Oakland, CA — It’s graduation season and social feeds are blowing up with graduation photos. One hashtag in particular has grabbed our attention: #Latinxgradcaps. The hashtag has more than 5,400 pictures on Instagram of Latinx graduates paying tribute to their immigrant identity.
There is no doubt that these students are graduating in a tense political climate with immigration a point of contention among politicians and a topic debated in communities around the country. It seems as if every week President Donald Trump has a new plan to crack down on immigration. It's a long list, from threatening to close the U.S.-Mexico border to separating families to most recently prioritizing visas to immigrants with high-level skills (and this week: imposing new tariffs on Mexico). It's maybe no surprise that this year's graduates from immigrant families feel the need to proudly show off their roots by decorating their graduation caps with messages like “Proud daughter of immigrants” or “I crossed the border so I could cross the stage.”
YR Media’s Brontë Sorotsky spoke to five graduates from around the country to get the story behind their graduation cap designs.
1. Diana Mariel Martinez, 25, SFSU
My cap quotes: “Para mis padres, llegaron sin nada y me lo dieron todo ¡Lo logramos!" (“For my parents, who arrived with nothing and gave me everything. We did it!”) My parents and I migrated from Mexico to the U.S. when I was about five years old. We left everything we had behind. Around the border, there’s traditional red roses, sunflowers, and cactus plants so I included them on my cap. The monarch butterflies represent migration. These butterflies peacefully migrate every year freely crossing borders. Like a butterfly, I migrated across borders for a better life.
2. Mario Toruno, 26, UNC Charlotte
My cap has three parts. The first part is a pride flag with black and brown stripes because of my identity as a queer person — specifically a brown, Latinx person — that celebrates and uplifts black and brown queer people. The next part is a fat raised fist. This part represents my unity, solidarity, resistance, and I wanted it to be a fat fist because fat liberation and the fat acceptance movement are important to me as well. I think the most prominent and most important part of the cap for me is the Nicaraguan flag. My identities as an immigrant, a child of immigrants, and Nicaragüense have been the ones I’ve struggled to accept the most. College was a place where I was able to meet professors and friends and mentors who taught me the value of my culture and how resilient and strong and incredible my parents and other immigrants are. I wanted my cap to reflect that and honor my parents and their sacrifice.
3. Zacnite Vargas, 23, Trevecca Nazarene University
My grad cap reads: "Dreams bigger than man-made borders." I wanted the world to see that no dream, no goal or anything one sets their mind to is less than achievable, especially as an undocumented immigrant in this country. Although I am a DACA recipient, I am classified as an "undocumented immigrant." That label comes with a lot of barriers. But this classification of status also flourishes into resilience, rebellion, liberation, and badass-ness. I am so proud of my Latina roots. I am a proud Mexican. There will never be a wall (literally and figuratively) high enough that I won't climb. If my parents were able to overcome walls, terrains, barriers, etc., I am capable of achieving anything I set my mind to.
4. Diana Chavez, 30, CSU Fullerton
For my graduation cap, I chose a quote that described my experience: "Siempre hay belleza en la lucha." In English it means, "There is always beauty in the struggle." I come from two immigrant parents and I am the first to go to college and it was not easy. I had no one to guide me along the way. I am a mother of two children and before I had my second child, I went through two miscarriages while attending community college. I did not let this stop me from continuing my education nor when I finally had my son a week before finals. The beautiful struggle my family and I experienced was worth it!
5. Cesar Camacho, 23, DePaul University
Given the political climate, I felt like I needed to recognize my heritage and roots to inspire the next generation of students. The Mexican flag represents the culture I love and grew up in; it’s my main identity. I’m also grateful for being Mexican American which is why I put the American flag as well. The rainbow was to represent another part of my identity — being gay. The quote was pretty bold, but I wanted to make sure that everyone who saw it knew I was walking with pride. Latinos are hard workers and we need to continue to prove everyone who doubts us wrong, so I’ll always preach that there’s “No Wall High Enough To Keep Us From Slaying!”