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We Stand Together at La Cosecha 2016

A lesson in community from the 2016 La Cosecha Dual Language Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico

The 2016 La Cosecha Dual Language Conference began the day the election returns were confirmed across the United States. Speakers, exhibitors and attendees gathered in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to share and learn about the latest information and instructional best practices relating to bilingual and biliteracy education programs. With dual language programs implemented in thousands of schools across the nation, bilingual teachers attend this yearly conference to unify in their mission and share bilingual resources, strategies, and research.

When election results were confirmed on Nov. 9th, many of us at La Cosecha felt the impact. That morning, the conference room was quiet, as if we’d lost someone, as if we were in mourning. And maybe we were… Many of us feared that everything we had worked for in the interest of diversity, inclusivity, and unity was imperiled. The impact was heartbreaking, but somehow, bodies slowly started filling the room. I could see the pain in every new face I encountered. But there was no need for words when the underlying message was clear: We are stronger together.

Somehow, being together at this conference made us feel stronger. In this room, we were not a divided nation; we were one — working for unification of our communities, valuing language as our unifying force, inspiring the students we serve. I spoke to one principal from California who said, “We need to empower our community, so that we can see the change.”

For many, the results of the Nov. 8 election were truly heartbreaking, but we are fortunate to have the right to fight for what we believe is the best path. Past leaders have demonstrated the courage and tenacity we must have to make progress, and now we must work harder to help educate those who fear change and diversity.

On the second day of the conference, things felt different. We were no longer in mourning. Instead, we were tougher — we knew what had to be done, and we were going to continue working for what we believe will make us stronger: Being bilingual is its own kind of power. Being bilingual unifies our communities. Being bilingual creates compassionate individuals. Being bilingual gives us choices. And so these teachers can empower our communities by giving our future leaders a multicultural and multilingual perspective.

By the third day, we were celebrating Latin culture, Latin language, Latin music. We were supporting vendors that promote Latin products, and buying Spanish-language books for our kids, grandkids, and students. Teachers with musical talent were jumping on stage and singing into the late evening in celebration of the multicultural identities that make us beautiful and strong, and which can’t be lost at the ballot box.

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