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Querida Familia,

Esta letra se las dedico a ustedes como recuerdo de mi “herstory”.

When family asks me to recount the story of COVID 19, of the year 2020, I hope to paint my own story as well as those who were with me, my father Ramiro Salas, 50, my mother Alma Delia Salas Calvillo, 50, and my youngest brother Ramiro Salas Calvillo, 15.

My herstory while in quarantine revolved around processing and delving with thoughts. I am currently 22, a scholar, linguist, healer, daughter, sister and lover. I am a survivor. I am healing through music, kindness and self-appreciation. Quarantine prompted sentiments of fear and loss. It was particularly challenging, as the first few weeks, I was in a holy time of Lent. In the catholic community, Lent can be interpreted as a form of fasting; but, I hope that with fasting, we can learn to not punish our body for our mistakes, but rather take it as a time to reflect and grow. I saw this as my opportunity to mend broken relationships, emulate an unwavering love for my close ones and God. It also meant holding true to my faith. My understanding of faith has humbled me and granted me a resource of support and strength. I don’t choose to punish myself when I cannot always find the silver lining to life, but believe that my presence is needed, and I am alive to fulfill a vocation. Lent was cleansing, and healing for my spiritual needs, that has taught me a lot about love and patience.

I found myself leaning on my spiritual group, Destino, to pray for a rekindled relationship with God when I did have difficulties during Lent. I won’t say quarantine was all butterflies and rainbows because it wasn’t. I often felt overwhelmed with pain and dislocation. I couldn’t figure out how I would escape my mind and insecurities. It was a constant battle with self-hate and anxiety.

In unity with therapy, my faith allowed me to practice boundary making, and I tried hard to emphasize this. I just wanted to be heard. That’s to say, as much as I wanted it to be a graceful process, it wasn’t. Advocating for your needs can be messy and warrant and relive trauma. Allow yourself to process that. It’s okay to admit that making changes is scary, because it is. Quarantine taught me to create a new norm, a new routine. I was not prepared for the quick changes in my life. Readjusting in a time of social distancing felt isolating, and prompted so many insecurities.

In the midst of meditation and reflection, I found myself transported to core fears. I discovered ancestral strengths and magical traditions that kept me afloat. I also learned to enact newer techniques of energy releasing. It called for radical reforms, and this meant testing your own boundaries and comforts. (Books and Youtube videos were really creative formats that helped me. If anything, believe in the power of art, credit those who have shared these art forms, because their work holds so much meaning!)

It was a trivial time for my mental health, that I hope can bring consciousness to the reality of this in our culture and family. Heartbreak, trauma, anxiety, all work together, mind soul and spirit. I found myself unable to shake the feeling of not being enough, and I couldn’t figure out how to fight for my own happiness. Digesting your worth, is not easy but I hope that you never give up on being kind to folks, and reaching out when you’re willing and able. Advocating for those who may not have the words to speak for themselves can leave a lasting impact on those who are fighting to find the love for them to stay.

I want to note that social media, as healing as it can be, was also a really unhealthy dynamic for me. I distanced myself from platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat (commonly used by youth in 2020) because it felt triggering to my mental health. Coined in our generation is “clout chasing”. This can include videos that exacerbates stereotypes for comedy. It is a culture that displays “flexes”, focused on ludicrous tenets of unrealistic lifestyles. It relies on flaunting materialism, or dangerous ideals of perfectionism. It has made light of issues such as violence in relationships, sexuality, and normalized toxic views of beauty. It has glamorized cold sentiments, acts of cheating, and what our generation holds true to expectations (or lack thereof) with love. It is draining and disheartening to see the dehumanization and degradation of “who” and “what” is valued in womxn (for this generation, and in the latinx community particularly, has and continues to be white latinx privilege) that we propagate as the “kings” and “queens” of our community. It speaks on a fixed ideal of beauty and popularity. The danger of feeding into this culture is that it starts to create groundwork for underlying and “unsaid” standards of what is needed to be “known” or liked.

I speak on my own account and experiences, when I reflect on this and have been privileged with the resources to have a therapist during quarantine. My decision to not be on social media was my way to protect my mental health. I felt like it was a reminder of how distanced I am from my peers. Although I choose to not be part of mainstream culture and the community at UNC, I value the unorthodox approach (if we compare it to modern culture) my therapist has supported. I want to remind my kids and family members to not feel guilty to set boundaries in life that protect your peace. I wanted to safeguard my emotions and mental space when it felt threatened by toxic trends online and it has made all the difference.

Las personas que viven para complacer a los otros dejan de lado su propia personalidad. Cuando sea necesario, tú tendrás la habilidad de decir no. Empoderate de mi historia. Y si, sientes que necesitas apoyo, no faltes en buscar a alguien quien en tu confías para encaminarte y apoyar tu voz.

Find what you need to love yourself when your mental health is playing tricks with your groundwork of safety and healing. I want you to find small ways to create routines that will make you happy, and validate your uniqueness. For me, I strolled (shoutout to the sisterhood OPBSI, Charlotte sisters made this time a happy one and I hope to share this joy with womxn in my family.) I found comfort in playlists, YouTube videos, making arroz con leche. I walked to feel the sun warm my skin. I went outside of my comfort and tried new make-up challenges, drew sunflowers on my face, anything that could bring positivity despite the lingering anxious thoughts and waves of sadness that wanted to fight against this good. It was a constant loop of hating my body and purging emotions, but please, just allow the body to go through the motions. Feel what you need to feel. Panic attacks can be broken through, as long as you remind yourself that it is temporary and will pass by. Calm and center your body, breathe. Bottling this pain up will not allow you to process and move forward. I learned that the release of pain was the necessary step for me to take care of my health. It’s okay to name when you are not okay. It’s okay to admit that it hurts, even if you don’t know what exactly is triggering this. Do not feel guilty for needing extra time to be by yourself, to work on this, or to need folks to walk through with you if you do feel overwhelmed. It’s all your own story and your own timeline to healing. I’m the first in the family to go to therapy and I hope this enables the rest of you to feel safe around me if you want to talk about therapy. I hope to be here to listen if you need it.

My father, Ramiro was an essential worker at the time. When construction projects were still happening, I noticed the ways he was being eaten away by his anxiety. COVID-19 generated fear. Fear of loss. Fear of death. Death can be seen in different ways. For folks, mental health is a silent killer. Domestic Violence, victims of enclosure. Loss of voice. Poverty, hunger, violence, housing insecurities all factors of instability are enablers of fear. Fear that this is a time with no projected timeline. I asked often when we would see the light at the end of the tunnel. As I am writing this, I still do not know. For my dad, this fear was taking away his sleep. He was the only income for the family at the time, and worked from sunrise to sundown. He held himself composed in the most courageous way he could, but I always felt with my hands tied, knowing his mental health was at play but I didn’t know what I could do to bring this conversation up without it being cumbersome. (I also questioned so much about doing this because of power dynamics at home, which is sadly something my direct family needs to work around, to help enable our voices and opinions). I hope you can take our family history and with my help work through this generational curses and difficulties. I hope we can help fight stigmas that are hurting our people. I acknowledge I am at a breakthrough point as the first to advocate for wellness, and I hope that, as everyone sees the ways it has helped me, can hold others accountable to their part in order to discover collective healing.

Keep family close. We live 1,825 miles away from home.(Salinas De Hidalgo, San Luis Potosi, MX) That’s a 3 day car drive. That’s a 4 hour flight. And not to mention, an expensive trip in itself, that my parents worked HARD to make happen for us every summer or so. Seeing family is difficult, and I hope that whenever we do read this, the folks that are here in the states, will remain close. As of right now, we are able to transport our hearts and souls to Mexico through pictures, and Facetime Calls. My favorite memory will be taking car rides and calling folks to laugh (because social distancing entertainment involved car-karaoke and calling family). My Tio Hugo, may his memory always live. Tio would always say you could find him stressed, but that wouldn’t stop him from making other people smile. His specialty was making jokes. It’s always the warmest feeling. My brother takes on a lot of this loving nature. He is good at making jokes and making the rooms feel full with his laugh. Ramiro has a humble heart as well. During quarantine, he would help my anxiety by taking walks with me late at night. It was honestly the best feeling to know you can find support in your loved ones. It involves so much vulnerability but I value everyone’s efforts. And I hope that you (future family) too, will branch and offer this familial embracing.

I hope that this letter allows you to love yourself unconditionally. That you are unapologetic and let your spirit roam free. That you love and find ways to forgive. I hope it is humbling and moving, so that you can find it in you to reach out to those you see struggling, or if it is you that is in need of that support, you know it is not selfish. Do not shy away from what gives you comfort, even if it’s different. We like different things. Listen to your body and its needs. Find that safe space, whether in your mind, or a physical location. Discover new things that will help you feel whole. I encourage it and commend you for all strides. You amaze me.


With love,

Isabel Salas

2 Responses to “Querida Familia”

  1. Sean Hernández Adkins

    What a beautiful meditation on healing, relationships, and the struggles that come with both. Vamos concaminando en comunidad entre Durham, Charlotte, San Luís Potosí, y Catacamas, Honduras.

    • Isabel Salas

      gracias Sean, por sus palabras y recordarnos que estamos en esto juntos.


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