Generations of Latina Education

school-desks-chairs_4460x4460.jpg

Mi Madre

her story of learning begins on an island
nuestra isla querida
a land of sugar cane and Flamboyán
private catholic school where she learned to read and write
in her mother tongue, of course
my mother tongue too

fifteen years old and she must leave
her isla querida
a sea of tears separates them now

private catholic school education
becomes
florida public school education
her mother tongue stifled
by a flood of father tongue voices
telling her
learn English
pay attention
swim back to where you came from
and the stiff, unfamiliar words
are blurred in her ocean eyes

Yo

my story of learning begins in my home
mami y yo
she chose not to send me to school until I was nine
she chose not to submit me to the institution
not quite yet
my formative niñez spent in my home
learning from her smooth mother tongue
what is a sloth and how to find a sum
how to make tostones and the history of our ancient taína mothers

I left for school at nine
day one I am called on
what are the vowels?
ahhh ehhhh eeee ohhhh oooo
incorrect
my teacher tells me that is not English
my mother tongue is not welcome here
shame manifests itself as color in my cheeks

Mis Estudiantes

today, my story of learning is in a classroom
I chose the path of an educator
a holy and sacred calling
the daily action of sharing knowledge
my students come from places I have known and not known
they do not speak the father tongue of this country
I am supposed to teach them
but I don’t
she comes from Honduras
from Colombia
from Puerto Rico
their mother tongues are welcome here
we find a place between the two
father tongue and mother tongue
academia and love
in that place
we learn
we grow
we heal

Words by Rachel Duff


  Rachel Duff    is a Latina educator and writer. Her mother grew up in Puerto Rico and her father in rural Alabama. Much of her writing explores her journey to understand her cultural identity and she draws much inspiration from the strong women who came before her, as close as her own mother and as distant as the Taína ancestors she carries in her spirit.  Follow her on Instagram  @racheleduff

Rachel Duff is a Latina educator and writer. Her mother grew up in Puerto Rico and her father in rural Alabama. Much of her writing explores her journey to understand her cultural identity and she draws much inspiration from the strong women who came before her, as close as her own mother and as distant as the Taína ancestors she carries in her spirit.

Follow her on Instagram @racheleduff