hispanic heritage month

CLICK FOR HOPE | I'VE HAD TO FIGHT FOR THOSE RIGHTS

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What does being a Latina mean to you?:

For me Latinidad is many things as we are intersectional beings. Personally, it means being the daughter of Mexican immigrants who struggled in migrating to this country for a better life and opportunities for their children. It means having a set of values that center familia, community and self, and that these do not exist without each other. And all the things that enrich these values, that are an intricate part, like language, food, religion, spirituality, work, education, play, relationships, music, and art. But each of these is constantly being redefined with every new generation and experience.

Share a struggle you have faced being a Latina.:

I am a Latina who might be seen as one who has defied the obstacles against her, because in one generation as the daughter of Mexican immigrants, has obtained the highest degree possible in Academia. I hold a Doctorate in Hispanic Literature and am an Associate professor of Spanish at a small college outside of Chicago. However, even with this evidence of success, I have been devalued, dismissed and treated as incompetent at times and not perceived as an equal leader to my middle-class White colleagues. I have also arrived at this level through great systemic challenges that caused me to internalize this perception and second-guess myself on my way here and be stigmatized by an imposter syndrome.

Share something you love about being a Latina?:

I love some of the central values that define us: familia, love & community. I love our syncretic and hybrid identities that make us richly complex and even contradictory.

What do you identify as?: Latinx (Mexican-American)

Where you born in the states?: U.S. born, but from a mixed status family

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

Yes, but I have had to shoulder through and negotiate those throughout the way. In some times and spaces, I've had to fight for those rights and to be seen as both American and Mexican, or simply American.

Do you speak spanish?:

Yes, fluently.

Have you experienced colorism, or not being fully accepted by your community?

Yes, I am a light-skinned Latina and am fully aware of my privilege in the U.S. I jokingly and poignantly say that I am a "safe" Latina. I am also married to a white man and we have two children. My girls are very different. One has brown hair and big brown eyes like me, and shares the characteristics of light-skinned Latinas. My other daughter has platinum blonde hair and blue eyes like my husband. I am often asked if she is mine, if I am her nanny and most times, those questions have come from “mi propia gente", other Latinos. So yes, colorism runs deep in Mexican and Latino culture. In fact, because of this, I was motivated to offer a course titled Afro-Latinidad to continue diversifying the Spanish curriculum at my institution and also providing courses in which a variety of my students can see themselves reflected in and to begin to have them think and complicate these values and cultural expectations.

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 .

CLICK FOR HOPE | I HAVE DUAL CITIZENSHIP

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What does being a Latina mean to you?

It means I am a woman filled with strength, courage and power. Yet gentle, loving and nurturing. Someone who believes in fighting for what is right and standing up for yourself, especially in today’s time. 

Share a struggle you have faced being a Latina.

I would definitely have to say the immigration process my family had to endure including my own during my early childhood and fear of the word, DEPORTATION.

Share something you love about being a Latina?

I love that I am able to embrace my heritage with such pride and admiration for it. I love our food, our history, our people, our music and art! I love that I am a woman who was raised by amazing Mexican women, specifically my mother and her mother, my Abuelita. I was taught to have old fashioned manners (something that seems to disappear more and more) and serve with hospitality and heart.... Especially with food, I love to cook and see my friends and family eat what I made with passion and love from my hands and soul. They get to taste a little of who I am and what I carry from generations and generations ago. 

What do you identify as? (Puerto Rican, Mexican, Salvadorian, etc.):

Mexicana but if we want to talk about specifics I am a VERY proud Jalisciense! Hecha de puro Jalisco!

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.

NO... I was born in Jalisco, Mexico.

I remember waking up at around 5 am in the mornings to arrive early at the long line of the immigration office, even with the rough winter weather we deal with here in Chicago. My mother and I received our legal US residency before my dad did and my biggest fear was not knowing if my dad would get his papers and get deported. The conversations my parents had in case he would get his applications denied and get deported were gut- wrenching to me. We would all have to leave... Never would my parents allow us to be separated but I didn't want to leave the place I called and known as my home for literally almost my entire life and lose my close friends. I didn't know what the schools were like in Mexico. I was only a little girl and knowing my parents came and stayed in the US to have a better education and chance of a greater life for me and my younger sisters, I didn't want any of that to go to waste. Thankfully, what at times seemed impossible with a lot of prayer and a LOT of fasting in my very early stages of being a born again Christian, God turned it around for my family and my Papi received his "papeles", his legal US residency. It is one of my most powerful personal testimonies.

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

Being a 1st generation immigrant, I do not really recognize myself of "American nationality". I have a dual citizenship and very proud to hold that. I never ever forget where I come from but I never ever forget the recognition I have for this country. I am a college graduate, with a Puerto Rican husband I met here in America, with about to be a total of 4 beautiful American born sons. I am very grateful for that. I get to teach my children to admire not just my culture, but their father's PR culture and the history of the land they were born in.

Do you speak Spanish? Yes, fluently.

Have you experienced colorism, or not being fully accepted by your community? Like you're too dark, or too white, etc.

Oh yes, for being tall and fair skinned with big curly hair, I get the, “You're Mexican???" type of reaction when a person finds out where I am from. I also received a lot of bullying for my hair as a child. Comments like, “Look at my hair, my hair is real!” from other kids or being called “Curly Monster” or making rumors that my hair was a wig, were kind of perplexing to me because I grew up Pilsen, a Chicago neighborhood that is predominantly Hispanic. Where people all have different heights, skin color, hair textures and features, I thought we should have been more accepting of one another. So I remember there was a short period where I felt like I “fit in” more when my hair was straightened with a flat iron or wish I was 5’4 and under. Thankfully I have a mother who taught me to love myself for who I am and taught me to embrace being “ÚNICA” in my own ways. As far an experience in Mexico, I was told one time I was "Mexicana pero Norteada", which basically meant "American tainted" and I took such offense to that. I am so grateful for being a part of both nations and think it is a wonderful privilege! 

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

Never be ashamed or embarrassed of who you are or where you come from. There were times I felt a little to some embarrassment for being a girl that was too tall, had curly hair (funny fact: my hair took a good amount of space in my second grade school picture) and even for having a name that still to this day, does not get pronounced right! But I have learned to love myself for me, for God made me who I am as He pleased and saw fit. He made no mistakes with me and that is my biggest hope for all girls of all ethnicities to feel about themselves.  

CLICK FOR HOPE | I'M PROUD TO REPRESENT

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What does being a Latina mean to you?

It means having a deep appreciation of my background and understanding the great importance of family. I love that our culture is family oriented, hard working, and so passionate!

Share a struggle you have faced being a Latina.

The assumption that I don’t speak English and that I’m not well educated with a great career is definitely the top struggles. However, in the realm of social media and the current platform I have, has been not getting equal opportunity to certain campaigns due to the fact that I’m a woman of color with strong features and dark hair AND super short.

Share something you love about being a Latina?

I love everything about our culture. The music, the food, the extra flavor we add to anything ;), and the importance of family.

What do you identify as? Puerto Rican

Where you born in the states? Yes, born and raised in the city of Chicago.

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

Yes. My parents always made us well aware of all typical Puerto Rican traditions and made sure to incorporate them while living here in Chicago. We truly had a good balance within our home and I’m so grateful for that!

Do you speak spanish? Yes, fluently.

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!:

Not one that I can remember. But I’ve had my share of experiences where people stereotype me and automatically assume I only speak or understand Spanish. Love their response when I respond back to them in fluent English and make them well aware that I speak and understand both languages very well.

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

I’m proud to be a Latina woman and proud to represent them in any way I can! We are who we are and should never be ashamed of the things that make us unique and so special. We are passionate, wise, empowered, strong, loving, and beautiful both inside and out. What a blessing it is to be Latina!

CLICK FOR HOPE | LLENO DE CREATIVDAD

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What does being a Latina mean to you?

Para mi ser Latina tiene el significado de ser un ser humano lleno de creatividad, honestidad, sacrificio, inteligencia, sabor, tradición, cultura, costumbres, sazón, amor por los demás y entrega total.
No sabía de este orgulloso apellido hasta que llegué a este país.

Share a struggle you have faced being a Latina.

Todos los posibles, vivía en una burbuja en mi querido México. Allá no tenía color de piel, tenía amigos, familia, amor, hombros sobre los que llorar sin citas, visitas de amigos sin horario con espontaneidad, así como somos los latinos, siempre teniendo una mano amiga, un familiar que te echa la mano cuando lo necesitas.
Ignoraba ser una “POC”, creía que la discriminación racial eran cuentos de televisión.
Aquí vine a conocer el lado profundo de la soledad, de las lágrimas que nadie escucha ni son secadas por nadie. Esas palabras que solo puedas expresar en una relación virtual, en fotos que se comparten y que nunca demuestran la tristeza y los sufrimientos que se padecen detrás de esas sonrisas de tu familia, las que quieres guardar para siempre, a las que te aferras para no caer y tomar fuerzas.

Share something you love about being a Latina?

Ser creativa, dar sin esperar nada a cambio, mi corazón, la honestidad de mi mente y alma, aprender día a día de todos y de todo. Salir adelante no importando la circunstancia u obstáculo que se me presente.

What do you identify as? Mexicana

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.

Mi proceso ha sido, Gracias a Dios, fluido y coherente. Siempre cumpliendo con los requerimientos legales.

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

Creo que el rechazo de todos los trabajos a los que he aplicado (solo llevo 4 años aquí, mis estudios son en México) me han hecho sacar la casta. No me canso de hacer lo que sea. He donado mi talento en las artes gráficas a algunas asociaciones sin fines de lucro, sé tejer crochet vendiendo en ferias, hago joyería en piel y con piedras preciosas. Nada me detiene. Ahora pertenezco a un grupo de Mamis Latinas donde comparto mi conocimiento y mi talento, pero la mejor parte es que aprendo mucho de ellas.

Do you speak spanish? Yes, fluently.

Have you experienced colorism, or not being fully accepted by your community? Like you're too dark, or too white, etc.

Si, mis hijas fueron rechazadas por los vecinos de nuestro condominio, tengo una beba de 2 años y les molesta que sus pasitos correlones hagan ruido. Nos insultaron y llamaron a la policía también.
Tantas historias que escribiría todo un libro.

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

Leí sobre ustedes y no cabe duda que la mano de Dios nuestro Señor está con ustedes. Me encanta encontrar personas así “Latinísimas”.

CLICK FOR HOPE | THEY DON’T KNOW SPANISH

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What does being a Latina mean to you?

Being a Latina for me means more to me now that I have kids. I want to raise my kids with the culture that I didn’t grow up with.

Share a struggle you have faced being a Latina.

One struggle I face is the feeling of not doing enough for my kids. They don’t know Spanish, they’re not involved in certain programs that means a lot to Latinos. I’m raising my kids with the same unknown feeling I grew up with.

Share something you love about being a Latina?

I love the diversity within our own people, from the “guerro’s” of Jalisco, Mexico to the Afro-Latinos of the Caribbean. I love The language (although my Spanish isn’t the best), the food, the music is my favorite.

What do you identify as? Mexican/Peruvian

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.

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

I really Don’t celebrate any of my American or Mexican/Peruvian culture.

Do you speak spanish? Yes, but broken.

CLICK FOR HOPE | I NEVER APOLOGIZE FOR WHERE MY FAMILY AND I HAVE COME FROM

Photo Credit: Neil Broere

Photo Credit: Neil Broere

What does being a Latina mean to you?:

Loaded question. First thing that pops in my head: FAMILY. I never apologize for where my family and I have come from. I use to deal with a lot of shame because my parents were Latino and poor - I’m talking WIC cheese, food stamps and jumping rope with roaches. They were also not very educated, but as I became older, I began to embrace the fact that they gave me and my siblings EVERYTHING they had and they taught us the best they knew how. And regardless of what they had, they were never ever ashamed of being Latino.

Share a struggle you have faced being a Latina.:

Probably trying to measure up to OTHER LATINAS. I mean, I think this can go across the board with women in general, but as a Latina, I have caught myself in the past being so extra with the comparison and completely getting lost in my insecurities. (Have you seen JLo?) Today, I am SO grateful for how God made me. There is no Latina that’s the same. We are all beautiful and unique. There is no Maritza like me - My husband can attest to that! Ha!

Share something you love about being a Latina?:

Our hospitality. If you came to my house, you would know. (Yes, you’re invited!) There is just something about serving and cooking up some Latin food to those who come over. It’s a place where they can be themselves, kick back in a recliner, laugh lightheartedly, maybe watch a movie together and enjoy something that speaks to their soul...and belly! Oh and don't forget the café con leche.

What do you identify as?: Puerto Rican

Where you born in the states?: Born in Chicago.

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

This one can be tricky. Only because Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the US. Sometimes people can take for granted the island where we come from because of the privileges we possess. I have never had to deal with visas, passports and converting dollars whenever traveling to and from Puerto Rico. I’m grateful for that convenience, as little as it may seem. (I have traveled to other places that require it and it can be a nightmare.) I honor that relationship between being American and fully Latina. I don’t have to dumb down my heritage. I am grateful. I pray I never stop being just that: grateful.

Do you speak spanish?: Yes, somewhere between fluent and broken.

Have you experienced colorism, or not being fully accepted by your community: Definitely! Most of my siblings are dark Latinos. Me on the other hand, am pretty fair complexion. (My friends growing up would equate me to being transparent, LOL it’s okay, I laugh about it now). So I have been written off for not being dark enough. So much so I would be dying for summer to burn me to a crisp - bad idea! But over time, my color didn’t matter unfortunately. My curly frizzy hair or slight Latin accent was enough to label me uneducated, uncivilized or just good enough to be the “help”. All of it is very humbling. It taught me to treat people the way I wanted to be treated - which is like gold and full of purpose.

Is there something else you'd like to say or add?: I wish all cultures, not just Latinos, would embrace where God strategically placed them in the culture they were born into. We can all learn from each other’s culture. Not one of us have life figured out.

CLICK FOR HOPE | I WAS FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO BECOME A CITIZEN

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What does being a Latina mean to you?:

It means embracing and being proud of my culture and traditions, having strong family values

Share a struggle you have faced being a Latina.:

Growing up in California I was mostly surrounded by Latinos and never really noticed what being a minority was - because I wasn’t. Then as soon as I moved to the suburbs of Illinois in a majority white community, I finally felt like I stood out. For people like me who struggled with the idea of standing out by things I couldn’t choose, it was uncomfortable. I felt as if I had to catch up and assimilate just to feel “normal”.

Share something you love about being a Latina?:

I love my culture, our traditions and food

What do you identify as? (Puerto Rican, Mexican, Salvadorian, etc.): 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. (Share only what you are comfortable with):

I was born in Mexico and was taken across the border by my parents when I was only 1. I never felt like an immigrant or understood what being an immigrant was until I was faced with becoming a resident. I was so young when I came to the states. Years later, I was fortunate enough to become a citizen of this country. It was one of the proudest moments, which was also met with a bit of sadness because I realized how precious and delicate this imaginary title was. The title of "Citizenship" seems imaginary, but the consequences of being an “illegal” immigrant are very real. I’m grateful and the climate today, has only made me more cognizant of it.

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

I celebrate both Latino and American holidays. I celebrate Halloween but I also celebrate Dia de Los Muertos.

Do you speak spanish?: Yes, fluently.

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!:

Personally, I haven’t experienced it. But it still cuts me deep because my little sister is a completely different darker shade than me and growing up people would always point that out. Seeing your little sister trying to wash the color off her skin as a little girl because she thought it was “dirt” or wondering why she is always identified by our own culture as “dark” broke my heart. She wanted my skin color because I was lighter. As her older sister, I would teach her that she was beautiful no matter what people had to say. As she got older she learned to embrace and love herself completely. It hurts to know that we have that standard, and I know it happens outside of the U.S. and Mexico. It’s a fundamentally wrong categorization process we have and it can be changed.

CLICK FOR HOPE | BEING LATINA IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PART OF ME

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What does being a Latina mean to you?:

I believe that being Latina is the most beautiful part of me. Being Latina means to step out of your comfort zone and all the boundaries that are set for you. It means being stubborn, intelligent, and going after everything you want. Nothing can stop us.

Share a struggle you have faced being a Latina.:

Right now the hardest struggle I am facing being a Latina is being a Latina in corporate America. Specifically, in corporate finance. (I am one of the first people in my family to earn a college degree) I currently work for a Fortune 500 company and the team I work with is all white males. Not only am I the only female, but I am the only person of color in my team. I am the minority twice. It's incredibly hard not having anyone who looks like me. It can be discouraging but I find motivation by reminding myself that I am breaking glass ceilings every day. What I have slowly been learning is that when there is hard work and opportunity there is no glass ceiling. Being Latina doesn't discourage me, in empowers me. Now is the time for Latinas to make history and to bury the term "glass ceiling."

Share something you love about being a Latina?:

I love everything about being Latina! I'll name a few. First, our food is the best food in the world. Not only do we have the best food, but we get to eat it for free at our mama's or abuelita's house. Second, I have awesome role models which are my parents. They left everything they had in Mexico to come to a foreign country in hopes of giving my sister and I a better life. They are the perfect example that if you persevere and work hard then you can accomplish anything. They are the most selfless and caring people I know. I can only hope to be as loving, selfless, and hard working as they are. Third, our pride. My love for being Hispanic has been in me since I was a little girl. I learned to love who I am and never hold back for anybody. I learned to fight everyday for what I want and I thank my Hispanic roots for showing me how to be proud of myself and where I come from.

What do you identify 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. (Share only what you are comfortable with):

I was born in California but my parents and my sister were born in Mexico. They came here illegally, they are not illegal anymore.

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

I have many American friends and one of my favorite things is exposing them to my culture. I love educating them about Latino culture and showing them how beautiful it is. Whenever I have a chance I will take them to Mexican neighborhoods in Chicago, like Pilsen. I was blessed to be able to go to college and while I was in school I took a lot of Latin American classes so I still continue to use everything I learned in those classes in my everyday life. This knowledge I learned comes in handy when I hear people who are not Latino say ignorant things about my culture because I always correct them when I can.

Do you speak spanish?: Yes, fluently.

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 experienced colorism my whole life. I am a dark skin Mexican and my whole life I have been know as the "preita" or the "morena" within my family. While growing up I'd watch novelas with my family and the main actress was always light skin and the dark skin one always was the maid, not an important character, or not represented at all. I started to believe that you were only considered to be a pretty Latina if you had light skin. That was not me. I was the morenita with puffy curly black hair. I felt ugly due to my dark skin color. I even always told my family I wanted to bleach my skin, although I never did. I'd cry at times because of how much I hated the color of my skin. My whole life I looked up to my sister who was very light skin. I always used to wish that I had her skin color. Dark skin in the Latino community is not considered beautiful. Dark skin is not portrayed in the Latino media the way it should be. The older I got, the more I began to embrace and love my skin color. Now I can proudly say that I am so proud to have my skin color. My skin color is beautiful. I want other young dark skin Latinas to feel confident in the skin that they’re in. We have to feel blessed to have the skin color that God gave us. I want to inspire other young Latinas to love their skin color even if the media, family, friends, or even strangers makes it seem like it's not pretty enough. We are enough and we are beautiful. I am proud to be the brown girl that I am.

CLICK FOR HOPE | BEING A LATINA IS AN HONOR

Photo: Authentic Adventure Co. | You can purchase this shirt at our  shop!

Photo: Authentic Adventure Co. | You can purchase this shirt at our shop!

What does being a Latina mean to you?:

Being Latina is an honor. It’s about accepting diversity, being able to speak a second language, embracing your ethnic roots and culture. Being able to learn about the authentic food, music, traditions and passing that down from generation to generation. It’s about accepting that Latinos come in all shades. Latinos are passionate, loyal, hard-working, family-oriented, with a side of attitude and loudness.

Share a struggle you have faced being a Latina.:

A lot of people think I’m Caucasian until they hear me speak. But the hardest thing for me is people that are not Hispanic feeling offended because you speak Spanish and tell you to stop speaking like that and go back to your country. Last time I checked Puerto Rico is part of the United States. People should not feel threatened by our culture. Being bilingual is something that would give you favor when it comes to job interviews. It comes with dignity and honor to be able to speak Spanish to those that never learned the English language. Another thing I struggled with while growing up, was with the pronunciation of my name. Having a spanish name and everyone not knowing how to say it. So all throughout my years in school people would say it in English and completely butcher my name (Ya Near Ra). Same as in the workplace. I would always have to correct them and I felt embarrassed instead of proud. But now that I’m an adult, I fully embrace the uniqueness of my name, pronounced as (Ja Knee Ra)

Share something you love about being a Latina?:

I love everything, the food, the music, the traditions, the culture, the unity, the diversity, the appeal, our curves, our hustle, dedication, our history and victories.

What do you identify as?: Puerto Rican

Where you born in the states?

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

Yes. I still celebrate Independece Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day. At the end end of the day I’m still an American.

Do you speak spanish?: Yes, but broken.

Have you experienced colorism, or not being fully accepted by your community?:

Sometimes our people mess with us if we weren’t born in Puerto Rico 🇵🇷 which makes me feel like I’m not as Hispanic as they are. The standards are high for a Latina, you have to know how to clean and cook and serve your hubby but I do enjoy those things so they don’t come as a chore lol.

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

We should never resent our ethnicity. We should be proud of who we are and the way God created us for we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We should also invest time in knowing our grandparent’s history and how they came to the United States to give their family a better opportunity for success. Thank you to my grandparents, Eusebio Cruz and Cecilia Cruz for leaving Puerto Rico and moving to New Jersey to then move to Chicago. You paved the way for our family and thank you for the legacy you have left us.