How this Latina mother-daughter duo is confronting mental health


GENERACIONES

This series is part of a collaboration between De Los and Boyle Heights Beat. Youth reporters interviewed young Latinos and their parents to explore how generational differences shape their identity and how they’re bridging divides.

Twenty-year-old Alejandra Gonzalez and her 42-year-old mother Carmen Hugon might not share the same taste in clothing or shoes, but they love horror movies, cooking and enjoy staying in.

They describe themselves as listeners more than talkers, and their disagreements, at least in public, are playful: “Le gustan los chiles rellenos,” Hugon says about her daughter’s favorite home-cooked meal. “Yo diría que me gustan más los tacos dorados,” Gonzalez rebuts, with a smirk.

The pair, who were both raised between the U.S. and Mexico, say their relationship is open and honest. But it wasn’t always like this. In middle school, Gonzalez was a victim of sexual assault, which led her into depression and forced the family to embrace a new way of thinking and talking.

Navigating trauma and mental health was uncharted territory for them. It took time, but the family eventually started therapy — an experience that was new to both mother and daughter.

“She didn’t understand therapy or how it worked,” said Gonzalez about her mother. When they first went, “there was a lot of crying and uncomfortable feelings and she thought that’s what therapy would always be like.”

While the idea of talking to a therapist was foreign to her, Hugon says she has seen how it’s helped her daughter and their relationship.

“Tenemos más comunicación con ella. Nos dice qué le molesta. Antes no nos decía,” Hugon says. “Ha sido positivo para todos.”

Much like Hugon and Gonzalez, a new generation of young Latinos is having difficult conversations with their parents on topics that have often been ignored. The work put in has led to stronger relationships and helped bridge cultural and generational gaps.

How did you navigate a generational divide?

We sat down with Gonzalez and Hugon to have a candid conversation about their childhoods, relationship, and how their lives have changed through therapy. The interview has been edited for length and clarity and kept in its original language to preserve the quality of the reporting. Check out Boyle Heights Beat for a complete Spanish or English version of this story.

How would you say your childhoods differed?

Gonzalez: We grew up moving around. My dad was deported when we were young, and then we moved to Mexico to be with him. We had to take the bus at a young age by ourselves. I saw it as really scary and my mom saw it as “these kids can be alone, we don’t have to worry about them.” I don’t see it like that. I just look back at our childhood and I feel a disconnect from it.

Hugon: Mi mamá siempre fue muy estricta y no me dejaba salir y mi papá siempre trabajaba. Nos pegaban cuando nos peleábamos yo y mi hermana. Pero es algo que creo que mi generación pasó porque a todos les pegaban.

What is something your generations don’t understand about each other?

Gonzalez: That [our parents] are people separate from being a parent. They are people that had a childhood, they had teenage years, they have goals. I feel like they reduce immigrant parents to just that, just the parent.

Hugon: Creo que el modo de expresarse. Hay muchas cosas que cuando estaba yo más joven no era tan ofensivo, y ahora hay muchas cosas que son ofensivas y uno tiene que aprender a no decirlas.

Is it difficult to talk about your feelings with each other?

Gonzalez: Growing up, watching movies of teenagers and how they interacted with their parents made me have this idea of what a parent was. So I just wasn’t very open with my feelings. I think I’m really open with her now.

Hugon: Sí es difícil, pero sí lo hago. Cuando no tienes a tus papás cerca o a tu hermana, uno tiene que apoyarse en [los hijos] y a veces digo yo “no debería de ser así, debería ser yo el apoyo para ellos, no ellos para mi.”

How did you find therapy as an option?

Gonzalez: We got help from school first. It was an on and off thing. … My mom and I were very new to therapy, we didn’t understand it. After a while I stopped going. In August last year I started going to therapy again with someone my sister helped find.

¿En algún tiempo sentiste un tipo de vergüenza sobre la terapia?

Hugon: Nunca me dio vergüenza, pero a veces la gente no entiende qué es la terapia y piensa que uno está loco. Cuando yo era más joven no se usaba la terapia. No había, o sí había y nosotros no teníamos conocimiento de ella.

How has your communication changed after therapy?

Gonzalez: I think therapy has helped communicate my feelings and needs more with both my mom and my family. … As I grew older and my mental health was getting worse, my sister was there for me for support and made me look at my parents in another way.

Hugon: La comunicación que tenemos ahora mis hijas y yo no fue siempre así… [La terapia] nos ayudó a tener más comunicación y a que ella hablara más. De poco en poquito empezó a hablar más y a salir más con amigas.

What are three things that you’ve come to value the most in life?

Gonzalez: My art, my relationship with my siblings and my mental health. I have anxiety, and it really showed up when I was a child. And that stopped me from doing things I wanted to do. As I became older, I realized that there were resources and help out there. I just found out that my mental illnesses shouldn’t stop me from doing what I wanted to do.

Adrian Casillas Sáenz has been a youth reporter for the Boyle Heights Beat since 2022, where he’s worked on print and audio stories about the neighborhood and surrounding communities. He is a Boyle Heights native and is a student at UCLA.



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