Delve into a groundbreaking research project that uncovers the challenges faced by immigrant Latinx women and their children in Jackson Heights, Queens. Through shared personal experiences and storytelling that is empowering, the initiative sheds light on barriers to social cohesion that include discrimination, limited access to education, and gender-based violence. With recommendations aimed at fostering understanding, inspiring action, and using digital storytelling for advocacy, this research celebrates the power of the personal narrative while calling for a more inclusive and equitable society.
In the vibrant cultural melting pot of Jackson Heights, Queens, the Latinx community contributes significantly to the city’s fabric. However, the challenges faced by immigrant Latinx women and their children often go unnoticed, ranging from limited access to education and mental health services to gender-based violence and discrimination.
In an effort to shed light on these struggles and amplify the Latinx voices, Equity for Children, The StoryCenter and Voces Latinas undertook a groundbreaking research project. Through qualitative findings and the power of storytelling, this project delivered the stories behind the statistics, enabling decision-makers and public leaders to make informed changes that foster social cohesion and uplift the Latinx community.
- Six Lenses for Analysis: The research identified six cross-cutting dimensions as ways to analyze the stories of migrant Latinx women: gender, migration stories, sense of community, access to education, choosing NYC, and the impact of COVID-19.
- Barriers to Social Cohesion: Story Circles revealed numerous barriers to social cohesion, including discrimination, language, limited access to education, domestic and sexual violence, food and housing insecurity, informal employment, unemployment, loneliness, and mental and physical health challenges.
- Four Important Takeaways: The stories of Latinx women highlighted 1) Serious and traumatic situations faced in their places of origin, 2) The arduous journey of illegal immigration, 3) The vital role played by support networks, and 4) The ongoing personal and social development of both women and their children.
The findings of this research have far-reaching implications for stakeholders working on transformative societal change. These recommendations are intended for use by teachers, administrators, community groups, families, and researchers:
- Inspiring Action: The results can foster stronger community bonds with the Latinx population and inspire action that integrates Latinx individuals more fully into the City’s vital networks. By reshaping negative narratives about migration, we can recognize and appreciate Latinx individuals’ contributions to economic, social, and leadership development.
- Educational Materials: The project’s methodology of storytelling can be used by educators at all levels to develop research and educational materials that promote understanding and empathy. The methodology provides a roadmap for exploring the experiences of isolated and vulnerable populations, including recent migrants from countries including Venezuela, Ecuador, and Peru.
- Storytelling for Advocacy: Digital storytelling, analysis, and advocacy are powerful tools for decision-makers in public, civic, and private organizations. The stories uncovered in this research serve as a powerful collective narrative about the Latinx immigrant experience. They can be used to facilitate policy changes and social integration.
It is essential to acknowledge this work’s challenges, including the difficulties connecting with hard to reach populations within the Latinx community. The recruitment process was enabled through the guidance of Voces Latinas, a grassroots organization that has built trust among Latinx immigrant women. Additionally, digital storytelling is labor-intensive and requires significant time and commitment from participants. Trust, interest, commitment and engagement are crucial elements of success for StoryCircle workshops.
Let us embrace the power of storytelling and work together towards a future where every voice is heard and every story matters. The power of storytelling transforms statistics into personal narratives that resonate universally. By bringing the stories of Latinx women to the forefront, this research contributes to a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by this community and provides insights into pathways for growth and empowerment. By amplifying the Latinx women’s voices and encouraging action, we can build a more inclusive and equitable society.
Special thanks to The Spencer Foundation for making this research possible, to our partners Voces Latinas and the The StoryCenter, and particularly to the participants who shared their life stories with us. This research was made possible by a grant from The Spencer Foundation. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Spencer Foundation.
- Alberto Minujin, Executive Director, Equity for Children
- Gabriel Crespo, Associate Director, Equity for Children
- Ximena Gonzalez, Research Assistant, Equity for Children’s
- Allison Myers, The StoryCenter
- Andrea Spagat, The StoryCenter
- Tania Batres, Voces Latinas
- Lissette Marrero, Voces Latinas