PUENTES NEW ORLEANS
BRIDGING ECONOMIC, RACIAL, AND CULTURAL DIVIDES
Why build walls when you can build bridges instead?
Puentes is a Spanish word meaning “bridges.” Since 2007, Puentes has been building bridges connecting Latin American immigrants and their children to the greater New Orleans community. Our work is dedicated to overcoming economic, racial, and cultural divides and to providing Latin American families and communities with the resources, knowledge, and hands-on opportunities they need to thrive.
Our focus is to provide the tools and opportunities for Latinx students to empower themselves through leadership development and education in our Escalera and L.U.N.A. programs. Escalera is a national program that promotes economic mobility for Latinx youth through education and strategic career planning. In this program, we support students both personally and academically as they explore career paths, prepare for college, and develop their leadership skills. L.U.N.A. (Latinxs Unidos de Nueva Orleans en Acción) is a grassroots youth coalition that focuses on youth-led advocacy through civic engagement, organizing, and coalition building. We are building a community of Latinx artists and activists, inviting our youth to come together to share their experiences and find creative solutions to the problems that directly affect them. Through these programs Puentes aims to provide our youth with the knowledge and resources to build bridges to better futures for themselves and their communities.
Our youth lead at Puentes, as such, their experiences are central to our mission. These are their experiences:
“Every time I talk about my story and the challenges I went through as a young Latinx immigrant, I highlight how lucky I was to find Puentes. This organization has had a huge in pact on my identity, my education, and my sense of expression through art. I moved to the U.S when I was fifteen years old, I did not know a word in English or how to navigate the new me, a Latinx immigrant. I often felt as if I did not belong to this new life of mine because of who I was. I was sometimes ashamed of my citizenship status, of my color, of my accent, and many other things that come with being an immigrant. It was difficult for me to find the value that exists in who I am and my story, and I do not think I could have ever done it if it would have been for the support, love, and inspiration I found in the community Puentes has brought together through their programs.”
-Rebeca Sauly Santa Maria, 22
Escalera Graduate, LUNA Member
“Puentes is a place of activism and expression. A place where you can set your own path or represent the path of others. This organization embraces all emotions and different opinions; we think diversity is a gift and should be shared. We learn that thinking with our heart is as good as thinking with our minds, that the only limit is your own and you get to decide how far your voice will reach and what impact it will have. It is a place where your voice is heard, and where everyone involved matters - it makes you feel like a part of something.”
-Boris Alarcon, 18
Escalera graduate, LUNA Member