Latino Racism Against ‘Indios’

In the United States, it is common to hear about discrimination against Latinos, particularly immigrant ones, by other Americans. An AP-Univision poll conducted in 2010 showed that Latinos in the United States experience more discrimination than any other minority. 61% of those polled said that Latinos face considerable discrimination, while statistics for blacks and women were 52% and 50% respectively. Furthermore poll research showed that the inferior treatment of Hispanics stems largely from controversy surrounding undocumented immigration.

But this is not the only type of racism that plagues the Hispanic community. Latinos themselves are not innocent of discrimination against a people they sometimes view as undesirable. In Racism and Discourse in Spain and Latin America, Teun A. van Dijk, a scholar who researches racism, writes that “racism against the indigenous peoples has been a fact of their everyday lives since the conquista [Spanish colonization of Latin America] nearly 500 years ago.” According to his research and interviews, Latin America is a hotbed for racism against native peoples more commonly known as indiosIndios, unlike majority Latin American populations, did not adopt cultural aspects from the Spanish colonizers or reproduce with them. Some examples of indigenous populations include the Maya in Mexico and Central America, the Inca in South America, and the Taino in Caribbean countries.

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In truth, present-day indigenous populations in Latin American countries are still remarkably isolated, often living in their own villages and speaking their native tongues instead of Spanish. Many live in poverty, and those who travel to the cities for work are subject to discrimination due to their indigenous appearance and strange Spanish.

Sylvia, a 19-year-old Mexican-American and Latinita, recalls visiting Mexico City growing up and noticing the inferior treatment of indios by other Mexicans. She said the only jobs the indios could get were selling stuff on the streets, and people were likely to be rude or refuse to acknowledge their presence. Sylvia says that even as a child growing up in a Texas border town she knew that indios were considered of the lowest class.

The Latino hatred towards indigenous populations is apparent even in every-day speech. It is not uncommon to hear a Latino insult another’s appearance by saying that he/she looks indio/a.

Maria, 18, recalls thinking how hypocritical other Latinos sometimes are in their attitude towards indios. Other girls in her Chicago, Illinois high school would complain about discrimination or stereotypes based on their obviously Hispanic features or their slightly accented English, but then they would insult girls they didn’t like as indias. Maria was shocked that people who complained about racism could turn around and be guilty of the same wrong themselves. What’s going on, she wondered?

Truth is, discrimination against those viewed as ‘different’ is an unfortunate tendency of human nature that has probably always existed. Racism is even documented in the Second Book of the Bible when it describes the enslavement of ‘inferior’ races by Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans hundreds of thousands of years ago. But just because this discrimination has always existed and comes naturally to some people does not mean we should disregard its poisonous effects. Instead one should be conscious of the natural human tendency to discriminate against people whose differences make them seem strange or lesser. If one is aware of the driving force behind racism she can better combat it in every day life. Simple actions, like eliminating indio as an insult and treating with attentive respect indigenous peoples in the United States and Latin America, reject the engrained belief that indigenous are somehow lesser than other Hispanics.

What’s the big deal about ‘Jane the Virgin’?

Jane The VirginBy now you have probably heard about the hit TV show ‘Jane the Virgin’, starring Gina Rodriguez as the titular star. The show, which is based off a Venezuelan telenovela called ‘Juana la Virgen’, debuted in the fall of 2014 on the CW. It is set in Miami, a city known for its lively Latino culture, and features a largely Hispanic cast and much Spanish-language dialogue. The sitcom immediately took the airwaves and the awards season by storm, and Gina herself won this year’s Golden Globe for Best Actress.

So why is this new show so explosively successful? For one, the premise and main character are in stark contrast with many other shows popular among preteen and teenage girls. Jane is, like the title says, a virgin who is waiting until marriage to have sex. The show explains early on that her reason for this decision is multifold: She is Catholic, she does not want to get pregnant before marriage, and she deeply respects her grandmother who taught her the values behind waiting to have sex. But Jane is no goody-two-shoes: She is a normal 23 year old woman who is both studying to become a teacher and working as a waitress at a posh hotel. Also, she has a boyfriend of two years whom she plans to marry.

She ‘miraculously’ becomes pregnant after a visit to the doctor’s office, where her gynecologist mistakenly artificially inseminated her. When she discovers what happened her life is thrown into turmoil. Her boyfriend, who had just recently asked her to marry him, tells her he does not want to raise another man’s child. Her mother is grief-stricken that her daughter will become a single mother like she did. Jane is horrified that the father of the child, Rafael, is a notorious playboy and also the owner of the hotel where she works.

But Jane’s miraculous pregnancy is only a small part of the whole show. The first season is laced with intrigue, as people are mysteriously murdered at the hotel and Rafael’s wife attempts to get custody of the unborn child. Jane also finally meets her own father, whose identity has been kept a secret her entire life. The one constant in Jane’s life, however, is her own integrity. Though she is often overwhelmed by the pregnancy and the drama that has turned her life upside down, she maintains her pure heart and her desire to pursue her dreams. She does not quite her job or school when she falls pregnant, but continues to work hard to achieve her goals. Throughout, she is loving to her mother and grandmother even when they disagree on how she should live her life. She is compassionate towards Rafael despite the fact that she does not want to have his child. But just as importantly Jane is never a doormat. She openly asserts her wants and needs and she protests when others attempt to manipulate her. Jane is truly a new sort of sitcom heroine, one whom is not ashamed of her beliefs and consistently acts with intelligence and empathy.

And what makes Jane’s character even better is the fact that she and her close-knit family deeply embrace Latino culture and values. Of Venezuelan descent, they often speak Spanish [with subtitles] and openly practice their Catholic faith. They exhibit a truth about the US’s Hispanic population that is often ignored by mainstream media: we are growing and flourishing and possess strong beliefs and character. Latinas are proud to have Jane as part of our ranks! And we can’t wait to see what adventures the second season of her show will bring!

History of Latina Feminism

Throughout history, women were often considered second-class citizens, lacking the right to vote and oftentimes valued predominantly for their ability to take care of a home and reproduce. It is only within fairly recent history that women in the Western Hemisphere have achieved some level of equality with men, demanding acknowledgement as autonomous human beings with minds and rights and goals. And while modern feminism as we know it may have its beginnings in white feminists, in many ways Latinas have taken up the mantle of the feminist cause. Non-Latina American feminists like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton helped earn American women the right to vote in 1920 but But many Latin American feminists (i.e. Nisia Floresta and Lydia Cacho) soon followed suit, gaining females in their own countries similar recognition and opportunities. Fast forward to the present, there is a strong Latina presence in issues of female empowerment as various female political leaders work hard to prove their worth in a masculine arena. What’s more, female Latin America has now politically surpassed the United States in some ways.

But while the USA has yet to witness its first female president, one Latina in particular stands out in American politics as a prominent and powerful figure that will pave the way for future women. She is Sonia Sotomayor, a political powerhouse and a household name. Currently a Supreme Court Justice, she was born in the Bronx to Puerto Rican parents. Her father died when she was a child and her mother forced to raise her alone. But despite this childhood tragedy she went on to achieve greatness, graduating sumam cum laude from Princeton University and attending Yale Law School. Then in 2009 she achieved national fame when President Obama nominated her to Supreme Court, where she still resides as she oversees major national legislation. But while Sotomayor is certainly paving the way for future women in politics and providing them ample inspiration, multiple countries in Latin America have already seen their first female President.

Dilma Roussef, the current President of Brazil, is the country’s first woman to be elected to the position. As a young woman Dilma fought against a military dictatorship, risking her life when she was captured, jailed and tortured for her beliefs. Upon release she became involved in politics and quickly moved up the power-ladder. She was Chief of Staff for the preceding President until her election in 2011. She has seen her share of career ups and downs but is internationally credited with pulling Brazil out of an economic slump through her support of business entrepreneurship. In this way her leadership provided opportunity for countless Brazilians who were suffering financially.

In 2006 Chile also witnessed its first female elected president. In fact, Michelle Bachelet was the first female elected president in all of Latin America. She knew from a young age that her life goal was to help others cope with pain and improve national health. She originally thought she would become a doctor but political turmoil in Chile turned her focus towards politics. In fact when Pinochet, a dictator, took control of the country in 1973 Bachelet joined a revolt against him. She was discovered and jailed, tortured, and beaten for months. Somehow she emerged with her soul stronger than ever and determined to find a way to redeem Chile and its people. Flash forward to the present she is now serving her second presidential term after having served for a time as executive director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. Not only is Bachelet a remarkable person who endured great suffering, she actively works to promote female wellbeing in a country still marked by traditional machismo.

Argentina has seen not one but two female presidents. Isabel Perón [1974-1976] was the first female president of Argentina but she was not elected, simply assuming power because she was Vice-President when her husband Presidente Juan Perón died. The current President, Cristina Kirchner, is the first elected female president. Her first term, however, was marked with difficulties as she faced accusations of inflation and poor management of infrastructure and public security. In her current term she is facing charges in an alleged cover-up of a terrorist attack. In the case of Kirchner she does not present a fully uplifting example of female empowerment in the political arena: while figures like Sotomayor and Bachelet inspire other girls to achieve good, Kirchner presents a different lesson. Not only is it important to empower women and support their political successes, it is equally important to choose whom to support based on their character and record rather than on their gender alone.

In conclusion, Latina feminism is politically present and growing in both the United States and Latin America. The women who rise to power often do so despite obstacles and tragedies, proving that women can overcome any hardship and compete and win in male-dominated fields.  What’s more Latina feminism is still a work-in-progress and current Latinas chasing their dreams will one day be a part of the history of Latina feminism.

Pope Francisco: Our First Latino Pope!

Pope-Francis-smilingOur current Pope, Pope Francisco, is the first Latin American Pope to grace the Vatican. Pope Francisco was born Mario Jorge Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, Argentina and worked as a nightclub bouncer before entering the seminary to become a Catholic priest. He then went on to become Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and when his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI resigned in 2014 he was voted into the papacy.

In office since the end of 2014, his election caused great celebration throughout Latin America as they cheered on the beginning of a new era, one in which the head of the Catholic Church and one of the most powerful world leaders, was Latino.

Many Latinos remember the moment they learned that a fellow Latino had been named as Pope. Maribel, 18, of Mexican descent and a devout Catholic, says that she recalls watching on television as Pope’s Francisco’s election was announced. She immediately jumped up cheering and screaming and her whole family gathered around to embrace and celebrate. “It’s not just because he speaks Spanish,” she says. “Latin America needs a Latino Pope who knows the problems in Latin America and how to deal with them.”

Laura, 19, says that she was shopping when she found out via text message, and that she left the store almost immediately to go to her parish Cathedral and give thanks for his election. There she found plenty of other Latinos gathered around praying a Rosary for their new Pope. She says, “I know the Pope is one of the most powerful figures in the world. Having him in office while bring more awareness and attention to our region of the world.”

But while most Hispanics were overjoyed that their new Pope was Argentine, others criticized Pope Francisco as ‘not Latino enough.’ An article published in Huffington Post: Latino Voices, entitled “Is Pope Francis Latino?” suggested that because the Pope’s parents migrated to Argentina from Italy before his birth, he is not Latino.

But why can’t Pope Francisco be Argentine just because his parents were immigrants? Latinos in the United States have heard this argument before, as others sometime criticize them as not ‘real’ Americans if their parents or grandparents came from elsewhere. But truth is, the Pope was born in Latin America, speaks Spanish, and is intimately aware of the culture and issues in the region. Discrimination against him based on the fact that his parents were immigrants takes away from the reality of the situation: Latin America has a Spanish-speaking Pope who was born and raised there and is dedicated to addressing their concerns. Pope Francisco himself has demonstrated his concern for Latin American affairs in his numerous critiques of income inequality in the region, and his urging of their leaders to adapt policies that support workers’ human dignity. He has also worked closely with the impoverished and marginalized peoples of Argentina. The world carefully watches and listens to the words of the Pope, and his repeated speeches and efforts concerning Latin America both revives cultural pride and encourages the rest of the world to heed the needs of the region.

Language Discrimination

Photo Credit: lingos.co

Photo Credit: lingos.co

Research on Hispanic trends conducted by Pew Research Center in 2012 showed that 2nd and 3rd generation Latinos in United States do not always speak Spanish. In fact, Spanish proficiency diminishes significantly as generations increase. Of Latinos born to immigrant parents, 80% can carry on a conversation in Spanish, while over half of third-generation Latinos speak little or no Spanish. Percentages for reading in Spanish fall even lower. Yet despite the fact that more and more US-born Latinos are speaking less Spanish, discrimination against them by Spanish-speaking Latinos continues to persist.

Elisa, 23, is painfully familiar with this reality. She grew up in a small Texan town that consisted largely of Hispanics. She grew up with 2nd-generation Mexican-American parents, and while random Spanish words and phrases like ‘mija’ and ‘arroz con pollo’ peppered her family’s vocabulary, she did not actually speak the Spanish language. This caused problems with some other Latinos, however, when they discovered that although she looked typically Mexican and ate Mexican foods and celebrated Mexican holidays she did not know the language. Spanish-speaking kids at school would either tease her by calling her a “fake” Hispanic or accuse her of pretending not to speak Spanish so that she could seem “like a white girl.” Although Elisa went on to minor in Spanish in college, she suffers from anxiety when speaking it in front of native speakers. She can’t shake the irrational belief that they are inwardly mocking and judging her. “I can’t seem to get those childhood voices out of my head,” she says. “It’s sad because Spanish feels tainted for me now.”

On the other hand Raquel, 19, speaks Spanish very well. She is a first-generation American born to Mexican parents and she grew up speaking the language daily with family and friends and also visiting her parents’ Mexican hometown annually. But she is well aware of the tendency of Hispanics to judge one another’s language abilities. She says her cousins from Mexico like to correct her grammatical errors and laugh when her American accent twists Spanish words. “They aren’t trying to be mean,” she says. “It’s just a joke. But it does make me self-conscious sometimes.”

Raquel says she just reminds herself that speaking perfect Spanish is not what makes her Mexican or Latino. And she’s right: blood, heritage and history determine one’s cultural ethnicity and whether or not someone speaks the language does not heighten or diminish his/her roots. And as Latinos become more established in the United States their children and grandchildren become more assimilated into mainstream culture and less acquainted with the homelands of their forefathers. As a result not every Latino has the advantage of Spanish-speaking parents at home. At the same time Spanish is a vibrant and growing language in the United States and those who do speak it deserve to take pride in that. Nonetheless Latinos can both celebrate the Spanish language and acknowledge that Latinos are linguistically diverse: some speak much Spanish, some speak a little, and some none at all. There’s no reason to believe Latinos must be one certain way. What’s more, diversity among Hispanics is one of our most compelling qualities.

Michelle Phan: Remaining True to Your Goals

maxresdefaultThis March during Spring Break I had the opportunity, thanks to Latinitas, to attend SXSW. SXSW is a set of film, interactive and music festivals and conferences that occur annually in Austin, Texas. This year both Latinos and women were prominently featured, and I attended with the goal of learning as much as I could from figures that are inspiring to Latinitas. One figure in particular caught my attention as I know that she is especially popular among preteen and teenage girls. That person is Michelle Phan, the explosively famous YouTuber who performs makeup tutorials on camera, and also runs her own makeup line called Em.

Michelle, along with Lucky Magazine editor-in-chief Eva Chen, headed a panel about how to remain true to ourselves and to our goals. Michelle started out the panel by noting that “right now is such a hard time to be a female because we are judged on so many different platforms.” She’s right: real life, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat…There are dozens of different ways in which who we are and what we say and how we look are analyzed and judged. So what’s a girl to do?

Michelle said that first off it is important to decide who you are. You must ask yourself: “What do you represent? What story do you want to tell?” It is important to ask yourself these questions because without a sense of what you believe and who you want to be you may fall prey to the lies others tell you about yourself.

Speaking of those with unkind things to say, Michelle says to “ignore the bullies and give platform to those speaking and doing good.” Once you have a vision for yourself and have learned to combat negativity you are ready to begin actively achieving your goals. Surround yourself with those who believe in and support those goals.

Michelle knows what she’s taking about. Behind her glamorous image and creative talent is a woman who endured much hardship to get to where she is today. Born to Vietnamese immigrants, her father left the family when she was very young. Her mother, living in poverty, struggled to provide for Michelle and her brother. She dreamed of Michelle becoming a doctor. Michelle, as much as she loved her mother and wanted to make her happy, knew instinctively that medicine was not her calling. So at the last minute she enrolled in art classes instead and paid her way working as a waitress.

She did not begin filming her YouTube videos until she was turned down for a job selling makeup at the Lancôme counter. She knew that, despite what others believed, she had a talent for makeup and could use it to help others. She began discussing and applying makeup herself on camera, and quickly gained followers. Her “Barbie Makeup” tutorial has 6 million views and counting! Major beauty lines soon noticed her success and talent. Lancôme, who had once turned her down for a job, returned to offer Michelle her very own makeup line with them! A while later, she received an offer for a book deal.

Today, Michelle has over 7 million subscribers to her YouTube channel, a makeup line called ‘Em’ and a published book. But even as she works hard to remain successful she remembers the importance of giving back to those most in need. At the SXSW panel she told the audience that she was headed to China the next day to promote a non-profit that foments education on a global scale. Her dedication to both achieving her own dreams and helping others to achieve theirs is an inspiring reminder that when we discover our life purpose we positively affect the lives of others.

The Immigrant Struggle in ‘Boyhood’

11189929_ori‘Boyhood,’ the 2014 film that spans twelve years of a boy’s life, from age 6 to 18, won Best Motion Picture at the Golden Globes.  The acclaimed movie takes the audience through the growing-up process of Mason, a boy living in Texas with divorced parents. Throughout the film there are a couple scenes that prominently feature Hispanics. The first features a teenaged Latina girl who appears with Mason’s sister as they flip through fashion magazines after school. The second Latino portrayed is a Mexican immigrant who does some work for Mason’s mother on her new home. Mason’s mother recommends that he go to school. A few years later he comes up to her at a restaurant to tell her that he took her advice, got a degree, and is about to be promoted to a managerial position at his job.

Latinitas provided me with the opportunity to attend a Google Fiber Q&A session with the film’s main actor, Ellar Coltrane, who plays the role of the boy Mason. While there I asked Ellar why he believes the Hispanic immigrant’s role was included in the film.

He had two answers for me. Firstly, because the film takes place in Texas it just wouldn’t make sense if no Hispanics were featured, particularly those who recently immigrated. Secondly, the Hispanic immigrant provides a direction comparison to Mason’s mother, a single mother struggling to support two children. Both immigrants and single mothers, Ellar said, battle difficulties in achieving their dreams for themselves.

Most would agree with Ellar that a Texan film should present Hispanics to be credible. After all, recent statistics from the United States Census Bureau show that Texas is about 40% Hispanic. Pew Research Center demographics show that 88% of those Hispanics are Mexican, while almost half of all Texan Hispanics were born in their native countries.

Most would also agree that both single mothers and immigrants face financial and social difficulties that others do not. While the factors vary greatly, depending on the unique situation of the individual, both single mothers and immigrants occupy spaces outside of traditional society that create or complicate difficulties. Single mothers struggle to take on both their maternal role and an additional financial one. Immigrants, thrust into a starkly different country, must adapt to a new job, a new language, a new culture entirely.

However, after Mason’s mother suggests Enrique go to school he does not reappear until years later, when he is all smiles and boasting of his achievement. His brief explanation leaves the viewer with unanswered questions, wondering about the difficulties not portrayed in the film. How did Enrique pay for school? How did he balance work and study? Did he have a family at home needing immediate financial support? Did he struggle to understand and read English? Was he undocumented, and if so how did it complicate his schooling and career search? These are but a few examples of real-life scenarios that could have affected Enrique as he pursued his dreams. So while it’s glad that Enrique took the advice of Mason’s mother I’m aware that ‘Boyhood’ did not portray the many struggles he must have faced along the way.  ‘Boyhood’ is not a film about an immigrant’s triumph over struggle. I get that. Still, the simplistic picture painted of Enrique’s success reminds me that for those Americans unfamiliar with the struggles faced by immigrants, the movie did little to educate them further. Nonetheless it’s never a bad thing to portray the American success story of a Hispanic immigrant.

Tattoo Taboo in Latino Culture

sugar skull tat

Tattoos have long been a controversial subject, and often a social taboo. The reasons for their negative image are many, but mostly they stem from their historical association with criminal activity. They were oftentimes used to brand criminals, and sailors utilized them as well as a means of identification in case they were drowned and washed ashore somewhere. In more recent history, and nowadays, tattoos are intimately associated with gangs who use them to pledge loyalty by permanently imprinting gang symbols on their bodies.

In the US and parts of Latin America, however, this trend is changing as more and more young people are choosing to get tattoos for personal reasons. A poll conducted in 2012 by The Harris Poll showed that 1 in 5 American adults possess at least one tattoo. Approximately 15-20% percent of those tattooing are Hispanic. The majority of those interviewed in the poll were not gang members or criminals but rather chose to tattoo because they wanted to express a facet of their identity through body art.

Nonetheless, tattoos are still regarded negatively within the Latino culture. Parents of tattooed young people often react to their offspring’s decision with anger or even horror. Daphne, 23, a Mexican-American of immigrant parents, recalls the day her parents discovered a large tattoo on her ribcage. While her father was disappointed in her so-called “foolish choice” her mother was especially upset. “She was screaming and cursing and crying,” Daphne says. “She didn’t speak to me for months after that. She said this wasn’t how she raised me and I looked like I belonged in gang.” She and her mother finally reconciled, though her mother still can’t stand to see her tattoo. She believes her mother overreacted, but admits that after speaking to her mother about the issue she has come to understand a little better her reasons. Daphne’s mother is from Mexico, where currently gangs involved in drug cartels terrorize the country. The gangs are often recognizable by their symbolic tattoos, and for many who live in fear of gang violence they often try to spot danger by scanning questionable-looking individuals for their telltale tattoos.

Throughout Central America the attitude towards tattoos is based in similar realities. Candi, 26, grew up in Honduras and says that in her home country tattoos are also deeply connected to violent gangs that the people greatly fear. Having lived in the United States for a decade now she has one small tattoo on her wrist. “The attitude here is so different. Most people don’t have the same fear of gang violence so tattoos have a different meaning. They’re just art.”

So, because of the differences in ways of life in parts of Latin America versus in the United States, older-generation Latinos are often more wary of tattoos than cultures not currently entrenched in gang warfare. As shown by Daphne’s and Candi’s anecdotes tattoos often make them think immediately of dangerous gangs, while for those raised outside such fears tattoos are not so instantly threatening. Latinos raised in the US, while sometime having encountered gang activity, do not endure the national fear of violence by drug cartels, so their view of tattoos is not as extreme. It is easier for them to view tattoos as innocent works of art and self-expression. These differing experiences, however, have caused some disagreement between generations about the nature of tattoos. In the end it is important for those for and against tattoos to understand one another’s point of view. As far as the art of tattooing is concerned, its stigma will likely never disappear as long as gangs and criminals continue to use them for their own purposes.

Hollywood Movie Director Carmen Marron

Carmen Marron is a filmmaker and the founder of Sparkhope Productions, a company dedicated to creating films that bring awareness to women’s issues and teen struggles. Latinitas got the chance to speak with Hollywood movie director Carmen Marrón about her upcoming Latino-focused film, and her advice to Latinitas on how to chase your dreams! Carmen produced the 2011 movie ‘Go For It’ starring Gina Rodriguez and her new movie ‘Endgame’ is set to hit theatres soon. Her story is sure to inspire you to follow your destiny.Film Producer

Latinitas Reporter (Mariel):

Hi Carmen! Why don’t you tell us about your newest movie ‘Endgame’ that you presented at the Dallas Film Festival ?

Carmen:

Endgame is my latest movie and it is an inspirational drama that is actually inspired by true events in Texas. We shot the movie in Brownsville, Texas. It’s about a teacher who teaches at a time in which Brownsville, Texas was the third poorest community in the US. The teacher takes a bunch of these detention kids (Rico Rodriguez from Modern Family plays the lead character) and starts teaching them about chess thinking that this would be a positive way to keep them focused on school and keep them out of trouble. Through practice and over time he realizes that they’re really good, so he puts a team together. Lo and behold, this team starts winning! They ended up winning all the regionals. Then in the teacher’s second year as coach for the team, they ended up winning the state championship. And then they ended up winning 7 years in a row after that! It’s an amazing story.

L: Well, I’m excited to see this film. How did it go showing the film at the Dallas Film Festival?

C: Oh, phenomenal! We screened the film twice at the festival and the audience loved it. They really did. The theatrical release is probably going to be at the end of summer. The distributor is still looking into different theatres. Right now it’s scheduled just for the East Coast and the West Coast, but the distributor is actively looking to put in in theatres in Chicago, and probably in Dallas.

L: Another topic I wanted to touch on: Both of your films – ‘Go For It’ and ‘Endgame’ – feature Latino leads and lots of other Latino characters. How does your identity as a Latina woman play a role in the movies you choose?

C: Well, I’ll tell you a little bit of my background because I think that’s just as big a part. I actually was a guidance counselor in South Phoenix. I grew up in inner city Chicago in an all Latino, very poverty-stricken community. I was one of ten kids. I put myself through college, through graduate school, and then I personally chose to work in the direst school district because I felt like I could relate to the kids. So when I moved to Phoenix I chose to work in the poorest community because I used to be one of those kids, I related to them.

But what I saw as guidance counselor was that these kids really looked up to characters in television and film as role models for guidance and answers, and it killed me. I was seeing young kids look up to Kim Kardashian and Britney Spears, literally even dying their hair and buying colored contacts. And so I thought, “Oh my gosh, there are hardly any Latino role models on television and in film!” And I saw that the majority of Latinas in Hollywood played the maids, the housekeepers, the nannies. That’s when I decided to become a filmmaker. And I made the conscious decision to specifically focus on creating roles for Latinos and young women that are very empowering and show them in leadership positions while also addressing their issues.

L: Were there any failures along the path to success?

C: Oh gosh, yes. I had family and friends telling me to stop, to just give up, that it wouldn’t work. It was like 2 years of people slamming the door on me or laughing at me. It took me seven years to finish my first film. In the beginning, I didn’t know anything about making a movie. I set up and researched everything. I actually got a job as a pharmaceutical rep just to help me pay the way to making my own film. I basically moved to LA with nothing but a dream, and I made it happen, ultra low budget.

L: I’m so curious to know: how did you keep the fire in you to keep trying despite the whole world telling you not to?

C: To be totally honest, I can get emotional right now just talking about it. It was my firm belief in the message I wanted to send young girls: that they could achieve their dreams. I had been working with girls that didn’t think there was anything for them out there besides getting married and having kids, and a lot of these girls were getting pregnant at really young ages, and I just desperately believed my movie could inspire girls and make a difference in their lives. They have the right to be proud about themselves. I truly believe it was the path I was supposed to take in life. I believe that the life I’m leading is my destiny.

L: That’s so inspiring! Do you have any special message for Latinitas?

C: If I can do it, you can do it. Anything you can imagine can become your reality. Focus on your goals and give it your all. You have a destiny to fulfill.

Nurture Creativity With Writing

How do you know when they are being struck by an urge to create through writing? How does one funnel that creative urge into something productive and beautiful? And what’s the point of taking the time to write, anyways?

The preteen and teenage years are ripe with creative urges, as girls are unfolding new ideas and truths about the world and find themselves eager to express their emotions about it all.  Creative writing, whether it be through journaling, storytelling or poetry helps to produce psychological and emotional well-being. Psych Central, an award-winning website run by mental health professionals, states that writing frees the brain “to create, intuit, and feel. It also “removes mental blocks” so that one may “better understand [herself] and the world around [her].” As a result, one can clarify thoughts and feelings that previously confused her. One will better know herself and be able to identify beneficial and toxic elements in her own mind and in her environment.

But sometimes taking the time to write, or knowing how to begin, is easier said than done. To get the most out of creative writing it is important to know when one is being inspired to create. Have you ever imagined a scene or dialogue or an event that never actually happened but came vividly alive in your mind? Had thoughts about something or someone that got you really excited, really sad, or really angry? Experienced something that you long to hold on to but don’t know how? These instances are more than just random weirdness; they are the creative impulse – your mind and soul telling you they want to create things, to make the random beauty of your mind into a reality that other people can read if you choose to share with them. Instead of letting those feelings and imaginative scenarios slip away make them into a reality. Write them down.Hispanic girl writing

There is no one way to write. You decide how you want to go about creating the written word. Some days you may feel the urge to write in the form of a diary or journal. Or perhaps you prefer to write random bits of poetry. Maybe you love to tell stories when you write. You can write poetry one day and journal the next, or dedicate yourself solely to one type of writing.  Nonetheless you may experience times when you want to express yourself creatively but you lack inspiration and are unable to write the way you want to. In times like these there are tricks to get the creative juices flowing. Making collages from pictures and phrases cut out from magazines often awakens the artistic urge. Reading poetry and highlighting words and imagery that inspire you has a similar effect. As well, neuroscience research shows that exercise or any type of vigorous physical activity boosts creativity. Keep a pen and paper nearby while exercising so that you can jot down any interesting ideas before you forget them.

Don’t believe you need to be a star writer or creative genius to begin writing down your thoughts and experiences. Writing is a form of medicine for the soul because of its ability to open up the individual to new ways of understanding herself and the world around her. Even if no one ever sees your writing you benefit from the psychological well-being that writing promotes. Give in to your creative urge!