Given the many challenges and structural inequities Latin@ communities have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, what have been sources of strength and hope for Latin@ survivors? This summer, researchers from Esperanza United and The National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma, and Mental Health worked with survivors to learn about what has helped them get through the pandemic. In partnership with Enlace Comunitario in New Mexico and Violence Intervention Program (VIP) in New York, we conducted a multimedia community-based project in which we encouraged survivors to also share photos, poems, videos, pictures of drawings, songs, quotes, recordings, or other forms of creative expression that portrayed their source of hope and resiliency during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A total of 9 survivors who are connected with Enlace Comunitario and VIP participated in this project. Overall, they are mostly female; in their 40’s or 50’s; Mexican, South American, or Central American who primary speak Spanish. All but 2 survivors reported that they or someone in their household have lost work during the pandemic. Most survivors lost or were concerned about losing their housing during the pandemic.
This project was largely conducted online and we chose to use WhatsApp given its widespread use within Latin@ communities. After all participants shared their submissions with the team, we invited them to join either a focus group or an interview to learn more about their sources of hope and strength during COVID and discuss the themes from this project.
Theme that emerges as sources of hope included religion, food, children, and entrepreneurship. Below are a few entries by survivors.
One survivor reflected on how her children brought her strength and hope:
“Mis hijos me dieron la fuerza y esperanza durante la pandemia del COVID-19, porque durante el encierro que llevábamos día con día tenía que ingeniar cosas diferentes cada día, para que ellos no se aburrieran tanto dentro de casa. Hacia juegos con ellos como lotería, bailamos, salíamos a jugar al patio, rayar las banquetas con guis de colores, brincar en el brinca brinca…”
A survivor shared this piece about how praying the Rosary gave her strength and hope while commuting on the train to work, with a photo of a rare, safer empty train car:
Other survivors said that learning new things or focusing on their goals helped them get through the pandemic. One survivor shared that trying new recipes and cooking during quarantine helped him while giving him more quality time with his family:
Several survivors submitted poems that focus on the ways that the pandemic has forced people to pause and become more mindful and reflective. One shared this poem:
“Y la gente se quedó en casa.
Y leía libros y escuchaba.
Y descansaba y hacía ejercicio.
Y creaba arte y jugaba.
Y aprendía nuevas formas de ser, de estar quieto.
Y se detenía.
Y escuchaba más profundamente.
Algunos hallaron sus sombras.
Y la gente empezó a pensar de forma diferente.
Y la gente sanó. Y, en ausencia de personas que viven en la ignorancia y el peligro, sin sentido y sin corazón, la Tierra comenzó a sanar.
Y cuando pasó el peligro, y gente se unió de nuevo,
lamentaron sus pérdidas, tomaron nuevas decisiones,
soñaron nuevas imágenes, crearon nuevas formas de vivir y curaron la tierra por completo, tal y como ellos habían sido curados”
-Poema de Kitty O’Meara
Looking ahead, researchers from Esperanza United and The National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma, and Mental Health will be connecting with participants as well as Enlace Comunitario and VIP to discuss displaying their work as part of a Zoom Gallery night or other community event. We also hope that this project will contribute to the body of research on sources of resilience and protective factors among Latin@ survivors of domestic violence. We are grateful for the partnership of Enlace Comunitario and VIP, as well as every survivor who shared their stories and experiences as part of this project.
This project has been approved by the Cook County Health’s Institutional Review Board, to ensure ethical practice. All survivors have been compensated for their time and participation. Funding for this project was made possible through the Administration on Children, Youth, Families, Family and Youth Services Bureau, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Grant number: 90EV0431). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.