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Raising Latino Kids in California

Photograph by Claudya Martinez

It happened, it happened: Latinos have taken over California! As of July 1, 2014, Latinos are the largest ethnic group in California outnumbering whites (the second largest ethnic group) 14.99 million to 14.29 million, according to new population data released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau.

This information does not come as a surprise to anyone already living in the golden state. As a matter of fact, being a Latina born and raised in California, I've known the day when my people would no longer be a minority in my home state would come in my lifetime, and I've been waiting for it ever since I was a little girl.

Now that I am a mother of multicultural children who I want to raise with a strong sense of their Latino roots, I can't deny that with large numbers come large privileges. There are HUGE benefits that come with raising Latino children in California and I feel blessed to be a beneficiary.

Here are just a few of the perks that I have experienced as a Latino parent in California:

Bilingual educational opportunities that benefit all.
Certain public schools in California offer language immersion programs, not just in Spanish, but in other languages as well because of the need for them in their respective communities. This is different than an English as a second language program where you need to hurry up and learn English and forget about any other language you know. For a Latina like myself who wants her child to be bilingual, but married someone who doesn't speak Spanish, this is great and guarantees that my children will grow up fluent in two languages. But guess what? There are plenty of children in the Spanish immersion programs that are not Latino. They are there because their parents see the benefit of having their children learn another language at a young age. It's a win for everyone.

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California has a big enough Latino population that my children will never grow up feeling like "others," or outsiders, if you will. They see people who look like them on a regular basis; no one looks at them like they are "exotic" or somehow don't fit in.

An appreciation for diversity.

California has a big enough Latino population that my children will never grow up feeling like "others," or outsiders, if you will. They see people who look like them on a regular basis; no one looks at them like they are "exotic" or somehow don't fit in. Here's the beauty of California's diversity, though: not everyone is Latino, so my children will still get to experience being around people who are different than they are.

Shopping perks.

I can't imagine what it would be like to live in an area of the United States that doesn't sell the Latino products that are staples in our home — especially food items. In California, we can get Mexican candy at the corner store, pupusas at the restaurant down the street and tamales year-round.

Accessibility to culturally relevant materials.

When I take my children to any of the public libraries we frequent, there are always books and bilingual music resources available that are age-appropriate and culturally relevant. This wasn't always the case; I don't remember having access to so many bilingual books or books with Latino characters at my library when I was growing up. There is something incredibly grounding about seeing yourself represented in literature — and not just some side character with wacky habits, but as a main character just being real.

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Political power and representation.

It is important to note that the growth in the Latino population has not only come about because of immigration. No, it's also being powered by Latinos born in the U.S. who are now having children of their own. This means Latinos who are not disenfranchised, this means Latinos who can vote and run for office and inspire others to do the same. What does this mean for parents raising Latino children in California? Well, it's one thing to tell a child that they can be anything they want, but it's a much better thing to be able to show children examples of people with similar backgrounds as theirs who have become what they wanted to be.

It's undeniable that being a part of "majority" comes with perks. Sometimes those perks are taken for granted because the "majority" has been a majority for so long that they don't know the difference, but when you grow up as a part of a minority that turns into a majority, you are very well aware that there are benefits that come with not being ignored. That's why I'm thrilled to be raising my children in California where Latinos are now the majority and can't be ignored.

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