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Position: Migrant Specialist for Ferndale School District

What part of Latin America does your family come from? Mexico

What do you love most about your culture?

Tafoya: “One of my favorite things about being Latina -- or, I like to identify as Chicana -- is the family and community. Latino culture, to me, has always been just so vibrant and so warming and welcoming. One of my favorite parts of riding the bus in Mexico is everyone says hi. Music is a big central piece of it, whether it’s banda from Mexico, or whether you’re in the Caribbean and it’s salsa, just the energy and positivity that it can radiate, it gives me a warm feeling. It’s like, I’m with like-minded people.”

Why is celebrating your Chicana heritage important to you?

Tafoya: “For me, growing up in the small, white town of Ephrata, WA, I was always ‘Ann-dree-uh.’ (EDITOR’S NOTE: her name is actually pronounced ‘Ahn-dray-uh,’ with a rolled R.) To fit in, to not be excluded, to not be different, I was safer being ‘Ann-dree-uh.’ For me, it’s being proud when you grew up not realizing it. Being able to celebrate and show other students that it’s okay to be proud of where you came from, and knowing there is value and you bring so much with that knowledge. I feel like we tend to ignore those pieces as a community, of what others bring to the table, when it’s different. To embrace the differences is crucial for many of our young students. Being able to embrace those pieces, and say, ‘This is a part of me, this is my heritage, this is my culture,’ I feel like it helps those who are struggling.”

What is your favorite Mexican food?

Tafoya: “Ooh, that’s hard. I guess it depends on the mood! Growing up, I always loved when my grandma made sopes. I come from a farmworker family, with my mom having a migrant, farmworker background. We had a lot of basic things. So even though there isn’t a whole lot to sopes, it was always one of my favorites.”

How do you plan to celebrate Latinx Heritage Month in your school?

Tafoya: “I do also help with MEChA Club, so I helped participate in the decoration of the Ferndale High lounge. I helped facilitate the flower-making. Also, if you look in my office, I tend to keep Latinx-themed decorations year-round, because I don’t think it should be limited to a month. Here’s a painting of one of my icons, Selena. She’s Tejana, but she’s Mexican heritage as well. Having these little pieces for students to identify and connect with, they can say, ‘Oh wow.’  Or having all these sayings in Spanish, positive sayings like, ‘I’m proud of you,’ and those little things they don’t get to hear all the time because there isn’t staff who are able to say that to them in the language they most understand. Having those little affirmations everywhere -- I also have a bulletin on the outside of my office that has positive quotes in English and Spanish. Those little things, they just shine more this month, but it’s something I try to work towards the entire year.”

Final thoughts?

Tafoya: “I’m proud to be able to be proud of myself now. I know that can be a struggle, especially growing up in a community that doesn’t always praise those differences. My goal is to make sure our students are feeling welcomed and a part of this community, as they should be.”

Andrea Tafoya photo