The strength of Latinos is in our sense of community, and the way we’re there for each other in good times as in bad.
It’s the stuff of movies: beauty shops and barber shops peopled and filled with the neighborhood family that forms within the bigger family of the Latino community and the extended family of the city.
On Horrocks Street in Northeast Philadelphia is one such place, Elegance Studio. If you were to walk in its door a week or two ago, you would have seen the owner, Rosa Barreto cutting, coloring, straightening — all the processes you’d expect at a salon.
And you would have seen 6-year-old Delyza Alexy Lebrón, Rosa’s daughter, enjoying the noise and bustle and life of the shop at her mother’s side.
It was that way at the end of July, when AL DÍA reporter Ana Gamboa went to the salon. She and photographer Gabriela Barrantes came back from the assignment moved by the story of the child who had battled a cancerous brain tumor since she was a year old, the mother and business person committed to helping others in the same heartrending situation, and the neighborhood that loved and supported the family throughout.
Delyza died Aug. 1. It was sooner than anticipated, but not unexpected.
Family and community members flooded the funeral home Aug. 7 dressed in vivid t-shirts memorializing the young life they were celebrating even as they grieved.
This is an ordinary story.
Children die every day in our neighborhoods; and those who loved them gather to mourn the loss. We comfort each other in Spanish or English or without words. We remember together. We hold each other up.
“Le quiero dar las gracias ... a la comunidad por haber estado presentes, como siempre en las buenas y en las malas,” Barreto said after Delyza’s calling hours. “I want to thank ... the community for having always been there, in good times as in bad times.”
This is the extraordinary part of ordinary.
As a community we piece together the hearts that have been broken.
That piecing together of a broken heart will happen as Rose Barreto and husband José Lebrón open the doors to the events hall where they raise money for other causes — something Delyza’s illness prompted them to do a number of years ago — as well as the moment Barreto walks into her beauty shop and sees the faces of those who will remember with her.
It will happen, also, as they start working on the foundation they’ ve set up in their young daughter’s memory and as they plan the annual “Delyza’s Celebration for Life” (to benefit Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia). Undoubtedly the donors and volunteers who will contribute and gather for that will also be part of the neighborhoood, the larger Puerto Rican community and our community — the AL DÍA readership.
There is an obligation inherent in both love and community — to do for each other. Like any community, sometimes we Latinos manage that well and sometimes not so well. But the most fitting tribute to this child with dancing eyes who Barreto describes as cheerful, strong and a fighter — as it is with the children whose stories we don’t know and haven’t been able to cover in the newspaper — is to continue to pledge to stand together.
To be here as a community, for each other.
En las buenas, y en las malas.