By Stephanie Lulay || email@example.com September 14, 2013 1:24PM
Gilberto Chaidez | Submitted
“El Futuro!: A Documentary of Aurora’s Emerging Latino Leaders” will air on ACTV throughout September in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month.
Air times: It will run on ACTV: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 1 p.m.; Tuesday and Thursday at 7 p.m.; and Saturdays 8 a.m. and noon during Hispanic Heritage Month.
Produced and directed by Columbia College student Alexander Perez, the documentary can also be seen on YouTube: youtu.be/0tDqmFzGSLU
Updated: October 16, 2013 6:53AM
By the Hispanic leaders in Aurora, they’re considered some of the best and brightest.
Over the years, as award recipients, honor roll honorees and high school and college graduates, their names and achievements have dotted Beacon-News stories.
But there’s a story behind those stories.
In a new documentary produced and directed by Alexander Perez, an intern in the City of Aurora Communications Department, young Aurora leaders tackle growing up, learning English and what it means to be Latino in the state’s second largest city.
not a noun’
Qoc’avib Revolorio, 22
Raised in two different countries and of mixed heritage — Caucasian and Guatemalan — childhood was confusing for Qoca’vib.
A “white boy” with blond hair and an “ancient Maayan name,” he grew up in a predominantly Mexican neighborhood in Aurora.
Although he mastered speaking like the Mexicans, he grew frustrated that he would never look like the Latinos that he so admired.
“The kids in my neighborhood, they would see me, they would call my goldilocks,” Qoca’vib said.
That frustration turned to anger, and when he started acting out in middle school, his mother sent him to live with his dad in Guatemala.
“I learned a lot about being Latino, and it was beautiful, a great experience. But even there, I was different. Because I grew up in a Mexican neighborhood, they thought I was Mexican. It was terrible. I didn’t know how to speak.”
He returned to Aurora, where at work, he was often called called “foreigner.” Classmastes told him they loved his mysterious accent.
But he grew up here. He was from down the street.
“See, that’s a negative part of our culture here in the United States: to oversimplify things. We say, I am, and then a noun.”
Now studying business and marketing at Aurora University, Qoc’avib resists labels.
“The truth isn’t always simple. And it’s not always easy enough to understand with one word. I’m not just a Latino.”
‘Best of both worlds’
Rosalinda Nino, 25
No questions asked, Rosalinda was headed to college after East Aurora High School.
But her time in college at Aurora University was “completely different” than her time at East, a school district that is 84 percent Hispanic.
“I went from being one of many Latino students in my classes up to high school… to Aurora University, (where) I noticed at times, I was the only Latina.”
She was the only Latina on her floor in the dorms. When race, culture, ethnicity would come up in class, all eyes would shift to her.
While she was quick to point out that views are shaped by experiences and upbringing, not race, Rosalinda looked at those moments as an opportunity.
“I am grateful I had the opportunity to talk about my culture: about being Latina, about being Mexican. About being raised in Aurora,” she said. “(Those) experiences have guided me into becoming the woman that I am.”
The first of her family to graduate with a bachelor’s or master’s degree, Rosalinda is now a therapist at Aunt Martha’s, working with runaways.
Rosalinda’s defining moment came at AU, when she was parking her car.
Rosalinda looked at herself, a Latina, listening to Spanish music, about to walk into a classroom in order to gain as much knowledge as possible.
“That was a very special moment to me because I realized that I do have the best of both worlds,” she said.
‘Didn’t know if
I was an American
Gilberto Chaidez Jr., 22
Born in Aurora and named after his father, Gilberto is an American citizen.
“(But) most of my childhood, I grew up not really knowing whether I was an American or if I was a Mexican,” he said.
As a baby, his family moved back to Mexico. When his family moved back to Aurora five years later, he was the only one in his family with a United States passport.
“But I didn’t feel any different than my family,” Gilberto said. “It was difficult trying to assimilate with everyone else.”
Although he now studies civil engineering at University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, first grade will always remain the most difficult grade level for Gilberto. He didn’t know English, and he couldn’t go to his parents, native Spanish speakers, for help.
“In those nine months alone, I had to overcome more obstacles than I’ve needed to overcome in my last 22 years of life,” he said. “To this very day, I still don’t know how I did it.”
Although his parents couldn’t provide academic support early on, they were always there to push him.
“I am the oldest sibling in my family and I did go through a lot of things that no one else in my family (experienced), and I did have to venture out into unknown territory many times, but I never felt I was alone.”
‘I was probably
Barbara Hernandez, 21
A chance meeting with State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora) changed the course of Barbara’s life.
“She pretty just asked me, ‘What do you want to do, when you get out high school?’”
Barbara told Chapa LaVia that she wanted to become a pastry chef.
“She said, ‘Really? I don’t see you as a pastry chef. I see you as a leader.’”
Although Barbara served as president of East’s DECA chapter, a national organization that prepares emerging leaders for careers, and led an afterschool program at Family Focus, she never saw herself as a leader.
“Stuff like that, I never really took in mind, that I was probably a leader,” Barbara said. “I could probably be someone who could help other people.”
At her second meeting with Chapa LaVia, only two weeks before Barbara was set to graduate from East High, she asked about college.
Today, Barbara serves as Chapa LaVia’s assistant chief of staff, has campaigned for an Aurora Township trustee seat and has led Deferred Action clinics.
“Being a minority and female, it was a great advantage,” Barbara said. “Something I was always passionate about was being in the community and helping other people.”
‘How unforgiving not knowing English could be’
Isaac Palma, 22
Growing up as a first-generation immigrant in a strange country wasn’t easy, Isaac said. When he landed in the United States at the age of 4, he had to adapt to different weather, different laws and a different culture.
“I learned first-hand how unforgiving not knowing English could really be,” he said.
When his kindergarten class let out early because of the snow, he assumed the school bus would stop right in front of his house, like it did in Venezuela.
“Not knowing English, I couldn’t really communicate with anybody. So my best option was to walk home on my own,” Isaac said.
He was soon lost. Nearly 45 minutes later on that bitterly cold day, someone saw him crying.
“I couldn’t even tell her where I was living,” he said. “Knowing English was always my No. 1 priority since then. I learned English in six months.”
A 2013 graduate of Northern Illinois University and 2009 Oswego High grad, Isaac said that first- and second-generation Latinos can relate to the same struggles regardless of their origin.
“The struggles are going to be the same, but how you react to them, and how you use them, is up to you.”
‘It was nothing more than a dream’
Alexander Perez, 21
Ever since he was a kid, Alexander has found himself staring.
On trips to Chicago, his eyes would fixate on the skyscapers and the collective skyline they created.
“That’s because, at one point, it was nothing more than a dream,” Alexander said. “I never really thought I would be doing what I’m doing now or attending the school of my dreams. Me standing at Navy Pier, looking at the skyline, that was nothing more than something I played in my head over, over and over.”
Today, studying film and TV production at Columbia College in Chicago, Alexander has a purpose to be there.
His grandmother told him he could do whatever he wanted, as long as he gave his heart to it. And on trips to the movies with his grandfather, Alexander’s love for filmmaking was born.
As a kid growing up in Aurora, his family didn’t have a lot of money. But through movies, he traveled, Alexander said, to different countries and galaxies.
“Seeing these great stories, for me, that was magic,” he said. “I owe it to my grandpa. He took me to the movies all the time.”
Alexander produced and directed “El Futuro!,” the documentary about emerging Latino leaders in Aurora.