Click For Hope

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 | 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 | 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 | 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.

CLICK FOR HOPE | WILL I LOOK TOO ETHNIC OR UNPROFESSIONAL

Photo: Authentic Adventure Co.

Photo: Authentic Adventure Co.

What does being a Latina mean to you?:

Being Latina to me, means being loud, strong and humble all in one. It means representing a culture that is so vibrant and rich in history yet lacking in representation in the US.

Share a struggle you have faced being a Latina.:

Being a LATINA in a male dominated industry has it challenges. I have to work twice as hard as my male counterparts. If I have a strong opinion I am just being bitchy. It often means being pitted against other females because I believe that is how men believe we operate. I walked into a meeting once with my boss very early on in my career and an executive of the organization we were meeting with said, "Oh I didn't know we could bring dates." I was infuriated and enraged but had to smile and move on, as it was a very high profile client. Sometimes it means having to think about trivial things more then most for example, if I wear hoop earrings to work will I look too ethnic or unprofessional. I write this as my white female colleague is wearing large hoop earrings and was complemented. However, when I wore them, I was told, “Hey you remind me of that ‘Around the Way Girl,’ music video by LL cool J. (true story).

Share something you love about being a Latina?:

I love our stereotypes! Don't make a Latina mad. I love being viewed as feisty.

What do you identify as?: Proud Guatemalan!!!

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 Guatemala and came here at a young age. We came as residents which is why my dad decided we would just live here permanently. We applied for visas to come visit my grandmother who had moved here and we received green cards instead. (it was the 80's so I know that would never happen now) I still have not become a US citizen because Guatemala does not have dual citizenship. I have a certain emotion but will ultimately become a citizen as I have lived here over 30yrs now.

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

I think I have developed American traditions with my own family while staying true to who I am.

My family is a melting pot so we have merged everything. My husband is half Japanese Half Scottish, my son is Mexican, Guatemalan and a quarter German. So we take a little from here and a little from there. My step son speaks Japanese and My son speaks Spanish.

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 don't know that I feel I have experienced colorism as I am tan skinned so I probably fall right in the middle. I have experienced my family back home saying that my accent is different and I seem more American. lol

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

I love anything and everything that highlights Latinos!

CLICK FOR HOPE | MY CURLS REPRESENT MY ETHNIC ANCESTRY

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What does being a Latina mean to you?:

Being Latina means being proud of my heritage. It means adding sofrito in even the non-latino recipes. It means imagining how the next American pop song on the radio would sound like in bachata, salsa or reggaeton. It means preferring my homemade Bustelo cafe con leche over the trendy coffee. It means yelling “OH MY GOD “ when I hear the song “Suavemente” get played at an event for the 1,000th time and I still get up and dance like it’s the first time. It means being able to recite some novela songs that my mom and aunts used to watch, like “Tres Mujeres Un Camino” or “Mari Mari Mar.” I love being a Latina.

Share a struggle you have faced being a Latina.:

Allow me to share a couple of struggles: As an urban Latina millennial, it’s hard to fit in. I’m too hipster for the Latinos too Latina for the hipsters. Also, I am currently going through a curly hair journey. Which means I am learning to take proper care of my curls and love them. And let’s be honest, the beauty market hasn’t always been curly hair friendly until recently, partially because curly hair is trending. There are more hair products available for eliminating curls. Since I was a child I was taught to hide my curls because they’re hard to manage. My mom put a relaxer in my hair at 13, just when my hair was getting more curly with puberty. She relaxes her hair. I don’t recall ever seeing my mom go outside with her curls. My maternal grandmother had beautiful curly hair but always styled it in a bun. I want to break the generational curse of anti-curl habits. Why? Because it is part of my families DNA, our heritage that continues to appear in every generation of my family. My curls represent my ethnic ancestry; Spanish, African and Taino. My daughters have curly to wavy hair and I want to make sure I teach them to maintain and love their natural hair.

Share something you love about being a Latina?:

I love being a Latina because I can communicate, connect and relate with other Latinos across Latin America. I love being a part of a passionate community with a rich and lively culture.

What do you identify as?: 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. (Share only what you are comfortable with): Yes!

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

I’ve had the honor to participate in many Puerto Rican cultural shows displaying dance, stories and music. I am currently acting in “There’s a Coqui in my Shoe” a theatrical adaptation based on an award winning children’s book. It will premiere at The Miracle Center during Hispanic Heritage month starting Sept. 21. Audiences will learn about the importance of the Coqui on the island, learn about different places and enjoy live music and dance. This show is extra special to me because I’m performing along side my husband, who plays Carlito the Coqui. My daughters, ages 1 and 4, get to see mommy and daddy perform and they will learn more about their heritage. I have also written poems and short stories about my experience living in the hills of Puerto Rico as a child, that I hope to have published someday. I’ve also taught and choreographed Plena, a Puerto Rican folkloric dance form, to younger generations.

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

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!:

Growing up I was very insecure about myself. Living in a Latino community, curves and caramel skin are celebrated and if you have colored eyes it’s a major bonus, at least this was my perspective and experience. My thin physique, along with my “pale” skin, and European/Mediterranean features didn’t quite fit the Latina beauty ideal. People around me were always trying to over feed me. I experienced a lot of body shaming and still do. This led me to have an over eating disorder in my teens, not sure if there’s a proper term for it. I was obsessed with gaining weight.

As for my skin color, I always wanted to have my skin described as something delicious. Some Latinos describe skin color by food or sweets. We have “cafe con leche,” “caramelo” “chocolate” or what I was described as “Blanca,” which isn’t a food. One day a sweet friend of mine said “Your skin is like milk and honey.” YEESSS! I accept that! While living amongst a community with Latina beauty ideals, I also grew up watching shows like Full House and Alex Mack. All mainly Caucasian actors. I would’ve given anything to have blonde or red hair and colored eyes so I could fit into the American idea of beauty, and I sure tried and damaged my hair and probably my eyesight with those cheap colored contacts I used to buy from the Mega Mall as a teen. I wasn’t curvy enough, or blonde enough. The road to self acceptance has been long and painful. Unfortunately, it took years to come to the realization that I am beautiful as I am and that I am handcrafted beautifully by God.

CLICK FOR HOPE | EMBRACING MY LATIN AMERICAN ROOTS

Photo: Authentic Adventure Co.

Photo: Authentic Adventure Co.

What does being a Latina mean to you?:

Being a Latina means embracing my Latin American roots, representing our customs, culture and diversity proudly, never denying or neglecting its impact and influence on who I am. It means having a genuine concern for the progress of our Latin American countries, fighting for freedoms and striving to pave a way for future generations that will face common struggles, but with dignity and hope that things can change with small but solid steps forward. It’s communicating in our language, dancing to our music, enjoying our food, loving our people.

Share a struggle you have faced being a Latina.:

Being born in Peru and coming to the US as a pre-teen was a culture shock and had to push myself to learn the language and fit in. I’ve always been a go-getter and up to a certain point in my life it felt like things had come fairly easy for me. But going to school here and desiring the opportunities that of tall, beautiful, talented Caucasian girls had, I discovered I had to work twice as hard to prove myself, demonstrate my talent and cause them to even notice me. I’ve also had to shatter stereotypes of ‘peruvians’ as there isn’t a large population of us here and the only exposure most had received of Peru was a show called ‘Laura en America’ which featured Peruvians from the projects and marginalized areas of Peru, those with low resources and poor manners. It’s a version of the US’s Maury show. I’ve been working hard to give exposure to our beautiful culture, our talent and shed a new light on a South American country that’s lived in the shadows for so long.

Share something you love about being a Latina?:

This is something I’ve had to learn to embrace, but today I love that I am different, yet I can identify with different Latin American cultures easily. I don’t have a defined accent. Most say I look and talk ‘Mexican’ (of course based on their limited exposure to Peruvians) but I absolutely love ALL of our rhythms, food and customs. There is so much variety, never dull and lame.

What do you identify as?: 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.:

My family and I traveled here in 1995 on a student visa because my parents were completing a Masters’ degree at Northern Theological Seminary. Fortunately we were also able to obtain social security cards and were fully documented. Unfortunately, the visa expired after 5 years and then I was documented but illegal. The thought of pursuing a career, going to college without being able to obtain any type of financial aid was scary and discouraging. I had been a good student, in the International Baccalaureate program, and had big dreams but absolutely no means. It wasn’t until I married my husband in 2005 that we were able to fix my status and 6 months later I was a legal resident and 3 years after that I applied for citizenship. My process was relatively easy because of the fact that we had come in legally and of course I had not had any issues with the law. I’m aware that it isn’t as smooth for the majority.

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

I believe I have developed a loving and respectful relationship with Caucasian and American born citizens. I believe it all comes down to how you treat others, you will earn the same respect. It’s been mainly through music. That’s how I paved my way into people’s hearts since I came here. Singing is how I made new friends and made others smile. My husband and I frequently serve at several Caucasian churches through music and we’ve seen that Music is what really crosses all boundaries and brings people together. I learned to lead worship and minister in English as a young adult and that has opened so many doors for us.

Do you speak spanish?: Yes, fluently.

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