BINGHAMTON, NY – Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15th to October 15th, recognizes the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States.
Tonight, we profile a Binghamton woman whose journey in learning English and now teaching it has brought her full circle.
Each day after school, Samara Guzman Romo reads a chapter of a book to her children Nico and Viviana.
Romo was born in Colombia and moved to the US when she was 2 years-old.
She says her Latin heritage is an important part of who she is.
“My parents were really good about making sure to bring in all of the cultural traditions that were important to them growing up. And we do it now even with my own children,” says Romo.
Part of that culture is music and dancing. Romo teaches the children salsa steps while having a dance party in their living room.
And there’s the traditional Colombian foods like sancocho, which is a chicken soup, bunuelos, which are fried cheese balls and natilla which is a hard flan dessert.
“That idea of family has always been important to my parents and they’ve passed that down to us. They would always make certain that we were together on Christmas Eve growing up and opening the presents on Christmas Eve made that special,” says Romo.
Romo uses both Spanish and English with her children.
Growing up, Romo’s mother didn’t speak much English and the family, including her father and 2 brothers, spoke only Spanish in the home.
“I was in ESL in kindergarten for about half the year and then I was able to move on out of there. But, now I’m back in the ESL/ENL classroom teaching the students now,” says Romo.
Romo is an English as a New Language teacher at East Middle School in Binghamton where she works with students whose native language might be Spanish, but it might also be Urdu, Kurdish or Vietnamese.
“We make sure in this newcomers class, they feel safe to ask all these questions and try to get them to understand how it all works here in school, outside. What does a snow day mean?” says Romo.
Romo says there are similarities between their experiences. Many of her students act as translators for their parents, just as she did for her mom.
“When they see that I was in their same shoes starting out, I think it kind of helps them to see, ‘Okay, I can do this. This is hard right now but I can do this,'” says Romo.
One major difference though is the size of the Hispanic community in Binghamton.
Romo says there are a lot more Latinos than there were when she was a student at Horace Mann Elementary.
She says part of her mission is to connect the newcomers with a supportive community.
And she wants to preserve the Colombian traditions within her own family.
“It’s a whole added layer of my identity and I want to pass that on to them. When they get older, they can choose whether they want to practice it or not. But I associate it with really good memories. Again, it brings it back to the family and how important that is. Because it’s things that we do together,” says Romo.
NewsChannel 34 will air a half hour Hispanic Heritage special on Sunnday October 11th at 12:30 PM on WBGH, NBC-5.