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For Latinos, the Uvalde shooting has an extra layer of grief and trauma

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

It has been 10 days since the shooting in Uvalde, Texas. And while the entire nation is reeling, for a certain group of people, it is hitting particularly hard - for Latinos, seeing the names, the photos of the victims, kids and teachers who look and sound like them. It's added a layer of grief and trauma. To talk through this, we have called Maria Maldonado-Morales. She's a clinical social worker at Texas Children's Hospital. Hey there. Welcome.

MARIA MALDONALDO-MORALES: Thank you so much.

KELLY: It goes without saying that there's a whole range of views and experiences among Latinos across this country. So I guess start with just what you personally are hearing in your circles, from your patients about how this particular shooting is affecting them.

MALDONALDO-MORALES: I'm seeing a lot of complicated grief. I think to your point, it's not only the loss of life, the loss of safety. But I think the community that we feel as sort of Latinos in the United States adds a layer of frustration, of sadness, of anger, even. And my colleagues who are also Latino or my family who is also Latino - like you said, seeing the faces of the children and seeing your nieces and nephews, your kids. And I also see that with the clients that I see. I work with primarily Latino students, and many of them have said just that - of, these kids look like me. This could have been me. Or this could have been my family. Or this could have been us.

KELLY: Yeah. This is not the first horrific shooting to affect Latinos, not even the first in Texas. We don't know the motive in Uvalde. We do know that El Paso back in 2019 was racially motivated.

MALDONALDO-MORALES: Yes.

KELLY: Just to remind people that, was a gunman who walked into a Walmart and killed 23 people and was targeting Mexican Americans. Does that add to the weight of this latest horror? Does it contribute to - I don't know - a sense of a particular community under attack?

MALDONALDO-MORALES: I think it does. You know, I think especially to your point in this instance, because the motive of the attack wasn't clear, I think that adds an additional layer of maybe uncertainty or fear because the shooter was also Latino. And so I think it adds this sort of almost level of mistrust of, we're supposed to be a community. We're supposed to watch out for each other, and how can we hurt each other like this?

KELLY: So what advice are you giving to people who are who are grappling with this?

MALDONALDO-MORALES: Something that I've been telling people a lot is to have really honest, open conversations. In many communities but I think particularly in Latino communities, there is this maybe fear of having difficult, emotional conversations because often, parents don't want to seem weak or vulnerable in front of their children. Children don't want to seem weak or vulnerable in front of their parents. Everyone is trying to be strong and brave, but that sometimes brings in shame and guilt. And it can also create feelings of isolation. So I'm encouraging people to speak openly about their feelings, to share what they're feeling with each other and have these open conversations because it is uncomfortable. It isn't easy to talk about, but we're all thinking about it. We're all feeling it.

KELLY: What about something that may speak to almost everyone in America right now, which is a craving for a sense of safety, a safe place? How do you talk to people about that? How do you talk to people about coping?

MALDONALDO-MORALES: I think something that I recommend to people, which obviously is easier said than done, is to try and create as much of a sense of normalcy in this very uncertain world. So...

KELLY: How do you do that?

MALDONALDO-MORALES: That's a great question (laughter). So, you know, if you have family routines, for example, of having dinner together or reading a book before bedtime and maybe also doing things that maybe seem fun, which also sounds odd because often, when we feel so sad, we feel like, well, I shouldn't we be enjoying things. I shouldn't have fun. I shouldn't experience joy. But we can hold both of those feelings together. We can feel scared and sad and also feel joy and hope. And I think that, again, allows a sense of normalcy in our day-to-day life. It's not going to take it away. It's not going to make it all, you know, disappear. But for a second, we can feel a sense of normalcy.

KELLY: Great advice there from Maria Maldonado-Morales, clinical social worker at Texas Children's Hospital. Thank you so much.

MALDONALDO-MORALES: Thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF MARTIN JACOBY'S "BRIGHT LIGHTS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
Alejandra Marquez Janse
Roberta Rampton is NPR's White House editor. She joined the Washington Desk in October 2019 after spending more than six years as a White House correspondent for Reuters. Rampton traveled around America and to more than 20 countries covering President Trump, President Obama and their vice presidents, reporting on a broad range of political, economic and foreign policy topics. Earlier in her career, Rampton covered energy and agriculture policy.