CLICK FOR HOPE | I DIDN'T REALIZE I WAS UNDOCUMENTED

 Photos provided by storyteller: Neiva

Photos provided by storyteller: Neiva

What does being a Latina mean to you?

Being a Latina women means that I am someone who is proud of their roots/where they came from. Someone that’s empowering, someone that perseveres, and someone that can add a bit of spice to someone’s life.

Share a struggle you have faced being a Latina.

I have worked in a professional /corporate setting for a few years now and I have experienced racism/ ignorance from individuals in a higher role than mine. Stereotypes are very common here in Chicago. I have had countless statements stating that they are surprised I don’t have an “accent “ when I speak English. I have had plenty of reactions by how “educated” I am after giving a presentation or providing ideas during meetings. I have had the constant mispronunciation of my name after repeating it several times. Overtime, you become immune to it as it happens so often . This cycle needs to be broken.

Share something you love about being a Latina?

I am very prideful of my roots. I get to share a beautiful culture among those that surround me. This includes food, music, and traditions. I love my brown, glowing skin, my curves and my big, chunky curls. Yes, this sounds vain, but it took a long time for me to love who I am and I repeat this to myself everyday. I love that family time is emphasized in our culture. I love the fact that we have huge celebrations for any big/little accomplishment that we complete. I love being able to be bilingual. Thinking and speaking in 2 different languages is by far one of the coolest things someone can do if you actually think about it.

What do you identify as? I identify myself as Mexican

Where you born in the states? If not, could you share what your experience has been being an immigrant, and the process of becoming a US citizen, resident, etc.

My family immigrated here from Mexico when I was 2 years old. We came here on a visa that later soon expired. I didn’t realize I was “undocumented” until I started filling out applications for financial aid to assist in paying for college. That was a rude awakening. My mental health was at an all time low. I was discouraged seeing all my friends off to college while I was left behind. I realized I had to work 15x harder than anyone to achieve even a minor goal. I started working as a nanny, saved all my money and paid for school out of pocket. My parents have given me such a beautiful life and I have never needed anything. They always provided everything I could ever need plus more. They taught me that hard work pays off and for that I am always grateful. When President Obama passed the executive order of Deffered Action for Childhood Arrivals aka DACA, all the hard work I did paid off. I was approved and was able to obtain a position in a professional environment that I so longed for. In 2014, I got married to my best friend. He has been there through every stepping stone, milestone, achievement, etc. In March of 2017, we decided to proceed with filing paperwork for my permanent residency. This was probably one of the scariest things I had to do under the political climate that we were in. I was super fearful of rejection. In August of 2017, I received an email of my approval!!!! As soon as I obtained my residency, I went to Mexico to meet family I hadn’t seen in over 25 years. It was the most overwhelming, beautiful, humbling experience of my life. I was able to understand the sacrifice my parents made. They wanted us to have a better life than they did in our home country. I don’t think we have any idea what immigrant parents give up for us. Give up their country, their family, and their entire lives to move across the globe to a country that treats them poorly because they are not able to properly pronounce a word, just so their children can have a better life, a better education. I thank my parents for giving me a better life full of opportunities. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it weren’t for their sacrifice. Per law, I have to wait 3 years before applying to become a Naturalized Citizen. Once this happens, I will have dual citizenship .

Do you speak spanish? Yes, fluently.

Is there something else you'd like to say or add?

I currently am a volunteer for a program called Rape Victim Advocates. it’s an organization that provides crisis counseling to survivors of sexual assault. This group is part of an amazing team of advocates who are on-call to provide in-person crisis support to survivors of sexual assault & abuse at 14 Chicago hospitals, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so a survivor is never alone . I have had the privilege to service various Spanish speaking families in this role . This has probably been the most intense yet rewarding experience I have ever done .