Pita Betancourt, counselor/activist

Latina Elgin counselor is working for change
By Tara Garcia Mathewson

Pita Betancourt

Pita Betancourt arrived in the United States as a licensed psychologist but her degree from a Mexican university was not recognized here. Now, with additional schooling, she works as a counselor, advocating for the Latino community in her spare time. Photo by Brian Hill.

Pita Betancourt doesn’t believe in luck. She doesn’t think she ended up in Elgin merely by coincidence.

“I think it was because I had to be here to do this work,” said the Larkin Center counselor.

Betancourt is from the central Mexican state of San Luis Potosi and has lived in Elgin with her husband for about 15 years.

When Betancourt arrived she felt out of place. She is a licensed psychologist in Mexico, but her degree is not valid in the United States and, without English, she felt lost.

So she took classes at Elgin Community College and learned the language.

Betancourt said she also confronted a sense of hostility toward Latinos she had heard about before she moved to this country.

“There is a big problem where people choose to see that immigrants come to take jobs but they don’t value what they do here,” Betancourt said. “People give their lives, their blood — they die here. But people don’t see this.”

She pointed to taxes paid by immigrants, documented or not, and the labor they contribute to communities as concrete examples of their worth.

Betancourt serves as a bridge between the Larkin Center and the Latino community in the Elgin nonprofit’s individual and group counseling services. She leads workshops for adults, primarily focusing on self esteem.

Read the full story here.

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