013. OK. So, this interview is going to consist on understanding how differences in educational levels impact family relationships between parents and their children. And how most importantly this or these differences in educations might impact student aspirations and performance. So, Anabel, could you please tell me about who you are and how would you describe your mother’s education and your education.
Anabel Hernández Cortés: First of all, my name is Anabel Hernandez Cortés; I’m a 22-year-old, graduate from school. And the relationship with my mother is, I would consider it a very good relationship even though we have some obstacles in regards to some communication. But over all, I have constant communication with her. I tend to share a lot of things with my family including my mother, since my father passed away about two years ago.
AA: And how is your education, you mentioned you are a recent graduate of?
AHC: Yes, I graduated from North Carolina Central University with a bachelors in political science.
AA: And your current work consists on what?
AHC: I currently work for the office of Durham Region affairs, for Duke University. And I’m coordinating a program with the office in the Durham Public schools system.
AA: And about your mother, can you explain to us about her education and just, general background information about you and your immigrant family?
AHC: First of all, in regards to my family overall: We moved, we immigrated to the United States back in the year 2000. So we have been living in the United States, especially in Durham North Carolina, for about thirteen years. And my mother’s education, she went up to sixth grade, almost sixth grade, didn’t’ complete sixth grade. But almost finished elementary school.
AA: And that was in her home country.
AHC: Yes, that was in her home country
AA: So, a couple of minutes ago, you mentioned that there have been some communication obstacles between you and your mother. So could you please elaborate more on that?
AHC: Yes, I would consider those obstacles to be, the differences between two different cultures: when you come into a country such as the United States and you come as a family and your mother has previous experience in regards to her education, or to different, things in the community, it is quite difficult to communicate those things, and for your parents to comprehend what’s really going on. I can give an example. For example, when I tend to communicate with my mother in regards to my education, and what are my goals, she tends to ask a lot of questions. She tends to make these kinds of faces: “I don’t understand but I will support you, what you do.” And it’s quite difficult to get advice from your parents as other students might have that flexibility, and that rely, and their parents that they can actually have their parents look over an assessment, an application for college or. I don’t know, any type of document, for a person such as myself not to have the support it’s quite difficult because you have to find that type of support somewhere else in the community.
AA: And sometimes, since you explained, you don’t have that support in, in your mom. How do you sometimes involve her in your plans or in your education.
AHC: Well, I tend to explain to her what I’m going to do. And try to explain to her a little bit about the system procedure of things and if in case I have any, lets’ say any orientation in regards to a program that I’ll be doing. Or any documents or pictures that I can show her I try to do that. She tends to be a really visual person, so. Those kinds of things help her out.
AA: So, another part of my project talks about this gap, this separation between parents and sometimes this miscommunication that might arise between children and the parents. So how would you describe the gap?
AHC: I would say, the gap is quite big when in terms of education understanding, but in regards to other relational things, with my mother, I have a really, really close relationship and we tend to communicate a lot. But the gap in regards to education is still there. And it’s quite there, and it’s quite difficult to close it, or to try to close it overall when your parent only has a sixth grade education, and it’s enabled to understand everything that’s going on. Or unable to, unable help you out with your future goals. For example, right now even though my mom loves to read, she reads a lot and she tends to listen when I’m rehearsing for a presentation in Spanish, or even in English. She just listens to me, but even though she’s not able to understand all of it that I’m saying. At least she’s there for me. But when in comes to me trying to get some help, she’s not there, well she’s there physically, but unable to help me. Yeah.
AA: And have you addressed to her, what you feel? Have you opened up and tell her?
AHC: yes, I have.
AA: What have been some of her reactions, and what did she tell you?
AHC: I tend to move, whenever I tend to communicate to her in regards to my frustration with education and the communication that we have between. I try to tell her and convince her that she needs to go back to school, sometimes, and try to understand because I have a younger sister and brother and they will need help. And I’m not going to be there always there for them to help them out, so at this moment I feel the responsibility to help them out and to always help them out, but I’m not going to be physically present to always help them. So whenever we have that communication with my mother, she tends to say: “Well, you know the first thing is you guys. I need to provide for the house, I need to go to work, it’s just not feasible at this moment, it’s not can’t be able to match the agenda and the schedule that I have at this moment.” She understands and she recognizes that she’s unable to understand everything in regards to education but she’s always open to learning something new.
AA: So, you expressed, that in the future you might not be there present in your family because of what? What do you plan to do in the future that will unable you to be there physically? Tell us about your plans.
AHC: Well, one of my plans is to be the director of a nonprofit international, international nonprofit organization. So, my goal has always been to live in another country. So I’m hoping, if it’s not South America, some other country in Asia. So, I know that I’m not going to be there with my family at all, of course I would like to take them with me, but every person has their own goals. I know that’s going to be quite difficult for my sister who’s really attached to me, and who’s always asking me: “Anabel can you look over this paper that I need to turn in, just for grammar mistakes, or just for the content overall.” I know it’s going to be quite a challenge there.
AA: OK, now, would you describe to us how you behave and in terms of you and your family, in terms of communication, in vocabulary in the words that you use, as supposed to in a professional environment. Would you tell me that there’s a difference between, would you tell me that there are two personalities that, like, a personality of being in your home, and being comfortable and another personality being in a professional place?
AHC: I wouldn’t want to call it personality. I think overall I have one personality, but I mean, in terms of the way I communicate at home and outside. First of all, outside the house I tend to normally, at my worksite, is just just English. So that’s a huge difference. And then getting home is just totally, everything is mostly Spanish, unless I’m talking to my younger brother and sister. Which we tend to communicate in English, but yes. In terms of the vocabulary that we use at home, it tends to be quite different and I would say quite different in regards to culture meaning, in regards to how we use terms but overall as I mentioned previously in regards to vocabulary we don’t have a difficulty because my mom tends to always read, so I know that she’s incrementing or adding her vocabulary so that’s not a challenge. Instead, we tend to always learn the new words like every week. Usually with my brother coming in from school, he’s seven years old, so he’s always bringing like a list of new words that he has to learn that week. So we tend to always have the list in front of the refrigerator. I always put the words in Spanish, or my sister helps me out. And we’re always learning English and Spanish worlds and we’re adding to our vocabulary.
AA: So do you feel comfortable, using phrases in your family, in your house. Words that you might use in your work? Since you explained to us that you work in an English language-environment?
AHC: I tend to use all of the phrases that I use at my work, usually at home with my brother and sister. Not with my mom. I know she wouldn't understand so, I would use some in Spanish. And sometimes just simple words in Spanish to communicate.
AA: Do you think it would have been a whole lot different if your mom had had received an education and you could have been more open to her about, just, expressing yourself, because what I’m sensing is that you filter your words, in a place you use something with your little brother and sisters and not with your mom. How does that make you feel?
AHC: Sometimes, it is really frustrating, not to be able to do, to communicate in either Spanish or English and have all of your members of your family understand what you’re saying. Especially my mom since I don’t have my dad. It’s quite a challenge, it is very challenging not to be able to communicate to her directly and yeah.
AA: So, how would the gap behave if your mom would have had an education or if she continues, if she decides to go to school in the moment.
AHC: I think that the gap would start closing because that’s what I’ve noticed. I was the one who influenced my mom to start reading. So I started giving her books in Spanish like El alchimista and other books I noticed that she was going to enjoy and like them. That has been like a continuation for her to continue and discovering and reading, so that has helped a lot. And I think that if my mother had had an education, our lives would be very different. She would be able to understand a lot of things that go on-- on the Durham Public Schools system, even though she’s always involved and she has a--. She always attends all the meetings, teacher-parent meetings, events that go in school. But doesn’t really-- she’s not able to make the connection between the staff members of the school and her as a parent, and really getting involved, due to the lack of the language, due to the lack of the education and unable to understand all of the process, and all of the system. But it would be very different my situation I would think if she had had an education she would be able to look over my papers, or at least say: “What’s going on? Where are you in the process of applying to certain programs, or what are you doing at this moment?” We tend to have a, in regards to education, we tend to communicate in a general atmosphere, I would put it that way. Not really getting to details when it comes to education. Yeah.
AA: So, you mentioned that you are a recent graduate, and where do you work now? What do you do?
AHC: I work with the Durham Regional Affairs Office, and that’s with Duke University. So Duke University has this office and we look and see the needs of the community around the campus. So we noticed that we have several different public schools around the campus and this was a program, it’s called ENLACES even though it’s focused to Latino parent and students, we work with the staff members and we provide them information for the staff members, we do parent workshops, we give sessions to students. So that’s what I do. My job is part of the coordination of all the process.
AA: And would you ever consider involving your mom in what you do?
AHC: Actually, to be honest wit you. I have already involved her in some of the things that I do, since we have parent workshops in Spanish. I have my mom, has been attending some of those parent workshops, and then she has helped me out with some of the logistics things, for my job, whenever I have a presentation she tends to say: “Anabel do you have this ready? Are you ready for this? Do you want me to help you make some copies at home?” Yeah, or just putting things in the car for me to go to work. I tend to get her involved, always when I come back home, and whenever I have lets’ say, staff meeting or meeting with certain people who coordinate programs that we could benefit as a family, I tend to communicate to my mom and say: “Well today I had a meeting and they passed this information. They have certain slots open for people to go.” Because my mom, even though she might not have a hard education, she’s very involved in her community, especially at her church, at her work, whenever she’s available, and able to help anyone out she’s willing to help them out. So, I know by passing that information to my mom, it’s not going to stay with her. She’s going to pass it to other people.
AA: Going back to your academic life, when you were growing up, who would you attribute your academic, your academic ( ) success? To you, to your mom, to your parents, to a huge amount of people, or to whom would you attribute your academic performance?
AHC: I would say it’s not only--at first my firs answer would be my parents. Both of my parents, but being really honest to myself it has been my parents but also many people in my community. And many people who have been there for me and as continued to challenge me, and that would have to be my professors at the schools. People that I know from the community that have helped me out, and that goes back to the same question you were asking me in regards to the difficulties and the gap between the education, whenever-- My parents are there and they provide me things that I need in order for me to accomplish my education. And they are there for--I would put it this way: "Anabel you can continue doing this. Make sure you can work as hard as you can, and remember that we’re here to achieve, and to attaint the American dream, that’s kinds of support from my family. But, when it comes to people outside the community and they know me well, and they’re like: “Well Anabel,” they give me specific advice especially professors back in school. I still have communication with them and I tend to email them. They tend to check how I am. So, going back to obtaining my education, my bachelors, it would be a huge group of people. Including also friends from school who were there for me when ever I was sad, or whenever I wasn’t feeling OK. They also challenged me by them performing really well and made me go beyond what I had set my goal.
AA: So, other than your parent's encouragement, what else did they contribute to your school performance?
AHC: To the school performance? Well, they contribute a lot. I think it all goes back to my personality, who I am. The value that I have acquired from them. It’s more, I think it’s the most valuable thing. More than education put it that way because if I didn’t have the values that they had they taught me throughout my childhood I wouldn’t be the person that I am, being honest, respectful, outgoing. All of those kinds of things, the family value, the loving value. I think that’s the core of a person, if you don’t have all of those things, it doesn’t matter how much education you might have. You’re not going to be sensitive. You’re not going to be respectful, you’re not going to be honest.
AA: Great. So, now. ( ) Another question, let’s move to your future plans. You explained to us that you plan to become a director of a nonprofit in either a South American country or an Asian country. What were your parents or your mom’s reactions to your plans? When she heard about this?
AHC: First of all, my parents they know that I like to travel a lot. And they know that if wasn’t for certain things at home, at this moment for example, that my father passed out. I wouldn't be home at this moment. But my mom, when I told my parents at first that that was my goal to live in another country. They were ( ) looking at me staring. “Well, we brought you to the United States and you just want to leave and go to another country. I don’t understand.” They were confused I’ll put it that way. They were really confused. And they were like: “What are you thinking child? What are you going to do in another country? When I sat with them and started explaining well this is what I could be doing. This is what I really like: Helping out people. I could be there in the communities but also coordinating things, helping out people at first hand and they understood because we come from quite a poor community I would put it that way that is always in need. Many resources are needed in order for the community to continue functioning. They were able to make that connection, but it took quite a while for me. It was like maybe three or four conversations that we had, about the same issue.
AA: So now, they know where you work. They understand that you like to travel and help people in all ways. Has their support increased, or what has been their behavior now that they understand that you might leave in the future, in the recent future, or when might you leave and work somewhere else?
AHC: Well, first of all, they have always support me so they have, and I’m going to talk just about my mom since my father just passed away in 2011. My mom is there for me she hasn’t changed her relationship at all since we had the conversation. She's always willing to support me out eve though now that I have a fulltime job I tend to be more independent so there’s more responsibilities to that and I would put it that even at my house I have more responsibilities as an adult and as a full time job person than I was previously as a student. But, before I leave and go out into another country, they’re aware that I need to continue my education. I need to get a least a master’s degree. So that’s one of my plans that I have already communicated with them, either in the near future and I’m saying between a year or so. I’m planning to go back to school that way those opportunities that I’m looking for will be there.
AA: And as masters, what kind of masters would you--?
AHC: I’m thinking of non-profit management. That is my goal. I have a larger goal to go back to law school. I don’t know when, I know that it’s the curiosity and the interest is there. Even though I haven’t quite obtained it that.
AA: And, now what kind of opportunities would the masters would open to you, other than help you work in a nonprofit organization?
AHC: Well, it gives you, besides opening those kinds of opportunities. It gives you more, I would say more experience when it comes to functionality, going back to the non-profit system, how it works, how to manage a business, how to conflict resolution, how to be an effective leader and director. I think those fundamental things you acquire them in school but you really don’t put them in practice unless you’re really doing the things. And I can go back and give you an example. I got all the fundamental knowledge from school but when you go into the world it’s a totally different reality. All of the knowledge that you acquire, all of the research that you did; you have that knowledge, you might be able to use it sometimes during your presentations at work, but it all goes to the process, how did I did some research, how did I put the practice into action, and how to deal with people. I tend, at my work, my main responsibility is to have a good communication. In fact, the communication conflict resolution, problem solving, be there as a kind of a like an advisor, and coordinate a lot of things. All of those things I really acquired them doing them at my work and doing them with prior internships, prior volunteer work that I did.
AA: Great. Now going back to your future plans. The future plans section. Where would you like to study a nonprofit masters? Would you consider doing it in the state of North Carolina, or out of state, or in another country?
AHC: The three of them I would say, but there are so many opportunities out there in the world. But, if we’re being really honest, a masters from a different country wouldn’t be as worth it as a masters from the United States. So, I would say that the United States, but then the other thing is I have my family in North Carolina, my mom is widowed, I have younger brothers and sisters and I feel that attachment to them that I need to stay within the state boundaries. Even though to be honest with you I have done a lot of research, have looked at different master’s programs outside the state, but I don’t have the courage maybe to apply to them, and I would say I’m planning to stay within the stay within the state’s boundaries unless something totally happens to me and I decided to go to another state. But I still haven’t received that kind of encouragement from my parents, from my mom for her to say: "Well, Anabel I’m going to be alright. You can go. Be on the state boundaries and apply to a different state.” Because at this moment I have a younger sister who’s fourteen. She’s in middle school, about to go into high school. We were talking the other day, in the car, with my mom, about her plans, future plans. She’s planning to go into medical school. My mom suggested, she’s like: “We’ll, there’s Duke and there’s UNC. You should stay here and you could live at home.” My sister felt kind of like: “I have to stay home.” And then she looked at me and I was like “You don’t have to follow your sister’s steps.” That’s what I told her, but I told her in English. I was like: “You don’t have follow your sister’s steps. You can go beyond if you want and live on campus or go to a different state.” She feels the same way that I did: attached to the family core. That makes it quite a challenge, when it comes to decision making, and the different institutions.
AA: You’re an immigrant and. First, how would you consider yourself? Or your identity? Who would you say you are?
AHC: I would say that I am Latina. That’s how I classify myself even though as you mentioned previously I am an immigrant to this country. But I don’t really put all of those labels on me when I’m out there in the community especially with the community that looks at bellow at immigrant and makes you kind of less and looks at you inferior. I would put it, I look at myself in the community as a citizen who is able to get back, to provide for others and able to contribute.
AA: So, could you tell me about your thoughts about, on, Latin American values in terms of families and family values and American values? What ever this might mean to you?
AHC: I would say that coming from a Mexican family and having those values prior to moving into to the United States, I would say the values are very different when you’re in a society in which is mostly most of the time moved by material things and people aspire to be and they tend to think that most of the happiness and achievement is only shown by physical material things. It’s quite a difference when happiness can be found in simple things that you an do for others, and that’s just part of my values that have from my family, from my background, and to be here in a different society that tells you something different, is quite challenging. But I have always found myself that I’m always going against the flow, like the sail go against the water. I like to do that. I like to challenge others and to set the example for others, to see that you can be different. You don’t have to be the same as anyone else.
AA: Have you ever had the chance to talk to someone from, like an American and talked to them about the differences between the Mexican values that your mom and dad taught you when you were younger, and the values that they were taught by their parents in terms of living with the family, or going away?
AHC: Yes,
AA: What has been some of these reactions?
AHC: Some of the reactions are like:” Well, your parents don’t say anything, like if you stay home beyond eighteen. Don’t they expect you to leave the house?” I’m like: “No they have never told me that.” And it’s quite confusion there. I have had those conversations, several times. I put it occasionally, because whenever they ask me my age. I’m 22. They ask me: “Where do you live. Where do you stay.” I’m like at home. They’re like, they look at me. “She’s still at home? What is she doing at home with her mom?” But they don’t quite understand unless I start a conversation and tell them. Well, this is what I value; my family is really important to me especially at this moment. When we had this family difficulties and I need to be there to provide for them too, and to help my mom with my younger brother and sister. They understand the situation but if in case you don’t explain to them, they’re like, “What is she doing. Like, she’s been there with the mom, she’s been there. I don’t know making it more challenging for the parents.” But yeah, it’s quite a difference. Yeah.
AA: So, you would expect. ( ) In terms of Mexican values. You were saying that family ties are stronger than children not being able to, might not be encouraged to leave home as early-- What’s your opinion about that?
AHC: My opinion is those values that they, my parents taught me, they tend to make the family relationships so strong and there are so many good and positive things to that because you can have a really good relationship with your parents and share and learn-with the family overall. Some of the con things those tied family connections is that the separation of its members. That’s the difficulty and the challenge with my family. We have those tied connections and it’s quite difficult to encourage a child to go out of the house, or to not come to the house, or to not visit. It has been challenging, but I think it all goes back also to the person level, how you have set your goals, and how you really want to go out of your house, but it is difficult when your parents don’t encourage your that, or whenever your culture or those values are ( ) so connected.
AA: OK. Now let’s go back to your education. When you were, I don’t know. Let’s say, high school, even college in North Carolina Central University. ( ) What, OK, did your parents, how did your parents acknowledge your success in college?
AHC: In college, well I would say ( ) graduation? But, before graduation I would put it that, just for them to see their child go to college and come back the same day, or maybe looking at me at my study area, or my desk, or looking at me, studying, reviewing for a test, or staying overnight and studying it’s just make them fell: “Well, we have a achieved something. She’s actually taking this seriously and she’s going to college.” And they always communicate to me how proud they feel about my education and for them to have a child who went beyond their education level that they had, they were really proud. Yeah.
AA: What moves you internally to be the person that you want to become?
AHC: Can you repeat the question?
AA: What makes you, what motivates you to become the person?
AHC: The future person that I am or the future person that I aspire to be. I think it goes back to being thankful. To the opportunities that I have been granted. And it goes back to all the people that have helped me. But overall, to my parents that they sacrificed their lives, to bring me to this country especially my father who before he brought us to the United States he was coming to work as a farm worker in different fields, California, Florida. And I know that he risked his life so many times and when we first arrived in this country I still saw my dad would leave the house. I wouldn’t see him for several days. He would leave very early in the morning, and would come really late at night, and I know that the work that they have been doing all the sacrifice of themselves, their lives, the time, the money that they have invested is really going to be worth it because I’m planning to achieve, and to be someone to achieve my goals that I have set for myself. I’m planning to help my community, and specifically my family. That’s my way of paying them back, and being able to being independent and have my own career and have my own house and be able to provide them.
AA: So let’s talk, in the last seven minutes, about your opinions your brothers and sisters. In terms of education, and your mom now. What do you think about their relationships now? Are they going to face the same problems or not problems? Or what do you think their obstacles are going to be?
AHC: Since I have a younger brother and sister, I think they will face some challenges but not the same challenges that I have at this moment because at this moment my mom is understanding better the education system since my sister Cecilia and I already went to college. She has an idea of what’s going on, what kind of process it is. She’s learning, and now that I’m at home, I tend to be an advocate for my sister for like, if she wants to make a decision, or she wants to do this and I tend to explain to my mom. “Yeah, you should let her go, you should do this, you should do that.” And in terms what she didn’t do with me I’m planning to help our my sister and making her go beyond the things that I didn’t do, and maybe the things that those kinds of strings that were attached to me with the family core. Yeah, I have the value of your family, but at the same time If you have those goals and the aspirations, go for it. Yeah. I think it would be a lot different a lot now that I have a good strong relationship with my brother and sister.
AA: OK. You have a ( ) younger sister, how is her relationship with your mom? Was she always as, and I mean your sister, was she involved in the community, just as you?
AHC: I have two sisters. So, are you mentioning the one just below me, or the one that goes to middle school right now. The one’s in college.
AA: The first one.
AHC: Her relationship with my mom, I would put it was a little bit distant than mine. I think it all had to do with, these kind of challenging things, but also to many other factors I would put it that way. But she tended, I tended to, she was involved in the community not much as I did, so she tended to be more quiet. I more like a person, “We need to communicate. We need to find a resolution, and we need to sit down, be respectful to one another, and try to see what we can come out with. But we can’t just leave off things like that.” And my sister tended to be more like: “I don’t feel like talking. I’d rather not communicate at this moment.” Her relationship was different but at the same time I would put it this way, she has matured and right now she has a really nice relationship with my mom. Yeah.
AA: When she was growing up, as you were explaining to me. She was shy and distant. But did she ever express to you concerns, about the differences between your mom’s education and her plans?
AHA: Yes, one time when she asked me: “Well, I want to apply to this college.” And it was somewhere else in the country. I said “well sure you can apply for it, but at the moment I still didn’t have the courage to tell her: “Well, Ceci, you can go beyond our house, beyond our community, our state,” because I didn’t have the support with me. So I think that’s why she staid also in North Carolina.
AA: So the tone of your voice tells me that you were insecure about telling her to go out there. Why was it?
AHC: I felt insecure because I didn’t have the support with me at that moment. Specifically at that moment in my life when I was just going into the college system as a full student and not having that previous experience of encouragement. Kind of let me out, with not a good example to set for my sister. To certain extent, I felt responsibility for that. At the other stand, I think well. “Well, there are so many opportunities a person needs to take. And you need to also find for yourself.” Because at this moment I feel so good at encouraging others, “Well you need to go beyond your house, you need to go beyond your house, get another experience. I do understand that kind of family attachment.
AA: We have one more minute. Do you have a last thought that you would like to share with us?
AHC: Well, thank you for this opportunity. I would say that for us as Latinos as myself, our community is important, our families are important to us, but at the same time we need to have a balance between family life and those opportunities that life gives us.
AA: Well, thank you so much Anabel Hernandez. This interview was made in March 29 2013.