latina

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 | STRONG, COURAGEOUS, STUBBORN

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What does being a Latina mean to you?

It means taking pride in my culture and values. It means that I will have to fight two times harder than most people to be successful in this life. It means having to deal with racism and standing up for myself. Being Latina means your decisions in life are always based around your family and how can your family be impacted or helped. Being Latina means I am strong, courageous, stubborn and I fight for what's right! Being Latina is who I am!

Share a struggle you have faced being a Latina.

Well I consider myself Afro-Latina because of the color of my skin, and that is the struggle I face everyday. Even within my own family, they don't understand the struggles and racism I sometimes face when I am in certain areas. Many people question if I am black or Indian or assume I am "mixed" until they ask. Usually my struggles are at its highest when I am in white areas. There are places that I go to and the white women hold their purses when I walk into the room. My daughter does gymnastics in a white neighborhood, and the only mom that talks to me is a mom from Ecuador. Then you have those white people who say stupid comments like "So where are you from,” or "Wow, is that like your real hair"? Its not much of what they say, but their tone and body language. If I go into a Mexican restaurant the people will start to talk to me in English when they were talking Spanish two minutes ago.

Share something you love about being a Latina?

I love everything about being Puerto Rican. The food, the culture, our heritage! I love that being Puerto Rican comes with being raised with respect. Our people are very strong people. Look what our people have endured from our land being stolen and ripped apart, natural disasters, poverty and much more! Yet, we are still here and strong and growing. We are very strong people. I love that I get to teach my daughter that she is Afro-Latina and teach her about our culture.

What do you identify as? Boricua Baby!! Puerto Rican

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 just want to make something clear, even if I was born in Puerto Rico I am not an immigrant!

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

I really don't consider myself to celebrate American nationality. America is not a place that celebrates my people, especially with our current administration. I am sure that people who know me may say that I am American, but I am Puerto Rican, period. I try to hold onto my heritage and my culture as much as possible. I educate myself and ask questions about culture. In order to understand who you are, you need to know where you come from. Its really sad that as more generations begin, our traditions and culture are slowly drifting away.

Do you speak spanish? Yes, but broken.

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

Ugh YES!!!! This is something that I totally hate and despise with all my heart. I am too Black for my Hispanic friends and family and too Hispanic for my Black friends and family. Then I am just the crazy loud Hispanic to my white friends. Its ridiculous how some of my own family members will tell me that I am not Puerto Rican enough because I was not born on the Island like them. Its ridiculous! I remember my aunt saying she had her children purposely in Puerto Rico so no one can say her children are not Puerto Rican. How terrible that such horrible thinking can dictate someone's life.

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

Puerto Ricans come from 3 different blood lines. We are a mix of Taíno Indians, Spaniards and Africans. That is why you can find Puerto Ricans to be different shades, sizes and some even have colored eyes. You can see how the Island of Puerto Rico represents these three different bloodlines in different areas of this beautiful Island. Even our language represents these three bloodlines. Not all Spanish is the same.

CLICK FOR HOPE | PROUD TO BE A CHICANA

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What does being a Latina mean to you?

To me, being Latina means being proud to be specific about where I'm from, so it really means I'm proud to be a Chicana.

Share a struggle you have faced being a Latina.

Honestly, I never struggled with being Latina. I grew up all of my life with other Latinos. I went to a Latino schools. I grew up in Latino communities. I went to Latino churches... but I lived in the ghetto parts of Chicago which now they say "the hood." I lived in Little Village almost all my life but I never became what the streets are today. I grew up seeing what I never wanted to become, and I thank God for this. Then I lived in Mexico for 10 years.. what i can tell you is living in there was a struggle. The culture is so different than American Latinas.

Share something you love about being a Latina?

I love being a Latina, I have learned so much over the years. I’m a proud Mexican.

What do you identify as?

I’m half mexican and half Puerto Rican... but I’m more Mexican than anything.

Where you born in the states?: Yes, I was born and raised in Chicago..

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

Hahahahahahahaha now this has been a struggle because as a Latina you can celebrate both. I was able to live in two countries and try to celebrate both but it was hard. When I was living in Mexico, I was trying to live as an American and that was hard. I had to learn how to “be a Mexican”, and now that I came back to the U.S, it’s like I have to learn how to be an American Latina... but I am glad that I am able to do both!!!

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.

Latino communities always think I’m white until they see or hear my last name, or until they hear me speak Spanish. Since you know, white skin with curly hair can’t be Mexican?!? When I’m in a Mexican community they always say, “Oh yeah you’re Puerto Rican, you got that kinky hair!” I can never win!

CLICK FOR HOPE | CARRYING TWO PLATES

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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 of..my 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 :)

CLICK FOR HOPE | MORE THAN BEING EXOTIC

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What does being a Latina mean to you?

It means experiencing family in a deep and profound way. It means feeling connected to the ground where your grandmother walked. It means meals are more about bonding than anything. It is more than being exotic. It’s about not feeling like who the world says you are and having no hair on your tongue when it’s time to explain that.

Share a struggle you have faced being a Latina.

This is petty but, white women constantly asking to touch my hair. But on a deeper note: as a Christian young woman and leader, at a church that says they believe in my right to lead, IT IS DIFFICULT to be given chances. Not because I’m a woman but because the culture of Latino men, is what it is. Being a Latina teacher and preacher isn’t hard for me. It’s hard for my male counterparts.

Share something you love about being a Latina?

My body. All of it. The shape, my Afro-Latina curls. I love it. Not because it fits some mold, Not because it’s trendy right now, but because I look like my mother and my grandmother and my aunt. (My Titi Niome, who you photographed before she passed!). That’s what being a Latina means to me, to feel connected and see myself in the generations before me.

What do you identify as? Puerto Rican and Cuban

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?

Making friends. Community has been everything. Tasting arroz con gandules my mom’s way then my buddies aunt’s way, then my madrina’s way. That includes my mexican friends, my peruvian friend, my mixed friend and my girl from El Salvador. That diversity exists because we live here, that culture, around the table exists because of who we are.

Do you speak Spanish?

Sort of...I understand more than speak.

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 used to work in luxury retail in a basically all-white suburb. On more than one occasion, women made very clear that they’d rather work with my white associates. Even though I was the manager. They’d explain, “She’d probably understand what I want.”

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.

CLICK FOR HOPE | I VOTE

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What does being a Latina mean to you?: It means culture and tradition, a long history that goes beyond my family. It means being unique and wonderfully different.

Share a struggle you have faced being a Latina.: I’ve felt at times caught in between two worlds. Very Latina in the white world and not Latina enough in the Latino world.

Share something you love about being a Latina?: I love that being Latina makes me multi faceted. There isn’t just one side to me and my family. I like meeting other Latinas because although I’ve never met them before we will have some things in common anyway.

What do you identify as? (Puerto Rican, Mexican, Salvadorian, etc.): I Would say that I identify as American with a strong Mexican tendency.

Where you born in the states?: I was born in the US.

How have you been able to celebrate and honor your American nationality, while embracing your heritage and culture?: I take advantage of and participate in what being American has to offer. My primary language is English, I vote, I love burgers, pizza and hot dogs, I love watching the fireworks on 4th of July. But when I’m home it’s mostly Spanish speaking and eating a lot of arroz con frijoles y un buen guisado.

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. : I’m sure I have although I can’t detail one out specifically but mostly it’s a general feeling of not being sure. For example, if I receive crappy service at the store or at a high end restaurant I’m always wondering if it’s because they suck or is it because I’m Latina…..that’s always the question.

CLICK FOR HOPE | I'M SO PROUD TO BE LATINA

Photo provided by Ana

Photo provided by Ana

What does being a Latina mean to you?:

Being Latina means that I always have something to be proud of. It means being a strong woman. It means empowering others who have felt how I have felt, insecure and ashamed of being in their own skin and knowing the power of their story and heritage.

Share a struggle you have faced being a Latina.:

In middle and high school I used to always get made fun of because of my full name. My full name is VERY Mexican and everyone used to make fun of me and say my name wrong because I looked “so white”. People would constantly say “Why didn’t your family ever teach you Spanish?” Or “You’re the whitest Mexican I know” and that would hurt me so much. People would constantly tell me I couldn’t like this, or wear that, or listen to this music because I didn’t know enough or spoke enough or understood enough. I always felt like I needed to be checked off some list to qualify and validate my ethnicity so I could fit in and prove myself.

Share something you love about being a Latina?:

I have such pride in knowing that I’m a powerful Latina. To see the growth and impact Latinas have made today is so encouraging and motivating. I have a culture that is so RICH in love and connection with family. Being Latina makes me appreciate hard work and gives me more passion to go towards my dream knowing all the hardships my family has had to endure to get to America and follow their own pursuit of happiness.

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):

Yes, I was born in the United States.

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

Just constantly wanting to learn! Learning more Spanish, so I can teach it to my future children, learning more about my family’s history and the stories of their journey to America. The closer I get to having children, the closer I want to know more about myself and my heritage better. I want my future children to never feel ashamed of who they are or where they came from. Something I also have embraced is getting tattoos that represent my heritage. Dia de Los Muertos is something we don’t celebrate in America but having a piece of that on me is something to remind me of my culture. Along with a rosary tattoo to my Catholic background.

Do you speak spanish?:

Sort of...I understand more than speak.

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 always been made fun of for being “too white” and the older I get the more I want to be in touch with my heritage but I’ve always been judged for my lack of accent, the way I look or carry myself. I’m so proud to be Latina but always feel like I’m holding back because people don’t take me serious or I’m not qualified enough! There’s no list that makes you more than or less than. You are enough. You are Latina. Be proud of your culture and never let anyone talk down on you for wanting to embrace your identity.