I am a DREAMer Activist

Written by Maria Esquinca dreamers-500x280-crop-v08

When Viviana Sanchez was five-years-old, she got on a plane with her mother and three-year-old-brother. They flew past the vast ocean, past paradise, and left Guayaquil behind, a city on the coast of Ecuador, until they arrived in N.Y.

Sanchez, now 22-years-old and a senior psychology major at York College, City University of New York, says she has a very vivid memory of the day she left Ecuador. She still remembers her mom asking her if she was excited to see her father, who had already been living in the U.S. for over a year.

“My father was forced to come here, he had to come to a different country not knowing the language, not knowing anything,” Sanchez said. “He always tells me this story, how the first time that he came here he was all alone and nobody had come to pick him up. It was very hard for him.”

Sanchez says her parents immigrated to the U.S. because they couldn’t find a job in Ecuador. They came to the U.S. with tourist visas, but eventually they expired.

According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2014, there were 11.3 undocumented immigrants in the U.S., and a majority of them entered the country without valid documents or arrived with valid visas but stayed past the expiration.

Because Sanchez was a minor when she immigrated into the U.S., she is considered a DREAMer under Deferred Action Against Childhood Arrival, a policy announced by President Barack Obama in 2012.

DACA allows the the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to use prosecutorial discretion to not deport undocumented youth. Immigrants who came to the U.S before their 16th birthday, and meet other guidelines, have temporary permission to stay in the U.S. and not be deported. It is not considered legal status like a visa or a permanent resident card, but they are authorized to work.

In 2014, Obama expanded DACA, however federal district court in Texas issued an expansion that temporarily placed the expanded DACA program on hold.

“I wanted to go get my passport renewed with my family so we could see if I could purchase tickets and just go back to Ecuador, which I don’t know nothing about,” Sanchez says. “As soon as I got back home and I took out my passport I turned on the news… it was an emotional experience because it was on that day, that I felt like leaving the country, that DACA was announced.”

Before DACA, Sanchez could not find a job and struggled to pay for school. Because of her status, she does not qualify for financial aid.

“I was offered like a scholarship mid-junior year,” she said.

“I remember coming home and I told my parents ‘hey I was offered a scholarship because I’m a good student in school,’ and they were like you can’t apply (to college) because you don’t have a social security number.”

It was that same year that she experienced her first instance of discrimination. Sanchez was interning at a hospital in New York for high school credit. She was placed in an HIV prevention unit, but she didn’t know that they were going to ask her for paperwork.

By this time, Sanchez says she knew she didn’t have a social security number, but she didn’t know she was considered “illegal.”

“I remember the administrator just looking at me and giving me a dirty look, and she was like ‘are you an illegal?’” Sanchez said.

“I felt like crying, I didn’t know how to respond. At the time I didn’t know my rights or anything, they’re not supposed to be interrogating you about your status when you’re in school. I know that now.”

Sanchez thought she wouldn’t be able to go to college; however, after encouragement from her parents, Sanchez applied and was able to pay with the help of her parents. The number of classes she could take would fluctuate based on what she could afford.

“It was really frustrating. I was forced to only take two classes (freshmen year). I had to drop my other classes because my parents were like ‘no, that’s too much money.”

A separate semester one of her mentors fundraised money to pay her classes. After DACA, she got a job and also helped pay for her education. This semester, her education is being funded through a scholarship.

While in college, Sanchez became highly involved in the immigration activism community. She joined the New York State Youth Leadership Council, a non-profit led by and aimed at creating opportunities for undocumented youth. She is also joined Make the Road New York, an organization that aims to build Latino and working class communities through organizing, among other things. Currently, Make the Road NY, is advocating for the New York DREAM act, which would allow DREAMers that meet in-state requirements to be eligible for state financial aid and scholarships.

Because of her involvement with Make the Road NY, one of her mentors encouraged her to apply for the Adobe Youth Voices National Audio/ Story telling competition in 2012. She was one of the finalists. In her submission, an audio story, she told her immigration story.

“A lot of people are still very scared to tell their stories, and I was one of them for a very long time,” she said.

“We need to tell our stories, not only for ourselves and our families, but for people to understand our struggles and who we are. That we are not criminals, that we are not here to hurt anyone, that we work very hard.”

She, alongside 34 other DREAMers, was also featured on the cover of Time Magazine, with Jose Antonio Vargas, Filipino journalist, filmmaker and immigration rights activist.

“And that’s how my activism started,” Sanchez said.

Currently, Sanchez is still finishing up her final year in college and advocating, because the “struggle continues.”

“I’m a lot of things: I’m a student, I’m someone’s daughter, I’m someone’s sister…I’m a dreamer,” Sanchez adds.

Soy Chica Poderosa

Smile

There are different kinds of strengths that girls possess and every single one matters. As small as something may seem, it can be something huge for another.

I am a chica poderosa because I have been fighting against depression every day of my life for the most part of my life. While many people would think that beating depression is relatively easy – just smile and don’t be sad! – it’s an exhausting battle. People have told me to think positive but it’s easier said than done, especially to people who have never experienced any sort of mental illness before. Sometimes these well-meaning words make it worse.

People with depression experience hopelessness in most aspects of life, and most of us have learned helplessness. We don’t do anything about our situation because it won’t change anything. At least, that is what I used to think. This type of behavior is associated with learned helplessness.

Learned helplessness, according to psychology, is “a condition in which a person suffers from a sense of powerlessness, arising from a traumatic event or persistent failure to succeed. It is thought to be one of the underlying causes of depression.”

The condition can be picked up from years of being subjected to abuse. This is exactly how I picked it up. I grew up in an abusive household and eventually, I didn’t think that there was anything I could do to change my situation. My mother and I lived like this for years.Even after we had gotten out of my abusive father’s grasp, the learned helplessness still lingered in my mind. Depression was born from it.

Eventually, through years and years of therapy and psychiatric evaluations, I managed to be able to control it.

Many people with depression have dangerous urges. Many people with depression don’t see the point on keeping on living; many people with depression want everything to stop. A sense of hopelessness suffocates us.

I am a chica poderosa because I have managed to overcome said urges. I live every day with a small voice in the back of my head telling me to go through with many dangerous things but through sheer power of will, I keep myself in check.

I am a chica poderosa because of the people that surround me. My mother, my friends, my teachers. I cope with depression by trying to do some good in the world. I have involved myself in various organizations to be able to make a difference in my community.

The one that has made the greatest impact in my life has been The Austin High Latino Partnership. AHLP is an academic and service-oriented organization dedicated to improving Austin through various service projects. For example, we carried out a Blue Jean Drive in which we managed to collect 181 gently used blue jeans and various other articles of clothing and then donated them to Casa Marianella, an emergency housing shelter in East Austin, which currently houses about 35 immigrants and 11 families.

I’m a chica poderosa and you can be too. You just have to find your ray of light. Helping the community is mine. It’s what I live for.

Tips to Reach Your Goals

With the new year upon us, the time to think and plan how to reach our new year’s resolutions is now! But with life, friends, school and many other things, it is really hard to actually have time to accomplish our resolutions. It’s the time to renew yourself. Add something different to your life and change to improve. Here are a few things you can do to achieve them:Goals

1- Be realistic
We all have dreams that we want to accomplish in the future. Some want to be actresses, models, astronauts or run their own business. But let’s be real; you can’t do that overnight. Think about the realistic goals that you can accomplish in a month, 3 months or 6 months.

“Try to set dates so that each time you accomplish that resolution little by little and it might make it easier if you give yourself smaller goals that at the end turn into the big goal you are trying to accomplish,” shared Itzel Barraza when describing how she reaches her goals.

2- Start working right away

As soon as the year begins or get to your house after vacations, start planning and working to see how you are going to accomplish your resolutions. Baby steps is fine, as long as you’re fully committed to getting to the finish line. Set a plan and the times and the deadline to complete certain things, this is really helpful and will keep you focused on your goal. Everything that is worth it, takes time. If you really want to accomplish something, be responsible and create a schedule to go step by step.  Setting aside some time like 20 minutes a day can be a big step. “Make your list and try your best to complete it,” shared Ariadne Venegas.

3- Talk to people about your goals

Sometimes, we are afraid to tell somebody else about our dreams, whether it is something really simple or your life dreams. We get anxious because they might not like our ideas, think they are reasonable or they might react negatively. Most of the times, people are willing to listen to you! Your loved ones will care about hearing your goals and will support you. If you tell your parents and friends about what you want to do, they might even offer some help and encouragement. So don’t be afraid to tell about your resolutions!

4-Get inspired

It can be easy to get tired of trying, loose interest in what you’re trying to achieve or just stop trying. Create a vision board to envision your goals. Find the things that keep you motivated.

“I would say to write them out so you can always be reminded of them. Perhaps in a new calendar you can hang on your room, ” added Itzel.

5- Take a break

Trying to accomplish your resolutions is not easy, it takes time, hard work, sacrifices, energy and the willingness of keep going. It’s fine to rest some times, if you feel like you need a break. Because you will be doing it with a negative attitude and it may not come out the way you want. Feel free to take a cheat day or two and have fun. This can help you renew and approach your goal without stress.

It’s the time of the year to plan what you want to do to change next year, and the time to be happy and enjoy your free time. Here’s for a happy and crazy new year!

Diversity is Strength

I believe that diversity is strength.

Growing up in an upper middle-class town in West Hartford Connecticut, I was often ashamed of my cultural background. Going to magnet schools all my life, I was surrounded by peers that lived very privileged lives. Designer bags, personal chefs, and the concept of weekly “allowance” were material norms that seemed to be expected. My parents are Colombian immigrants, speak Spanish, and have traditional Colombian values. They have worked hard all of their lives in order to provide us with food, education, and a home to live in. Often working two or three jobs each, they dedicated their lives to obtaining the American dream of their children to have a better life in America. The food, the music, and the cultural values were all left at home. I didn’t acknowledge them when I was with my friends at school.                                   

  “Colombia? What part of Mexico is that from?”

Growing up I didn’t understand why I was different. I didn’t understand why I wasn’t tall blonde and skinny. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t have a coach bag in middle school. I didn’t understand the value of being different. I would dye and straighten my hair, dress a certain way, and talk like the rest of my peers in order to try to fit in and assimilate. I didn’t want to be known as the only Hispanic in the class. Going from educational institution to the next, I often received white privilege because of my appearance. The assumption that everyone was of rich, white, American background was an unspoken rule that the community had. But cultural studies have always fascinated me. I just didn’t understand my own. I didn’t understand who I was. I was either too American for my Colombian friends, or too exotic for my white friends.

When I spent a weekend in Barcelona, Spain while my travels abroad, I understood who I truly was. Barcelona was a beautiful city filled with Spanish culture. I stayed at a youth hostel in Barcelona that accommodated young travelers from around the world at cheap prices. Unpacking in my room, there was so much diversity in the people staying there. Beds filled with Russians, Romanians, Koreans, and American travelers all came together in that moment in time. Free tours were given every morning of different locations throughout the city.The weather was absolutely perfect. The sun illuminated all the beautiful details of the buildings and could see every carving the architected intended. Passing food trucks the waft of spices and grilled BBQ filled our noses. The commotion and bustle of beeping cars, people talking in Castilian, and the sounds of the exotic birds chirping made such a harmonious melody that seemed fit for the environment. Weaving in and out of markets I’d see the array of brightly colored fresh fruits and vegetables, and hand crafted trinkets available to purchase. It was something out of a movie. The new sights, sounds, and knowledge we obtained within that 2 hour tour was incredible. But that wasn’t the most impacting part of the experience.

During lunch, we were sent off to explore the great restaurants in the city. Absolutely starving from all the temptation of food we passed, a group of about ten of us decided to go to a restaurant nearby. A traditional Spanish aura was clearly preset in this restaurant. A tapa bar filled the far wall alongside the stacks of Spanish wines.  Sitting down, I was surrounded by an Australian couple, Norwegians, a group of Romanians, and myself. We all introduced ourselves and said where we were from. I told everyone I was from the states and was studying abroad in London. We then began telling stories of our travels, our past and what we had planned to do while in Barcelona. Once the waiter arrived to our table, he attempted to speak English to take our orders. When he came around to me, I spoke to him in Spanish to better understand him and to know what was in the meal I had. Complete shock filled both the waiters face and the rest of the groups face when they heard me speak fluent Spanish. The waiter enjoyed our conversation and offered the group bottomless sangria for the rest of the evening.

“Aren’t you American?”
“I am, but I am also Colombian. I am Colombian American”

That was probably the first time I identified myself as a Colombian American. Yes, I grew up in the United States, but I grew up in a Colombian household and was taught the values and morals that Colombians had. Having those customs allowed me to have a better experience while abroad because I was able to connect with people who had similar views and communicate with Spanish speakers. I was seen as a key asset in the group because I was able to haggle prices, ask directions, and understand the cultural norms of respect that the others didn’t. For example, in other parts of Europe it is common to snap twice at the waiter to get their attention. In Spain, it would be very disrespectful to snap at a waiter, and they would be very offended. Minute details like these had to be explained because of the difference in culture, and I was able to do that. That day, I had the most delicious paella I have ever tasted. The rice was baked to perfection. The seafood was so incredible fresh, and each bite was filled with different spices. During that lunch, time flew, conversations lasted, and friendships were made.

After lunch, I felt confident in my cultural background for the first time in my life. I knew that growing up differently allowed me to gain skills and values that others did not. Having an open mind, giving and receiving respect, and understanding the value of my culture made me rethink what I wanted to gain from my trip to Barcelona. I didn’t just want to spend what limited time I had clubbing or partying at the beach, as my friends wanted to. I wanted to dive deep into the Spanish culture and see a traditional flamenco show. I ditched the comfort of my American friends and went with my new Australian friends to see this show. I turned out to be a flamenco gypsy performance instead of the traditional dance. The sound of the familiar Spanish beats, dance moves and aroma of food brought me back to Christmas parties at home. By the end of the night the three of us were invited on stage to dance with the band. After the performance was done, the three of us stayed for a bit talking and enjoying the atmosphere. The band was packing up and came over to talk to us. Their English was a bit broken, but I told them in Spanish that we really enjoyed the show. We ended up talking for about an hour with the band of gypsy musicians and how historically they have been discriminated against in the city, but they aim to represent the misunderstood culture. I thought that was very inspirational and just solidified my journey of cultural self-acceptance during that trip.

Everyone is different. We all have stories to tell, wisdom to spread and life obstacles we must tackle. Culture is seen differently everywhere. But, the skills and values you take from them, is was truly counts. I have had my ups and downs with identifying who I am. I didn’t want to be categorized based on race growing up. My trip to Barcelona, brought me back to the motherland. The land in which history thrives, music is loud, and energy is embraced. Diversity is strength, and that is what I believe.

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.

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.

Quince DIY Projects

For those quince girls trying to plan a quinceañera on a budget, do-it-yourself projects can help keep you within budget.  Save money by making your own decorations, accessories and party items. Become a crafty chica and get your hot glue gun ready. Follow these easy DIY steps to create a memorable and personalized quince celebration.

Bouquet:
Make your own flower decorations.
Supplies: Flowers, tulle, ribbon, feathers, paper towel cardboard.
Steps: Insert flowers into a paper towel roll and glue it into place with hot glue. Add tulle, ribbon and feathers to make the bouquet stand out and look more full. Wrap the paper towel roll with ribbon.

boutquet2

Toast Glasses: 
Decorate glasses for your toast by writing an XV with glitter glue.
Supplies: Glasses, glitter glue, ribbon, tulle and decorations
Steps: Decorate the base with tulle, ribbon and small decorations.

classes

Last Doll:
Use an old Barbie doll as your last doll to give to a younger sibling or cousin during the quince ceremony.
Supplies: Ribbon, tulle and Barbie doll.
Steps: Wrap tulle around the Barbie with the color theme of your party. Use tulle to create a fancy dress for your doll.

last doll

XV Decorations:
To decorate the walls or entrance of the quince party ballroom, make a large collage in the shape of XV.
Supplies: Foam board, scissors, pictures, decorations
Steps: Cut out a large X and V out or 15 out of foam board. Decorate the foam board with pictures that show your favorite memories. Add decorations.

   Quince Decorations

Money Box:
Use a shoebox to create your own money box for cards and gifts.
Supplies: Shoebox, scissors, glue, tissue paper, decorative wrapping paper or fabric.
Steps: Cut a slot at the top of the shoebox. Wrap it with tissue paper or wrapping paper. Add decorations to personalize it.

moneybox

Guest Book:
Turn a composition book into a guest book that will capture the memories and messages of your friends and family members.
Supplies: Composition book,tissue paper, fabric, decorations, scissors, glue
Steps: Wrap the composition book with tissue paper or fabric coordinating with the color of your party. Glue it into place and add decorations.

guestbook

 

Media’s Focus on the Female Physice

11750681_465826400255406_4140905709811984680_n

Watch out thin and slender body types, the curvy look is in this year. The popular hits from Nicki Minaj’s ‘Anaconda’ and Meghan Trainor’s ‘All About the Bass’ have made it known that having a big booty is beautiful and that curves are to be celebrated. The media has joined the cause with its input with whose body is rockin’ and what workouts these women do to keep their figure.

But why does it matter?

A woman’s body has become a public forum for opinion. Their shape and size have become an important factor in determining their beauty in society’s standards. Such views can be seen in the new popular dance fad – twerking. This dance focuses on the sensual booty shaking (the bigger the better) and has been prevalent in many performers’ dance routines.

In the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards, Chelsea Handler came onto the stage to present and made a joke about being surrounded by all these shapely women and being thankful that her entrance followed a Taylor Swift performance.

“They asked me if I wanted to perform at the VMAs and I said there are going to be a lot of big fat a**es at that awards show,” Chelsea said. “So I will present, but you have to put me up after someone who’s white. So thank you, Taylor Swift, for being so white!”

Taylor Swift has also received media attention for her body – rather unfavorable attention because of her lanky stature. With memes popping up all over the Internet, mocking her for her minimal curves, it has become clear that this mindset has seeped into those watching at home.

17-year-old high school senior, Vanessa Andrada, says she notices the female-physique emphasis in the media and feels it is worrisome for her generation that consumes it.

“I think the media focus primarily on how skinny a girl is or even now how curvy a girl is. Even curvy girls must have a ‘coca-cola’ type body to look attractive,” she says. “They focus on this way too much and it makes girls seem as if they have to live up to this standard to be considered beautiful.”

This body-centered attention, unfortunately, is fairly prevalent in Latina celebrities.

A study shows that Latina actresses are unrepresented on screen, but are most likely to be sexualized in their roles, according to a TIME article. Out of all women on screen, 37.5% of Hispanic actresses were most likely to be partially or fully naked on screen in 2013.

The curvaceous bodies of Eva Mendes, Sofía Vergara, Penelope Cruz, and Jennifer Lopez have all been the main attraction to their media coverage. The hype of the “curvy Latina” is accentuated and preserves a stereotype that isn’t really apparent in most Spanish women.

“Not all Latinas are curvy and it makes the less curvy women feel like they are not as beautiful as a curvy Latina,” Andrada says. “In some sense, if you don’t have the ‘curviness’ of a Latina you may consider yourself less beautiful than what you really are.”

Although statistics of eating disorders in minority women are unavailable – because of a historical bias that they only affect white women – one study found that of the leanest 25% of 6th and 7th grade girls, the Hispanic and Asian girls found the most dissatisfaction with their bodies, according to the National Eating Disorder Association.

“These factors do really impact the way girls see themselves! They hold themselves to what the media or even stereotypes consider as beautiful,” Andrada says.”That’s why many girls have low self-esteem now-a-days because we focus on trying to be the girl with flawless skin, a coca-cola body type, with no stretch marks and have no extra body fat.”

15-year-old Hannah Leija agrees that women shouldn’t have to face criticism for their body image. She shares that it is unfair that they are held to certain standards in the media and that it affects her peers. However, she refuses to succumb to these pressures with a positive outlook and confidence.

“The way I see myself is good,” she says. “I don’t care what the media has to say or what people think. I’m happy with the way I am.”

Women. Ladies. Girls. Latinas. Or non-Latinas. They all come in different shapes or sizes. Nicki Minaj and Meghan Trainor are right. You should celebrate your curves, but you should, also, celebrate whatever body type you may be.

So if you are a curvy Latina or a slender one, it doesn’t matter. Beauty is found with actions and not appearance.

Actress Mia Xitlali

Mia Xitlali is an actress, known for her roles in Max (2015), Selling Rosario (2014) and Flight (2015). Mia recently played the character Carmen in the movie Max that focuses on a dog that helped US Marines in Afghanistan. The movie follows Max on his adventures as he returns to the U.S. and is adopted by a family after suffering a traumatic experience. Mia talked to Latinitas about her experience on the movie set.

max_r4_v1124_20150205_07_jd_g_r709_2K.359305.tif

Latinitas: Where are you from?

Mia Xitlali: I am from Los Angele,s but I have Mexican roots on my mom side, she is from Guadalajara, Jalisco; and my dad is from El Paso, TX

L: What does Xitlali, means?

M: It means star in Nahuatl, which is a native language in Mexico.

L: Do you speak both English and Spanish well?

M: I speak better in English… Necesito practicar (I need to practice Spanish), but I am working on it.

L: When did you first know you wanted to become an actress?

M: I started acting since I was 7 years old. I started with small performances in plays. Because my family members were also involved, I decided that I wanted to follow my parents’ foot steps. I knew that I wanted to become an actress when I did my first play called South Pacific. I realized that the way I felt at that moment I just wanted to keep feeling it. It is the best feeling so far.

Did you have the opportunity to study acting or did it just come naturally?

M: My entire family is made up of performers. They are musicians and dancers. So, I just follow them. I learned it from both of my parent and also my tias, tios and cousins.

L: Which actress or actor would you like to work with in the future?

M: An actress who I would like to work with is Meryl Streep. She has been working constantly. She is always changing her style of acting and she is super good on what she does. I just want to be able to get awesome roles that she has had the opportunity to play in movies.

L: Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?miaxitali

M: I am actually a dog whisper in real life. I mean I was also in the movie, but those scenes that I did with MAX where natural. I have conversations with dogs and they actually understand me. I play games with them and give them directions and they just follow them.

L: What is the best part of being an actress?

M: The best part is that I enjoy what I do. I love this amazing feeling and the rush.  I like knowing people and getting new experiences. I learn every day and it is just a great thing that I enjoy.

L: What is the scariest part of an audition?

M: It is not knowing what they are looking for.

L: Was was it like auditioning for the MAX movie?

M: On the MAX movie, I had to wait almost a month. I thought that I didn’t get the part. I thought I had to move on to the next casting call. After all that time of waiting they called me and got the part. It was pretty exciting.

L: What did you learn about playing Carmen in MAX movie?

M: She had a very though life and see was kick-off out of her dad’s house for getting a tattoo and at such as young age… I mean she was 14 years-old and to go through all of that she was brave and knew a new family that supported her.

L: Do you think that this movie is going to touch the hearts of those families who have a relative who are in the army?

M: I think yes. I recently saw that military families have the same situations as the ones that are shown on the screen. Some of them were crying or very emotional. MAX is a great movie. I think that it does have the power to touch people’s hearts and not just the ones that have a relative in this situation, but also many kinds of people.

L: Is the movie base on a true story?
M: It is based on a true story, actually it is a book. It did happen some time in the past, and it is about this dog hero.

L: Did you enjoy acting with a dog?

M: I did enjoy acting with him. He is just an awesome animal and beautiful. It was interesting because he was a very good actor, and I had so much fun being with him. His name is Carlos and he would follow me everywhere. It was so funny.

L: How do you feel that more Latinas are gaining roles in the Unites States?

M: I am very excited that I could actually be one of those Latinas that can make a change. I don’t know where I could be right now if I didn’t land this opportunity. I mean I am in the perfect time when I am 100% Latina and we need to take advantage of these kind of opportunities.

L: Did you gain more experience from you past work through now?

M: Yes, I have. I did the first film Selling Rosario, which was a short film and I did good on that one and I got the role on MAX movie right after that one. I had to learn very quickly and change the way I usually am to what the character is.

L: Can you share some advice for young aspiring actresses?

M: I just have to say to follow your dreams and if you know that you have support you can make it. If this is something that you really want to do, follow it and go through it 100% if you want to be successful and take it with courage.

Lessons From My Single Mom

Growing up with a single mother as a child was something that truly influenced the way I went about into the world because my mother was my role model. mom and me2 I believe that goes for a lot of girls, they see their mother as their first role model, a figure of love and the embodiment of our first picture of what a woman should be.  My mother’s pride was something that always stood out to me growing up because she has always been the most tenacious person in my family. She was the middle child that at a young age decided she was going to be the one to get her family out of poverty.

She tells me that when she had to start looking for a new job to support my older brother and sister, the family still did not have a vehicle. Therefore she had to walk in her business clothes by the train tracks near her house to go out on job searches. She ended up getting a job a clothing manufacturer building and ended up being the breadwinner of the family and was responsible for moving my grandparents, her siblings, and her children to a good neighborhood and a nice house. I remember getting ready with her every morning. I would see her put on her sleek slacks, and stilettos. She always looked very classy and fashionable and she really enjoyed her job.

I was never close to my biological father and got to know my now stepfather when I was in eighth grade. My mother never filed for child support for me or my brother and sister. Her pride would not allow her to. I remember her saying, “We don’t need the money, I can provide everything you guys need.” Although the money could have helped, I do not ever remember struggling in my life. We did not have a lot, but we had everything we needed and each other, which was, much more than enough. I feel that I have been very lucky to view a strong and vigilant mother as my first role model. I learned these five things from having a single mom:

1. Alone time with my mother became a sacred thing.
Due to the fact that my mother was working full-time, she was unable to do things like cook half of my meals or be home when I got out of school. This time apart we had between us made me cherish the time I had with my mom when we were able to go shopping, on movie dates, and trying out new restaurants together. My brother and my sister rarely attended these outings because my brother is eleven years older than I am, while my sister is fourteen years older. This age difference meant that my brother and sister were older teens at the time who were not so interested in “hanging out with mom,” which really worked out to my advantage as a young girl. These little outings did and will always remain cherished times.

2. Growing up with an independent mom made me want to be independent.
Watching my mother be the breadwinner of the house gave me this image of an empowered woman as my first role model. She was strong and did not need a man to “take care of her.” This image resonated with me at a very young age and I started to believe in being a “super-woman” just like my mom.

3. She pushed me to get out of my comfort zone.
My mom is a vibrant burst of energy who is very welcoming and very good at talking business. She’s not shy at all and therefore does not think twice about speaking her mind. However, that was not the case for me when I was a young girl. I was originally very shy and timid, but over time a lot of her communication traits passed themselves onto me and I was no longer shy.

4. She gave me my sense of Girl Power.
If it was not for my mother and the life she gave me, I am not sure I would view other women the way I do now. My mom would always tell me that girls need to stick together because it is a hard world out there. Up until the eighth grade, my mom was single and was not at all trying to have a relationship. However, she never seemed lonely, but rather very happy. She would go out dancing sometimes with her girlfriends on rare occasion, but the bulk of her free time was with me.

5. She encouraged me to bond with my extended family.
The lack of time I had with my mom due to her work schedule made me create strong bonds with my aunts and grandmother. They helped raise me, so it was like having four moms! The strong bond of women who were in my house was astonishing. My family consists of mostly women. Living in a matriarchal house made me realize at a young age how powerful communication and comadre-like bonds are amongst women.