Hispanic Americans are combatting generational trauma
The newer generation of Hispanic Americans are recognizing the effects of generational trauma in their families as resources emerge to better understand their experience.
Generational trauma is an emerging term used to describe the traumatic experiences that get passed down through generations that can manifest into physical and mental symptoms.
Some of the traumatic experiences that can be passed down through generations can be related to racism, poverty, domestic violence, sexual assault and hate crimes.
For Hispanic Americans with migrant parents, their parents have a lot of regressed trauma related to their experiences either from their childhood, home country or present experiences.
“Both my parents came from verbally and physically abusive male-dominated households,” said junior public policy major Cruz Almonaci. “Both were the eldest in their families, gaining the first beatings and the first scars. Both of them still struggle to talk about their childhoods. While they’ve never been physically abusive towards me, my relationship with them has been significantly strained from the ideologies they were forced to adopt and their own inability to heal from their traumas.”
Because of the stigma surrounding mental health, a majority of these parents ignore their trauma which then affects how they parent their children.
Now, these children have become full-fledged adults with mental, social and interpersonal issues that seem to have no origin until they take a look at their own upbringing.
“Mental illness on my dad’s side of the family is not taken as seriously as it should be,” said junior public health major Jynx Flores. “His sister had dealt with depression and suicidal thoughts herself. I had not known this until my dad had found out I was struggling with these same issues, except it wasn’t brought up for understanding and comfort. It was brought up to further invalidate my issues as he proceeded to call her crazy.”
Many children of immigrants take on multiple roles during their childhood as they become translators, negotiators, mediators and a placeholder for several problems immigrant parents face in family, financial and social contexts.
There is a conflict that arises from this complicated relationship as children are treated as adults even though they do not have the tools necessary to solve these problems, therefore, creating a child filled with uncertainty and higher levels of anxiety.
“At home, I am the one expected to take over my mom’s responsibilities when she’s gone. She works 24/7 at her own job, at home and outside fixing our house,” said Almonaci.
“I have a hard time facing problems,” said Almonaci. “I often leave or shut myself out when in conflict with someone else the same way it happens with my parents when we fight. No apologies or conversations, just silence until someone breaks it and we move on. This habit has carried into my relationships with others. I have developed anxiety because of how controlling they can be.”
Unresolved trauma can present itself in several ways, especially with immigrant parents who find it too painful to confront. However, it shouldn’t have to get to the point where their children are the ones suffering from the aftermath of their parent’s trauma.
In order to increase conversations and resources surrounding generational trauma, there should be an investment in the research on the phenomenon to know how to prevent it or just lessen the strain it has on both the parent and child.
As of right now, it’s just a word hidden in the psychology world, only found when someone is in desperate need of an explanation of their family dynamics and seemingly unfounded struggles.
Cindy Rivas Alfaro is a sophomore journalism major who can be reached at [email protected]