Advancing Acadiana: Hispanic Heritage Month


LAFAYETTE, Louisiana (KLFY) – September 15 to October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month. Caroline Marcello of News 10 spoke with a local bilingual counselor about the challenges her community is facing.

Maria Istre, of Tree of Life Counseling and Consulting, is one of only two Spanish speaking counselors in the region.

“Here at Tree of Life, we focus on serving minority populations. This includes ethnic and cultural minorities, as well as linguists. I am bilingual, therefore I am a Spanish speaking counselor. Only one in two in the region.

Maria Istre specializes in helping clients cope with depression, anxiety, PTSD and recovery from sexual trauma.

She says members of the Hispanic community don’t always seek help because it can be hard to find.

“It can be disheartening at times, but there is a definite need and we are trying to fill that gap,” Istre said.

She says education and awareness are essential.

“If you want to know someone’s ethnic or cultural background, don’t ask inappropriate questions,” Istre said. “People are really open to education most of the time. Knowing that xenophobia is also a real thing, so be open and aware of this. “

Xenophobia is defined as an aversion or prejudice towards people from other countries. Maria says it’s something we’ve seen affect the Asian-American population during the coronavirus pandemic.

Maria says that immersing different cultures within our Cajun culture can make our community more inclusive.

“Host cultural festivals, not just Latinos but others; Asian-American, Indian festivals. These are all great. It’s about immersing ourselves in these cultures and creating spaces where they can exist, ”said Istre. “Organizing concerts even with diverse artists and inviting them to our venues is a way of exposing ourselves in a healthy and inviting way. “

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