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  • Writer's pictureAnabelle Soto-Taveras

Isolation in the process of immigration of Latinas

Why do we leave behind our families, friends, and motherland to start a new life in another place?


Optimism and the drive to find a better life bring Latinx people to immigrate to the United States. But the experience sometimes leads to feelings of isolation, especially for women. You might think we feel like this because we have left our family behind, but some studies have found that it is because, for some, it is hard to socialize with their new neighbors and co-workers, much less to see them as support networks. Coming from a culture that depends a lot on other people to help with the use of the resources available, we, as new immigrants, feel that the lack of this social connection isolates us from the resources that might be available for us. For Latina immigrants, this is also a very important aspect of our feeling of isolation when living in the

United States.



This is something that I have encountered a lot - not only in my personal life but as a therapist living in NYC.


“I don’t even know who lives next to me” is a statement I have found myself

saying and heard my friends express. Most of my immigrant clients report feelings of isolation, especially Latina immigrants, and this is because, according to some research, Latinas experience greater levels of stress than Latinos in the acculturation process of immigration.


I migrated to the United States for the first time as an adolescent, and this feeling of isolation was one of the feelings I most remember from that experience. An explanation for this is that when Latina adolescents migrate with their families, they are expected to engage in new tasks, such as being the caretaker of their siblings, tasks that were previously fulfilled by their mother in their country of origin. Still, the young girls assume new roles with both parents working outside the home. Furthermore, the young Latina takes on an identity transformation, which in some areas of the United States can be a “strongly gendered and racialized” process. The Latina girl is “racialized” through a stereotype threat, not allowing them into non-Latino groups and not providing them with the same opportunities. Some scholars explain that this behavior of the host community is a reaction to the anxiety that a newcomer provokes in a group. The newcomer might be perceived as the person who will remove the old residents of opportunities and life resources. The results of this are prejudice and xenophobia in some cases.

Latinas often feel this more deeply because of our cultural customs and roles. When we leave behind a culture where family is of greater importance than the culture we are moving into, the stress experienced can be even higher. Latinas are faced with the anxiety of leaving behind the place where we belong and our family. We can also be affected by the pain of abandoning or even feeling we are disintegrating our family by separating from them and, in some cases, leaving their children behind. In other words, the already stressful and painful situation that immigration represents for an individual deepens in the case of Latinx women when we feel we have left behind the strong support of our mother (land), our family, and our country.


So, then, what can we do? We can start by joining Meetup groups that have similar interests as the ones we have, do volunteer work, and walk around our neighborhood to try to find

community-based mental health resources that could also help you develop your capacity to be alone, and so be more likely to tolerate the pain of departure, or separation, from the homeland and will be able to better deal with the isolation.


References:

Smith & Mannon (2010)

Williams, Alvarez, and Andrade-Hauck (2002)

Akhtar (1999)

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