Apolinar's Story

Apolinar's Story

"Leaving behind my family and town was as dying alive"
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I am filled with joy to be able to share Apolinar Islas’ story. I recently met Apolinar at a creative writing workshop and when I first heard his story, I knew I had to share it. He is one of the bravest people and dreamers I know. As I have said in my past articles, I believe our strongest weapons as dreamers are our stories. It is truly an honor to be able to share Apolinar’s story. Apolinar’s words were filled with perseverance, love and longing.

1. How did you arrive to this country?

I arrived to this country as a nomadic person, I crossed the México-USA border by foot at the age of 15. According to the law, I came illegally, but according to my knowledge, I came here under the natural rights which make me a free living being. At that age, I was as ignorant as the law was. Although I didn't want to come here nor go anywhere else far from my family, I came pushed, and obliged by necessity. I felt like I needed to be free and to develop my personal perspective of life to reach the maximum potential of my existence.

2. Did you have people waiting for you?

I came to live with my older sister Maria, who took care of me as her own son. Nonetheless, the coldness of this country made me feel alone. Besides that, I miss my other family members and I miss the fresh air of the campo in which I was born.

3. What do you miss most about Mexico?

I was segregated from my family because of the oppressive inequality offered by the Mexican government which forces me to conform to the mud of its injustice.

4. What was the most difficult part about the transition?

The most difficult part about transitioning was the adaptation to American culture. Here, Holidays are not holidays. Here, life is working and working and then more working. Time passes by faster than light. Christmas is not Christmas. Everything is about spending money and about being closed off at work, home, and in the train. The language was hard to learn and even harder to speak, but it wasn't as painful as being apart from family.

5. Did you ever experience hate or discrimination?

Discrimination welcomes every immigrant in this country. At first, I didn't notice any sort of hate. It felt like the wind on my skin. And as the wind, discrimination is hard to see, since I was never discriminated against before. Therefore, I didn’t know it was being done to me. In fact, discrimination and racism were one of the first faces I met here in the USA. I felt it each time my check was not enough to resolve my needs. I felt it each time I had to work 10 to 12 hours without a break, for 6 and sometimes 7 days a week. I felt it every time my bosses refused to pay me more or at least right wage. I felt it every time I was denied to eat at a table at work since I had to eat standing and quickly. It was food that not even dogs would dare to eat. I felt it each and every time people looked and still look at me as if I am an inferior being. But now that I know, and I learned the hard way what discrimination and racism are, I know how to recognize the feeling of being discriminated against. The good thing after that, is that I learned I have to face the reality of being immigrant. And because of that I started studying again.

6. What were your plans when you first arrived?

When I came here I arrived with the main purpose to work hard and support my mother and siblings in México, and I did it. But after President Obama allowed the youth to stay through DACA, I dropped the plan of going back to Mexico and made the decision to go to college. But of course I wish to go back to my town and would rather be there than anywhere.

7. How are you going to school now?

By DACA and the Dream.USA Scholarship for DACA recipients. Also, I’ve worked in many campaigns, and communal things such as helping people register to vote. I have also volunteered in nonprofit organizations, and I woke up to dream again. I realized that it is never late to restart and continue my education and that I could help just by adding my “grain of sand” to help our community—our families.

8. What are your aspirations?

My aspirations are many. But in sense of career, I will be an economist and political scientist because Mexicans have no representatives.

9. Has anyone ever discouraged you from attending school or fulfilling your aspirations?

I was discouraged by the circumstances in which I was in. For example, I had to help my family by working and only working in order to get money to support them. As I grew and time passed, I thought I was a bit old to continue but mostly because I didn't have the enough money to pay my education and my needs and my family's needs.

10. If you had the option to not be an immigrant would you choose it?


To be an immigrant is not a choice because anyhow, humans are migrants by nature. However, if I had the choice of not emigrating, I wouldn't. Leaving behind my family and town was as dying alive.

Cover Image Credit: Atlantic

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I'm The Girl Without A 'Friend Group'

And here's why I'm OK with it

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Little things remind me all the time.

For example, I'll be sitting in the lounge with the people on my floor, just talking about how everyone's days went. Someone will turn to someone else and ask something along the lines of, "When are we going to so-and-so's place tonight?" Sometimes it'll even be, "Are you ready to go to so-and-so's place now? Okay, we'll see you later, Taylor!"

It's little things like that, little things that remind me I don't have a "friend group." And it's been like that forever. I don't have the same people to keep me company 24 hours of the day, the same people to do absolutely everything with, and the same people to cling to like glue. I don't have a whole cast of characters to entertain me and care for me and support me. Sometimes, especially when it feels obvious to me, not having a "friend group" makes me feel like a waste of space. If I don't have more friends than I can count, what's the point in trying to make friends at all?

I can tell you that there is a point. As a matter of fact, just because I don't have a close-knit clique doesn't mean I don't have any friends. The friends I have come from all different walks of life, some are from my town back home and some are from across the country. I've known some of my friends for years, and others I've only known for a few months. It doesn't really matter where they come from, though. What matters is that the friends I have all entertain me, care for me, and support me. Just because I'm not in that "friend group" with all of them together doesn't mean that we can't be friends to each other.

Still, I hate avoiding sticking myself in a box, and I'm not afraid to seek out friendships. I've noticed that a lot of the people I see who consider themselves to be in a "friend group" don't really venture outside the pack very often. I've never had a pack to venture outside of, so I don't mind reaching out to new people whenever.

I'm not going to lie, when I hear people talking about all the fun they're going to have with their "friend group" over the weekend, part of me wishes I could be included in something like that. I do sometimes want to have the personality type that allows me to mesh perfectly into a clique. I couldn't tell you what it is about me, but there is some part of me that just happens to function better one-on-one with people.

I hated it all my life up until very recently, and that's because I've finally learned that not having a "friend group" is never going to be the same as not having friends.

SEE ALSO: To The Girls Who Float Between Friend Groups

Cover Image Credit: wordpress.com

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Boys Will Be Boys: Social, Economic, and Political Dimensions of Gender Inequality

A change must be made before I can be prideful of the country in which I was raised.

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I am a woman.

I am labeled as such because of the reproductive organs with which I was born, the hormones they produce, and the two X chromosomes identified in my DNA. I had no control over these outcomes, just like my brother had no say in whether "male" or "female" was written on his birth certificate. These biological differences are simple, but they have dramatically affected the choices and treatment of men and women throughout history and even today.

Because of a simple difference in anatomical structure, women are inherently disadvantaged in assigned gender norms, workforce expectations, and leadership roles.

For this paper, I must issue a disclaimer: I will be referring to "gender" in terms of gender roles and biases, along with "sex" as interchangeable terms to define gender dichotomy of male and female. I understand and acknowledge that these terms have deeper, more complex differences, but will refrain from delving further into these due to the nature of my paper and the allotted space to make my points.

1. Social

From an early age, society imposes gender roles on children that institutionalize sex differences and gender inequality. Expecting "masculine" behaviors from boys and "feminine" behaviors from girls, insinuating that there is something wrong with being a "tomboy" as a girl or "girly" as a boy, socializes men and women into believing these differences are natural. By teaching attitudes that affirm the inferiority of women from a young age, gender differences that perpetuate gender inequality become more difficult to dismantle.

Even if gender roles are abolished in the United States, other social hierarchies will continue to oppress select groups of women across the globe. A prime example of this is the sex-trade industry in which millions of men, women, and children are involved every year. It is important to note, however, that women and girls make up 96% of those victimized by sex trafficking. Although human trafficking is an expansive industry – generating the second most profit of all forms of transnational crime – it remains relatively hidden; fraud, fear, and force prevent participants from revealing the true extent of its impact to law enforcement, researchers, doctors, and peers.

This stigmatization often leaves women expelled from their families, marginalized by society, and reliant on sex for survival, thus perpetuating the cycle of vulnerability. Those who enter the sex trade in developing countries are often unable to provide for themselves and thus rely on older partners. Many then endure a loss of sexual freedom for access to basic needs in exchange such as food or other relief supplies to pass borders or to gain certain types of protection. Power dynamics are often seen in age-disparate sexual relationships between young women and older men, as cultural factors often include social norms that emphasize sexuality of women and masculinity of their partner(s). Unequal gender power dynamics, due to socially perpetuated norms, not only influence gender-based violence, but also male control over sexual decision-making, which leads to difficulty in negotiating condom use and leaves women more vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections and diseases when stigma prevents them from seeking treatment.

Female sex workers are often not only treated negatively by their partners, but also by the societies in which they live. Even though sex work is legal in some countries, the law rarely protects sex workers. Often, when a sex worker seeks help from a hospital, police station, or from another legal service, they face the stigma of their profession. Payal, an 18-year-old sex trader in Nepal, said of her experience at a hospital, "Health personnel were not polite and immediately asked me if I was a sex worker. A doctor asked me outright, 'Are you HIV positive?'" The stigma and social obstacles that sex workers face can make it hard for them to access healthcare, legal, and social services, creating a toxic environment for women around the world.

2. Economic

Socializing gender roles normalizes socially constructed gender differences as exemplified above. As men are raised to pursue traditional notions of masculinity – sexuality, aggressiveness, and competitiveness – they are wired to perceive and respond more effectively to more individuals exhibiting similar characteristics: other males. Data collected from a study performed by Harvard's Schools of Government and Business suggests that hiring managers develops and uses his or her own biases when evaluating job applicants. One such opinion is that "Females are believed to be worse at math tasks and better at verbal tasks than males." To test this claim, 600 candidates were each given math and verbal aptitude tests. When presented with the results of these tests, the employer was more likely to choose men over women for math-related tasks, and vice versa for verbally-demanding duties, even if the candidate had a weak performance on the initial test. These behaviors certainly imply that gender biases exist when determining which roles men and women were most qualified to perform.

Gender bias remains a very real and impacting element in today's business world. When searching for jobs, men and women were asked what factors deter them from applying for an opportunity. The top three barriers for women, together accounting for 78% of reasons for not applying, are as follows: "I didn't think they would hire me since I didn't meet the qualifications, and I didn't want to waste my time and energy," "I didn't think they would hire me since I didn't meet the qualifications and I didn't want to put myself out there if I was likely to fail," and "I was following the guidelines about who should apply". Why did men still apply to jobs when women felt unqualified on paper?

Of all the forces that hold women back, none are as powerful as the social biases that emerge in gender-based scenarios. While companies have worked hard to eliminate overt discrimination, women are face difficulty from mindsets that limit opportunity. Managers—male and female—continue to take viable female candidates out of the running, often on the assumption that women cannot handle certain jobs and also discharge family obligations. In fact, in this study, men were TWICE as likely to be hired over their female counterparts, even if the female was a more qualified candidate. This same research found that men are often hired or promoted based on their potential, while women for their concrete experience. These "rules" were established by society early on in an individual's development and are further exemplified and perpetuated throughout daily life.

3. Political

News coverage of men in politics, especially Donald Trump in the 2016 election, typically centers around the individual's power when raising his voice, or how vulnerability and emotion is a positive trait. However, with the comparatively smaller population of women involved in United States politics, there is a clear imbalance in news coverage. For example, in the same election, Hillary Clinton was publicly broadcasted as "shrill" when she raised her voice out of passion and as "emotionally unstable" when showing emotion. In fact, an analysis performed by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) suggests that roughly one-in-ten Americans believe men are better "emotionally suited" for politics than are women.

To succeed in positions of leadership, it seems, women often have to be strong and decisive. But in doing so, they risk being penalized for violating social norms.Their very success in roles associated with men can have negative consequences, including making them seem less "likable," when research has shown that being likable is more important than any other factor to a woman's success in a political race. The imbalance continues. If rigid, polarizing expectations for men and women were dismantled, individuals would be able to embrace unique passions and pursue leadership of any form without fear of backlash.

As such, the inequal treatment of women in the social scheme must first be addressed in order to grant women the opportunity to represent themselves in the economy and workplace or earn a political platform using their qualifications rather than biases brought on by differences in organs, hormones, and chromosomes. However, some brave women that came before me have fought hard, a successful fire that continues to burn bright in the passion of female leaders like those deemed responsible for ending the government shutdown. According to Claudia Golden, "The converging roles of men and women are among the grandest advances in society and the economy in the last century". I am optimistic it will continue to grow.

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