Elizabett Sugeiry Baez, State University of New York-Plattsburgh, writing from Brooklyn, NY
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many transitions to my life, as it has for most people. I am a first-generation Dominican-American undergraduate womxn, majoring in sociology, minoring in gender and womxn studies and political science. For the second half of the spring semester, my classes moved online, which lessened the excitement of college for me. However, the biggest transition was returning to my mother's one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn and living with people I haven't lived with in years. I had grown accustomed to having my own sacred spaces and freedom.
Being quarantined with a Dominican family is an experience in extremes. In some moments, it is joyful, full of flavorful island foods and music. In others, it's filled with tension and irritability, as Dominican health remedies are administered seemingly every few hours and the news is always on. But, being home allows me to see the sacrifices my family is making to help us persevere as a country.
My mother works as a medical assistant at a clinic in Brooklyn, ensuring that others receive the aid they need. My grandfather wakes up every day at 3:00 a.m. to commute to a carniceria in Long Island, where he cuts and packages meat for supermarkets across the region. Immigrants are on the frontlines as farmers, supermarket employees, and COVID-19 testing tent staff. They are just as essential as doctors and pharmacists, yet we are often not treated with similar consideration or appreciation. For me, this virus highlights the disparities in healthcare and other resources that were killing immigrants and people of color long before COVID-19.
Nevertheless, I have hope for the future as my generation moves into new spaces and asserts new narratives. We are the next journalists, professors, farmers, doctors, medical assistants, and meatpackers, and we will pay homage to the stories of our familias. I've heard the phrase "not all heroes wear capes” often, especially recently. My heroes wear heavy accents, proudly, and clothes that smell of pepper and onions. They speak with love of homemade remedies learned in our tierra firme, while carrying forward our ancestral determination. While isolation can seem unbearable, I know that the sacrifices made by mi gente are what will make us better.