Latino mothers holding the key to thriving city
The Arizona Republic
May. 6, 2005

Latino mothers are something special.

They're stay-at-home moms, soccer moms, stand-by-your-man moms, blue-collar moms and professional moms. They can do it all.

They have been at the center of the Latino universe for centuries. Oh, maybe the history books don't show it, but who do you think told the explorer Cortez he was good enough to sail across the oceans and help settle the New World? Who do you think told Cesar Chavez how to say si se puede? Who do you think cleaned and dressed Ricky Martin before he got into Menudo?

Mom, mother y mami.

Today, Latina madres are still the ones who dress and educate the kids while papi is at work. They cook and clean, wash clothes and buy what we eat. Sure, there are plenty of power couples and two-income Latino households out there, but don't kid yourself, women - mothers specifically - are still the ones holding our homes together.

They're our daughters' best friends and our sons' inspirations. Their influence is much wider than you'd suspect.

Being a mother is full-time job, but being a mother in a rapidly changing, modernizing, technology-filled world where the rules change daily is even more difficult. It really is getting harder for a mom to be a mom.

While Latino moms are loved, they're also ignored at the same time. Unfortunately, they are all too often on the wrong end of domestic-violence situations. Because of Mexico's desperate economic situation and this country's inability to come up with an immigration plan, moms south of the border often go years without seeing their sons who come here to work.

In Phoenix, mothers are still the primary parent who attends school meetings. Ask any counselor, whether it's in English or Spanish, it's Mama who is there, if anyone is there at all.

A mother's role in her family's education cannot be underestimated. A Pew Hispanic Center study says that Latino "parents can often be an important source of motivation and information that promotes high school completion. Only 51 percent of Hispanic children have mothers who themselves have finished high school, in comparison to 93 percent of White children."

So if you ever thought educating young Latinas (and future moms) was not important, think again.

In The Republic last weekend, Neal R. Peirce, an expert on cities who has thoroughly examined Phoenix, wrote that education should be at the top of this city's agenda if it wants to continue to develop and become a great city. Specifically, he said we must find out how to "break the barrier of low school completion by Hispanic kids, who tend to lag so seriously."

My mom, who was part of a migrant family that moved back and forth between Texas and California, was "allowed" to drop out of school because, really, she was needed out in the fields and educated girls in the 1950s were not a priority.

Lucky for me, she changed her way of thinking, got a GED after having three kids and earned a couple of medical certificates she uses at her job as caregiver for the elderly. My sister graduated from high school and received a bachelor's degree to teach. We would not have done it without our mom's persistence.

Mothers are special and are much, much more than good at making tortillas and caldo.

In Phoenix, Latino moms could well hold the key to making this city a better place for all of us by simply making sure their kids go to class and finish school.

I wish all moms out there a very happy Mother's Day and hope that everyone remembers all the hard work and sacrifice they put in every day.

Teclo Garcia is the editor of ĦExtra! and an assistant city editor at The Republic. Contact him at (602) 444-8281, or teclo.garcia@