The hidden communities of Northern Ireland: The Story of Lou

By Bethany Hamill

LOU was born in Northern Ireland, however, at a young age, she had to move to Colombia, which is where she was raised and spent her developing years. Lou had created a successful life for herself in Colombia. She was working as a lawyer and had got married. However, when she had to move back to Northern Ireland, this all changed. 

The move back to Northern Ireland was an incredibly difficult transition for Lou, as she went from her successful job as a lawyer in Colombia, to a completely different country where she did not know anybody and had to start fresh. Luckily, because she had been born in Northern Ireland, she spoke English, so understanding the language was not tough for her. 

The real trouble started when Lou started applying for jobs in Northern Ireland. Despite having a respectable career back in Colombia and being extremely intelligent, she struggled to get a job in Northern Ireland – people did not want to hire her. She applied for many different places and was constantly turned down. Finally, Templepatrick Primary School gave Lou the opportunity she needed and gave her a job as a Spanish teacher. In Templepatrick Primary School, Lou teaches each year group the basics of Spanish and provides them with the opportunity to learn about different cultures and countries. Lou is giving the children of Templepatrick valuable knowledge and allowing them to learn more about the world around them.

When asked about whether she had faced any race issues in Northern Ireland, Lou stated that, for her, it had not been too bad. Having previously lived in Northern Ireland, despite this being a long time ago, she had an understanding of the language and the country itself. However, the same cannot be said for her husband and her son. Her husband is a black Colombian and due to this, has faced more racism than Lou has due to her being white passing. As well as this, Lou admitted that her son had a rough time in school because of his background. The children in his school singled him out and bullied him, which was quite distressing for her son. In the end, he had to be moved to a school in Scotland, where he is much happier and faces much less discrimination. Her son is currently studying for his GCSE’s in Scotland. Lou also explained how in the area she lives in, she would see racism daily. The area in which she lives is quite diverse, with people from many nationalities and backgrounds living there. However, it is not always a peaceful environment as she has witnessed many arguments and disagreements which were racially motivated, including members of the public calling people derogatory names. 

Despite all the hardships she has faced since moving back to Northern Ireland, she has not allowed this to dull her sparkle. Lou has taken everything in her stride and has only allowed it to make her stronger. As well as being a Spanish teacher, Lou does many other things in her spare time. She is very musical and has a love for singing and dancing and is very naturally talented at this. Lou attends Mexican Dance Belfast, which she is a very keen and charismatic member of. Due to her natural love of music and dance, she thrives in this environment and is incredibly passionate about what she does. In her spare time, Lou attends the dance classes this company holds and attends performances which they carry out every so often. This is beneficial for Lou not just due to her love for music, but it also allows her to connect with people from a similar background and gives her a community where she is appreciated and loved. 

Although the move back to Northern Ireland was tough for Lou and she struggled with the transition, she has found her rhythm and is now doing incredibly well for herself. Between teaching the young children of Templepatrick Primary School and putting on mesmerising performances with Mexican Dance Belfast, she has found a life she is happy with and despite not being able to regain her job as a lawyer, she has not let this stop her and she has not allowed herself to give up. Instead, she has decided to let this work in her favour, creating new opportunities for herself and using her free time to work towards dance and singing, the two things she is most passionate about.