What does being a Latina mean to you?

Being Latina means having a family and a community that extends across the world. It is walking by a party and immediately being invited, even if you don't know who the party is for; it is having a shared smile or shared acknowledgement in spaces where you are not always welcomed; it's having kinship to someone before even knowing their story; it is having shared joys and fears, navigating in a country that is not always allowed to be "yours"; it is a huge hug from a Latina stranger, when you wear your "Latina Power" t-shirt; it is a sense of belonging.

Share a struggle you have faced being a Latina.

A struggle I have faced as a Latina is getting people to see me beyond stereotypes, as well as allowing me to take up space in circles that Latinas typically have not been welcomed or allowed to take up space in. Latinas are often categorized as "feisty" or "dramatic" or "sexual" based on stereotypes people have seen on TV. It is often difficult for people to see beyond initial impressions and actually accept me fully as a Latina woman, while also seeing that I have other things to offer beyond just a feisty personality, a loud laugh, or a body.

Share something you love about being a Latina?

I LOVE that we are fun, we are loving and loyal, we are strong and consistent. I love that being Latina is an automatic invite to the coolest club there is. It's like an open invitation to being a part of a long history and tradition of women who have stood up for themselves and their families, in the face of oppression and mistreatment; women who have made a way where there seemed to be no way; women who have fought for one another to make a better future.

What do you identify as? Brazilian-American

Do you speak Portuguese? I understand more than I speak. I also speak broken Spanish.

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.

Yes, I was born in the states!

How have you been able to celebrate and honor your american nationality, while embracing your heritage and culture?

Being mixed means that I get to celebrate being Latina as well as American, but only in measured ways and only in certain places. I read an essay once about a Chinese-American woman in NYC who said that being multiracial is like carrying two plates in your hand, "where I am, determines which one is the heaviest." This is what I feel every day. Sometimes, I really struggle in celebrating my American nationality, knowing the brutality of its history and the mistreatment of my own people at the hands own people. Sometimes, I celebrate the freedom that this country represents across the world, and I am proud. Every day is a different lesson in how to celebrate being BOTH Brazilian and American without one outshining the other.

Have you experienced colorism, or not being fully accepted by your community? Like you're too dark, or too white, etc. Please share anything you'd like to share!

I have felt some non-acceptance due to being mixed. This has happened to me both as an American and as a Brazilian. I've always been "too dark for the white kids" and "too white for the dark kids" when it comes to being myself. It's something I've struggled with, based on others' perceptions of me, as well as overcoming my own demons with my own perceptions of myself. It has also been difficult being a Latina who does not speak Spanish fluently. I took it in high school and my mom speaks it as her 3rd (yes, 3rd!) language, but it still doesn't come natural for me. In college, I wanted to join the Latina fraternity, but didn't totally feel like it could be my thing, since Spanish isn't on the radar of languages for me. My family (and my country) speaks Portuguese, so that is what comes more naturally for me. All in all, I've often felt a little on the fringe, but truthfully, moving to Chicago and living here the last 4 years has really changed my feelings of loneliness and gave me such a huge Latino community to be a part of -- even if we don't always speak the same language :)