latina pride

Inspiring Latina | Dr. Lopez


What does being a Latina mean to you?:

Being a Latina means power beyond measure. It means fighting for what is right and never giving up. Being a Latina is who I am.

Share your movement, business, non-profit, dream, with us::

I envision a world where finances aren’t a stumbling block for individuals who aspire to attain higher education. For this reason I’ve started a non profit scholarship foundation, where students with financial need can apply to receive aid. This program will also provide students with mentorship opportunities throughout their educational journey, to help them reach their academic goals.

What inspired you to start your movement, business, non-profit, dream, etc.:

Potential in individuals inspires me. While I was in college, I too, needed a role model and financial assistance. And when it wasn’t there, it was hard. I saw a lot of my peers quit along the way due to the same struggles. Now as a professor, I see this happen too often and it breaks my heart. If we all do a small part, we can help someone achieve their dreams.

What are some preconceived notions/stereotypes that you've faced in your business, movement, non-profit, etc?:

Growing up I didn’t have anyone that looked like me in college or in positions of power. So the message I received was, people who look like me aren’t smart or they do not go to college. I am not a statistic. One reason I wear my hair curly most of the time it’s to show people that women who look like me do in fact earn doctoral degrees.

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

I’m a US citizen. Although, I came to the states against my will. My mom brought us over really young and it was very hard. There’s a misconception that individuals who have citizenship should be content because we don’t go through what individuals who aren’t go through. Never would I compare it to such levels. However, I have suffered ramifications of becoming a resident of a city and culture I was not accustomed too. I was bullied and told to go back to Mexico, and may I remind you I’m Puerto Rican. The whole situation is sad.

If we could just recognize that as human beings we are going to suffer and we for this reason should stick together and fight for what is right for everyone. We wouldn’t go through so much.

If you ask me, we are all immigrants.

What are some of your aspirations for Latinos?

That all Latinx are educated to levels where they are placed in positions of power. My aspirations are that we change the paradigm in this country. We are the largest community. Then let us be the Largest educated community in the United States of America.

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

I would like to say that it is in the collective that we can make this world a better place. Collaboration is key in change!



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.



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.  



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”.


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.