Life Lessons of an Introverted Photographer

Written by Nadia Gutierrez

Credit: Nadia G.

Credit: Nadia G.

When I started my photography journey I had so many goals and dreams and I even created deadlines. Seven years ago I thought it was going to be easy to embark my journey and achieve my goals. Well — it didn’t happen because I kept trying and not doing. But, do what? I was doing everything I could but I got nowhere near where I wanted to be.

“Stop trying and just do it” famous words that came out of my tío’s mouth, words that are written in quotes. But what does it really mean? And I might be overthinking it, yes, but the truth is that over the years I thought I understood the concept of it. I mean, I’m trying, therefore I am doing it, right? Wrong. It took me years to realize that I kept “trying” and never got the results I wanted because I kept using the same method, same habits, same plan. I was hitting the point of giving up.

I didn’t want to give up on my old habits, or make any changes in my life, changes that would open new doors for me. I became comfortable with what I had and that brought insecurity and fear. I felt like my work wasn’t good enough to be seen by others. It was so much easier for me to believe that that was as good as I was going to get.

Screen Shot 2017-02-22 at 6.27.58 PMI consider myself introverted but here I am being a photographer and exposing myself every day — what was I thinking?! I had to let go of  things that were holding me back, such as the fear of approaching unknown people. Being introverted doesn’t mean you can’t be around people, it just means that it’s a little harder to engage with others.  I had to exercise that ability, to connect with others, to put myself out there and let others see what I can do. I’m still in the process of getting better each day but I decided to make a change.

Years later I find myself shooting a wedding for the TLC channel, which it was an unforgettable experience. The wedding was part of the show called “Four Weddings”. I got to meet the producer and the camera crew. Two other photographers and I got the opportunity to experience this. I realized that I was limiting myself. After that I didn’t want to stop growing, so I kept challenging myself and began meeting new people, new photographers, learning new tricks, exploring new areas of photography. Taking small steps slowly but surely, and now I’m here getting featured in photography blogs — all this is great, giving me an amazing feeling of accomplishment but I’m still learning and discovering new things — I’m a work in progress — I am not done, my journey has just begun.

I look back and I finally can say “I’m doing it” planning and getting ready for next year. I want to start teaching photography and I want to share with my students my experience as an introverted photographer — and I want them to become incredibly passionate about photography, driven individuals. Like I said my journey has just begun.

My humble advice from me to you

  1. Be nice to yourself: This is the hardest part, believing that you deserve good things. Focus on what you love and what makes you happy.
  1. Say “Yes”: Say yes to the change,  it is hard but it will take you to new adventures, new people, new everything! ”just do it” just make the change and let your fears, and insecurities behind start believing in the abilities that you have.
  1. You’re going to fail, that is okay: If it didn’t work out one way, find another way and keep on going, do not stop. Do not stress if you don’t see results right away. Don’t beat yourself up!
  1. Feel proud of what you’ve accomplished, celebrate your victories but be humble enough to share your knowledge, help someone else with their journey — don’t be selfish!

 

About Nadia Gutierrez : She was born in Mexico but grew up in Northern California. Bay Area photographer and graphic design student. She loves her camera and adores showing the beauty of life through her photography. She likes to inspire and motivate  others to do BIG things. She lives life in the fast lane, leads a dynamic life and makes quick decisions which often leads to great adventures!

Why I March

Though I’ve always considered myself to be very opinionated, I was never a fan of activism. In fact, growing up I thought activism was inconvenient. I championed a lot of causes through my teens—I boycotted genres of music because I didn’t like the way they depicted women, I stopped eating meat because I believed in humane treatment for animals—but I kept these to myself.

That said, as a young adult I’ve become invigorated by a fervor and a need to stand up for myself and what I believe in. Maybe it’s that I’m older and wiser, maybe is that I’ve been given the opportunity to better educate myself, or maybe it’s just the fanaticism of living in the capital of a battleground state—regardless, I’ve been up in arms and very vocal.

At the start of the 2016 election process, I was rather ambivalent about the whole thing. As a permanent resident of the United States and not a citizen, I wouldn’t be able to vote in the election, and so I thought, “what’s the point?” But despite, I tried my best to get informed, I read articles, I talked to friends, I watched the news, and I opened myself up to a healthy dialogue on the proceedings of this country. At the time I was undergoing a long and oftentimes frustrating battle with immigration for my naturalization, trying my best to become a citizen before voter registration closed. As the months passed, however, it began to appear very evident that it just wasn’t going to happen. I was frustrated, downtrodden, and truly dejected. I was hurt that I was educated, that I was engaged, and that my voice would not be heard.

What hurt me the most is that Latinxs and immigrants were such a hotly debated subject of the election, and I, a Latina immigrant, wouldn’t be able to vote.

It was in the summer of 2016, when the Florida heat was coming to a peak and I was growing more and more dejected in my battle with immigration that it struck me—I might not have a voice in the form of a vote, but I definitely have a voice in the form of influence. I started volunteering for the Democratic Party of Florida. I was out there canvasing and registering people to vote, making sure that they knew how important their vote was—especially in the highly contested state of Florida. The voter registration deadline came and went, then came election night.

I sat down on election night with an election bingo map that I had made myself, I had predicted the states that would go red and which would go blue. I sat down to do homework with the CNN app handy to track the election. After an hour of finding myself getting absolutely no work done, I grabbed a glass of wine and sat in front of the TV, refreshing the CNN app, texting all of my friends, watching county after county go red, then state after state.

My mom isn’t really interested in politics. As immigrants, when we first arrived in Florida in late 1999 her priority was survival. Before she went to bed that night, she texted me, “Déjame saber quién ganó por la mañana,”—let me know who wins in the morning.

I woke up the morning of November ninth with my heart in the pit of my stomach. I barely slept that night, I was lethargic, I didn’t want to go to school, and on the drive to campus I found myself crying. My first thought that morning was how do I tell her? How do I tell my strong Latina mother that the country that she left her culture, her friends, her family, and everything she’d ever known for doesn’t care about her?

By that evening, my disbelief and misery turned into outrage. This country wasn’t going to get to toss me, or any other marginalized individual to the side. I didn’t get to vote, but my voice was going to be heard. That night I taped four sheets of construction paper together, scrawled “F*** Tr***” across it in permanent marker and marched on the capitol.

Exactly one month later, I got my citizenship. I signed petitions, I wrote to senators, I exhausted all of my resources in trying to prevent the inevitable. Then the delegates voted, and then came January 20th. I actively boycotted the inauguration and once more began to feel that sense of hopelessness.

While I was at work, I received a message from one of my friends, “hey—are you going to the march tomorrow?”

I dropped all of my plans and rushed to her house, we made Nasty Woman T-shirts and colorful protest signs. We drove through awful traffic the next morning and met in Rail Road Square. To our amazement, the relatively small city of Tallahassee, Florida had shown out by the thousands to support the Women’s March. We walked through the rain to the campus of Florida A & M University in droves. We didn’t all fit in the rec center where we regrouped—people had to be turned away at the door because we were at capacity. I was soaking wet and shaking, but in looking around me I was reinvigorated. People of all colors, cultures, ages, religions, and gender where there, all speaking with messages of love, solidarity, and support.

And it was in that moment when the true value of protest hit me. To put it plainly, the government and those in power right now might suck. Like, really suck. But, despite we’re still privileged to live in a democracy. As I sloshed through wind and rain wearing my Nasty Woman shirt proudly, I chanted “show me what democracy looks like, this is what democracy looks like!”

That’s the beauty of the protest. The unfortunate truth is that while those in power might not care about people of color, immigrants, the disabled, women, refugees, members of the LGBTQ+ community, they are not America. We are America, our voices, our passions, and our differences are America. It was immigrants, religious dissidents, refugees, and people of diverse backgrounds seeking asylum that built the idea of America that we celebrate today. And that gave me comfort. My presence, or anyone’s presence at that protest might have made zero difference in the grand scheme of things. But that’s okay, because I never have to tell my mom that this country doesn’t care about her—I can see that it does in the faces of everyone who marches with me.

Save the Date: Amplify Austin March 2 – 3

 

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Amplify Austin Day 2017 is less than 2 weeks away!  Latinitas is looking to raise $10,000 so that 100 girls can attend our 4-week summer camp, where they will develop valuable tech and media skills with the help of visiting mentors and artists and take field trips to local tech companies. Last year, they visited Dell, General Motors, Blackbaud, and Google. The weekly camp themes are Cine Chica, Tech Chica, Fashion Forward, and Healthy Chica. Help us #AmplifyFun for girls in our Latinitas programs by scheduling your donation today at: www.amplifyatx.org/latinitas.

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Your donation helps us fund tech education.

9000 new tech jobs are coming to Austin by 2017. However, women make up less than 17% of these companies; women of color a dismal 1%. Media doesn’t fare much better as the National Society of Newspaper Editors reports a drop in reporters of color in the last ten years down to 2% of newsrooms.

Screen Shot 2017-02-21 at 5.18.30 PMNow let’s look at future of Austin. 60% of Austin’s public schools is Hispanic. That’s 50 of 84,000 students. Average family income for Hispanics in Austin: $32,000 making technology an unaffordable luxury. So, the city has a growing tech industry and a growing diverse population with barriers to tech. Latinitas is bridging that gap with training, culturally-relevant activities and mentors who reflect service population – making Latinitas one of the only bilingual tech education organizations in Austin and one of a handful, nationally.

Latinitas serves Austin’s poorest. Of the 300 girls Latinitas that meet weekly in Austin, over 95% live below the poverty level in neighborhoods that have higher than average rates of arrests for gun violence, drugs and gang activity. In Latinitas, girls learn the latest Web 2.0 platforms to design websites, produce video, record audio, blog, do photography, develop video games and apps and, recently – to code video games and robots.

Latinitas also connects Hispanic girls and teens with professional Latinas and other women of color through field trips, program visits or virtual mentoring.

And it works. Latinitas is reaching girls others aren’t. 63% of girls who attended Latinitas’ Code Chica Conferences had never had a coding lesson before.

16422919_885358428272292_601017221241945639_oBy meeting girls where they are at such as schools, public libraries, the Housing Authority or community centers makes coding, game design and app development accessible to one of the fastest growing demographics in our city. Latinitas in the long run is showing some amazing outcomes, 93% of Latinitas program alumni are graduating high school, 81% identify as a college student, that’s in light of having the highest school drop out rates (30%).

Latinitas has been defeating stereotypes not only based in gender, but also in culture for some time now.

Latinitas is not scrambling to connect young Latinas with the big picture future of Austin, it’s one of the models. Latinitas has evolved from its origins in magazine publishing to the innovative world we live in today and provides technology education and training so Austin will not have to look further than its own backyard for future tech talent.

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Life as a Migrant Student

Being a migrant student means being forced to move to different states due to parents looking for a job. These students make significant changes as they move from state to state in order to earn an income and support their family.I am one of the thousand migrant students in this country that work hard to help my parents.

The significant sacrifices and obstacles migrant students face make them strong. They face so many problems, but still manage to fine a balance between their school and life. What defines migrant students are their work ethic and willingness to keep moving forward, yet few people are aware of the hardships we, as students, face.

The Journey

Most students would say they travel, spend time with their family at the beach or in a different state during the summer, but that’s not the case for migrant students. Summertime is the opportunity to work instead of a time of relaxation. Migrant students spend their whole summer working in the fields, which is something they can choose to do or not do. However, this is a responsibility that the majority of migrant students take on in order to help their family. Their summer starts like a road trip where they travel to a new state far away from their home state.The road trip to the location is very tiring and can sometimes lead to accidents since it’s such a long ways ahead.  Looking for a place to live is just as stressful because sometimes the camps have harsh rules that must be followed and the rent most of the time is expensive.

Moving to different states means migrant students have to adapt to the new environment and work all the time. The struggles most of them have is not being able to focus on school or do other things they like because of the work schedule. The locations for work vary from Michigan to North Carolina and New Jersey.

A typical summer for a migrant student usually lasts 3 to 6 months with 12 hour work days, depending on how long the crops last. Some parents wait until school has ended to move to another state but not all. Returning to school is not easy because they don’t know if they are going back to the same school or will be able meet their friends again.

A former migrant student, Irene, has traveled to New Jersey to work in blueberry field for the past eight years. She started working right when school ends and returned to Florida when the crops end.

“My work experience is challenging because you have to work for long hours with the sun blazing over you,” adds Irene.

As the days go by migrant students learn the most valuable lessons in life. Working there allows one to realize how one must work hard in order to achieve their goals. The work conditions they face are harsh that include sun exposure (sunburn), chemicals, splinters, as well as other conditions that physically harms them.  Slowly, the summer days come to an end and the crops fade away. For some migrant students this means they can return to school, but, for others, this means moving with their parents to find additional work elsewhere.

Enrolling in a new school is the most overwhelming obstacle. Regardless whether the school system is the same or different, the students have to catch up on everything they missed since the beginning of school.

For migrant students, the start of school is not the first day of class. Rather, the first day of class is after the crops cycle has ended. Olgareli, a former migrant student, moved to North Carolina in the middle of the school year, then Michigan, and, finally, returned to Florida when school was already in session.

Academic Hardships

Starting school late is stressful because migrant students have to make up exams from last school year, catch up their current classes, as well as improve their English efficiency.Since most migrant students speak another language at home, like Spanish, they have a hard time separating the English language and Spanish language. This leads them to language, grammar, and punctuation barriers.

Common academic hardships are falling behind on school work, not having enough credits to graduate, and not being able to take certain classes because they are full or are conflict, like being too ahead, in order for the student to take the class. For example, if a student wanted to take Chemistry honors and enrolled late they might not be able to take that class because of late registration since the class is too ahead. Being a migrant student, unless they come at the start of the school, means delayed or missed opportunities.Falling behind on course work happens frequently. This influences their performance in school and can sometimes lead to dropping out. When the end of year exams start, migrant students are already in a different state because the start of another crop is starting. Missing exams is the downside of being a migrant student because the student has to make up all the exams and course work they missed.

There are resources that help migrant students, like the migrant program. In this program, migrant advocates motivate and push the students to succeed in school. Whether it is passing their final exams or catching up on their class, migrant advocates find any way to help their students.  One former migrant advocates states, “Migrant student are the strongest kids that I know because they are able to work in the field, handle moving from state to state as well as are able to maintain the schoolwork.” Migrant student work hard not only to maintain themselves, but also to maintain their family.

Latinitas Accepting Applicants for Interim Executive Director of El Paso Chapter

Latinitas is currently accepting cover letters and resumes to fill the position of Interim Executive Director for the El Paso, Texas Region.

Job Purpose and Description

The purpose of this project is as follows:

The Interim E.D. will report to the Board of Director and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

Project Description:

  • Ensure ongoing local programmatic excellence, rigorous program evaluation, and consistent quality of finance and administration, fundraising, communications, and systems; recommend timelines and resources needed to achieve the strategic goals
  • Actively engage and energize Latinitas’ volunteers, board members, event committees, alumni, partnering organizations, and funders
  • Expand local revenue generating and fundraising activities to support existing program operations and regional expansion
  • Deepen and refine all aspects of communications—from web presence to external relations with the goal of creating a stronger brand
  • Use external presence and relationships to garner new opportunities

Job Scope

Latinitas El Paso will be transitioning into a Chapter organization model in 2017.  The Interim E.D. will work alongside the Board of Directors, both Austin and El Paso-based, and the Chief Executive Officer to establish Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the El Paso Chapter. The Interim E. D. will leverage networks to increase fundraising and awareness, establish and foster existing partnerships. Work with Latinitas Development Director to increase funding for the El Paso region.

Qualifications

The Interim ED will be thoroughly committed to Latinitas’ mission. All candidates should have proven leadership, coaching, and relationship management experience. Concrete demonstrable experience and other qualifications include:

  • Advanced degree, ideally an MBA or MPA with at least 10 years of senior management experience; track record of effectively leading and regionally and/or nationally scaling a performance- and outcomes-based organization and staff; ability to point to specific examples of having developed and operationalized strategies that have taken an organization to the next stage of growth
  • Unwavering commitment to quality programs and data-driven program evaluation
  • Excellence in organizational management with the ability to coach staff, manage, and develop high-performance teams, set and achieve strategic objectives, and manage a budget
  • Past success working with a Board of Directors with the ability to cultivate existing board member relationships
  • Strong marketing, public relations, and fundraising experience with the ability to engage a wide range of stakeholders and cultures
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills; a persuasive and passionate communicator with excellent interpersonal and multidisciplinary project skills
  • Action-oriented, entrepreneurial, adaptable, and innovative approach to business planning
  • Ability to work effectively in collaboration with diverse groups of people
  • Passion, idealism, integrity, positive attitude, mission-driven, and self-directed

Budget

The position will be on a contract basis.

Timeline  

The position has been posted since January 16, 2017. This request for resumes represents the requirements for an open and competitive process. Resumes and cover letters will be accepted until Feb 28, 2017.

Contract terms and conditions will be negotiated upon selection of the Interim E.D. for this request.  All contractual terms and conditions will be subject to review by Latinitas’ legal department and will include scope, budget, schedule, and other necessary items pertaining to the project.

Proposal Evaluation Criteria

Latinitas will evaluate all submissions based on the following criteria.  To ensure consideration for this Request for Proposal, your proposal should be complete and include all of the following:

  • Overall proposal suitability: proposed solution(s) must meet the scope and needs included herein and be presented in a clear and organized manner
  • Organizational Experience: Bidders will be evaluated on their experience as it pertains to the scope of this project
  • Previous work: Bidders will be evaluated on examples of their work pertaining to client testimonials and references
  • Technical expertise and experience: Bidders must provide descriptions and documentation of staff technical expertise and experience

Please submit a cover letter and resume via email to Laura Donnelly, Chief Executive Director, at austin@latinitasmagazine.org and Jennifer Rodriguez, jmlujan@utep.edu.

ABOUT US

Latinitas, an Austin-based nonprofit organization, is dedicated to empowering Latina youth using media and technology, providing direct digital media and technology training and esteem-boosting services to nearly 3,000 girls and teens across Texas annually, 2000 in Central and 1000 more in West Texas. Latinitas envisions a future in which all Latinas are strong and confident in their image. Girls and families in Latinitas learn the latest Web 2.0 platforms to design websites, do graphic design, produce video, record audio, blog, do photography, invent social media campaigns, develop video games and mobile apps, learn coding and robotics ensuring new and diverse voices in media and technology. Latinitas also produces the first and still only magazine of its kind, Latinitasmagazine.org (25K monthly viewers) and its own social media network: MyLatinitas.com (1400 registered girls). The publications serve as an opportunity to not only address STEM skills in web development, design and digital media production, but also to publish stories and images of Latina girls and women succeeding in media and technology fields, non-traditional jobs and other ventures, capitalizing on media’s power to influence behaviors, reveal role models and validate youth of color, their culture and identity.

Latinitas enables young Latinas to achieve personal and academic success through media and technology outreach thereby addressing the critical state of Latina girls today. While Latina girls ages 12 to 17 are the largest group of minority girls in the country, they are more likely than their non-Hispanic peers to face the four most serious threats to achieving success: depression, pregnancy, substance abuse and becoming a high school drop-out. The solution lies in empowering these young Latinas, strengthening their confidence and expanding their opportunities.

OUR OBJECTIVES:

  • Provide a creative outlet for girls to express themselves, learn about their culture and discover their voice.
  • Help girls stay in school and be prepared for higher education.
  • Foster the career exploration and S.T.E.M. exposure of girls to be prepared to enter the workforce of the 21st century.
  • Connect girls with positive role models and mentors.
  • Strengthen girls’ confidence, self-esteem and cultural identity.
  • Connect girls with media and technology tools and access.
  • Promote leadership development, goal setting, social justice advocacy & community service among girls.

Latinitas is celebrating its 15th year of programming. Latinitas has been in El Paso since 2007.

Dealing with College Rejection—now what?

I remember getting rejected from my dream school like it was just yesterday. It was early spring of 2013 and I was on a class trip when I got the fateful email from The University of Chicago. “Dear Eliani, we regret to inform you,” I stopped reading there. ‘Dear Eliani?’ I scoffed. I wasn’t dear. If I was dear they would have let me in. ‘We regret to inform you,’ I rolled my eyes. If you really regretted it, you would have let me in. To say that I was crushed is an understatement. I went off to be by myself for a few hours and cried about what then felt like a great loss.

But I couldn’t mope for long. I was about to graduate, my next question—as should be yours—was “What next?” Hopefully, you’re like me and didn’t put all of your eggs in one basket and applied to multiple schools. And if you did, that’s okay too. A lot of schools have rolling admission and late deadlines, so even if you got rejected from your one school, or even all of your schools, there’s still plenty of hope that you’ll make it to college in the fall.

Despite there still being hope, it might still be tough to just get over the rejection. A few things to remember are that a degree is a degree, and your education will be just as valuable and just as much of an investment even if you have to go to a state school versus a fancy ivy league. Secondly, if you’re trying to go into a field where you will require a post graduate education—for example, if you’re trying to be a doctor, a lawyer, or a businesswoman—where you get your undergraduate degree matters a whole lot less. A lot of us are inclined to go to the fancy out of state private school. We all shoot for the Harvards, the Cornells, the Carnegies, but when you’re looking at another 6-10 years of school after high school, you have to ask yourself: do you have Harvard money?

Maybe none of this is helping, and you’re still bummed you won’t be going to your dream school in the fall. My next recommendation would be to research the schools you did get into. Find reasons to fall in love with them. Do they have a really cool tradition that you’re excited to be a part of? Do they have a budding Greek life that you wouldn’t have thought to join at your dream school? Are they in really great locations that you never would have thought to live in had you not applied?

If you’re like me, you don’t take rejection well, and despite telling yourself that you’re saving money and starting to fall in love with your new alma matter, you’re still reeling from the rejection. I remember going to my college orientation, still miserable that I wasn’t on a plane to Chicago. I also remember falling in love with my campus the second I set foot on it. I remember marveling at how different the city was from my home town. And most importantly, I remember the excitement I had as I explored and met new people, and finally felt happy to be attending my new school.

My main takeaway is this: There are plenty of fish in the sea, and even more universities for you to apply to. They might not be the school of your dreams, but they have every potential to be the schools of your successful and happy reality.

Girl Talk: Latinx and Education

business chicaAccording to the Pew Research Center, the Latinx community is the largest minority group in the country, making up about 17% of the United State’s population. However, while many Latinx students go on to pursue higher education beyond high school, many end up dropping out due to economic strains and the pressure to provide for their families rather than themselves.

Then, there are those of us whom are perhaps lucky to not be considered a sole provider for our household. Growing up in the U.S. and watching my mom struggle to make ends meet without a college education, cleaning toilets and breaking her back for hours on end in heavy labor has made me realize how important education is.

I’m not saying that other Latinx students watching their parents struggle don’t realize it either, but I guess I am privileged. As I stated before, I do not face the pressure to be the sole provider within my household — I, unlike thousands, millions, of other Latinx students, am given the opportunity to pursue higher education.

Without a college degree in the U.S., we are basically nothing – people see us as inferior and brush us off as unintelligent because we don’t speak their language or broken parts of it.

Education is important to me because I am an undocumented student and I don’t have many opportunities for financial stability without it. Undocumented students like me cannot afford to mess up anything – we have to know exactly what we want to do with our life very early on in order to plan accordingly or else the financial cost of staying an extra year in college can burden us for the rest of our lives.

Education should be important to the Latino community because people see us as crime rate and dropout statistics. We are just a number to people and they can’t see the struggle – the blood, the sweat and tears our parents go through in order to give us a better life, an education. Education should be important to the Latino community so that we can give back to everyone that helped us achieve our dreams of getting a college degree to make something of ourselves – our parents who spend hours and days on end without breaks working in harsh conditions to bring bread to the table, our teachers who go above and beyond their duty in order to encourage us to never give up even when we’re feeling at our lowest, and our friends who are always there to support us.

Education should be important to the Latino community because we deserve a future, we deserve better because we are not just some crime rate, some “stupid illegals” or another high school dropout. We are so much more than that and we need an education to prove it not only to everyone who is against us but to ourselves and to give back to everyone who once gave to us first.

Latina Leadership in Guatemalan Animal Sanctuary

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In Guatemala City there’s an animal sanctuary that helps restore injured individuals and populations, and also helps establish the re-release of native species. The sanctuary, named Asociación de Rescate y Conservación de la Vida Silvestre (ARCAS), began as the small Mayan Biosphere Reserve in 1989, but in 1995, expanded into Petén, Guatemala, and Hawaii. ARCAS was founded by a group of Guatemalan citizens, who worked alongside other organizations. While alliances have changed, volunteers have always made up the bulk of the team. Today, we can recognize the efforts of three Latina workers for the success of ARCAS.

Miriam Monterroso, the sister of ARCAS founder Tulio Monterroso, is the current Executive Director of the sanctuary. She took power of the Board of Directors in 1994, after a US NGO affiliate was revealed to be corrupt, causing the reputation of ARCAS to fall, along with economic support. Monterroso, however, was able to turn that setback around, and make the organization stronger. She partnered up with CONAP (Consejo Nacional de Àreas Protegidas, or National Protected Area Council), SIGAP (Sistema Nacional de Àreas Protegidas, or National System of Protected Areas),  San Carlos University, the Human Society International (HSI), and the ZACC (Zoos and Aquariums Committing to Conservation) accredited Columbus Zoo; each of which have helped to establish wildlife research, protection programs, or seminars. In fact, Monterosso herself has lead seminars, such as the 2010 Mangrove Seminar and 2012 ARCAS annual strategic planning seminar. She has also met with representatives across nations, such as Councilman Shinchi Kitajima of Jeju, Korea, for worldwide support. Within ARCAS itself, she has been able to expand the sanctuary into other locations, covering a larger variety of animals available for rescue. Monterosso’s latest project involves the proposed Guatemalan Animal Welfare Law. Currently, Guatemalans cannot report acts of animal cruelty. Implementation of the proposed law would set guidelines for the care of domestic pets, livestock, and even wildlife.

Another current project of ARCAS is the 2016 project to conserve the Yellow-naped Amazon, a species of parrot vulnerable to habitat loss through deforestation. Guatemalan biologist Christina Arravillaga was contracted to lead project. Some of her approaches include training local researchers on monitoring parrot data and establishing education activities at six sites. The project is considered to be a permanent program.

Lucia Garcia, the Director of ARCAS Hawaii, has also implemented programs to save a variety of species. To get to her role from her initial job as a freelance researcher, she faced obstacles like “gender inequality, lack of resources,” and “lack of enough staff.” However, she is now content with her position, claiming that it is more of a “daily passion” than job.

“I feel I have impacted wildlife population; my work here has been with the community in education and in community development. I am sure they (local children) are more conscious about their resources and will take care of (them). At the end, they are the future,” Garcia explains.

As of today, she is working on “policies and laws with the community, master plan of the marine protected area, implement(ation) of a system of trash…tourism, environmental education, migration research with the University of Naples, crawl count data with Telemark University, (and) animal rescue.” Definitely a full, but heroic schedule!

“In Guatemala, gender inequality is one of our greates(t) problem(a)s.” Lucia Garcia confesses. However, at ARCAS “we try to be a place where women have the same opportunities as men. We give equal salaries, we encourage and empower teenagers and girls to get involve(d) with (the) environment, in a way that betters their way of life.”

Considering the leadership and program coordination positions that women take in ARCAS, along with all those who support through volunteering, it can be easily seen that without allowing women in the workplace, ARCAS wouldn’t be as successful. The success of the sanctuary is important to the research and conservation of some of the world’s species, who each play a key role in the preservation of their beautiful environments and our beautiful Earth. Every individual’s contribution counts, no matter who you are, or how much you can achieve. According to Garcia, “there are going to be difficult moments, but have with yourself people that you can trust and that trust you… that will make the difficulties weaker.”

Spotlight: Diane Guerrero’s “In the Country We Love”

Latinitas and Diane

Latinitas and Diane

Written by Ari Gonzalez

Diane Guerrero is best known for her work on the hit TV shows Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin, however, Diane is also a huge activist for immigration reform and the author of the book In the Country We Love. She is the daughter of two Colombian immigrants who were deported when she was only 14 years old, leaving her completely alone in the United States. In her book In the Country We Love, Diane discusses the hardships her parents had to face during their time in America, and how she was able to get to where she is today without her parents and older brother. We had the pleasure to speak to Diane at the Texas Book Festival in Austin, Texas. about her book, as well as what it is like being a Latina in the entertainment industry.

Who did you turn to when you were afraid after your family was deported?
“I turned to my friends, I had family friends and I called them and they took me in.”

What advice do you have that may be in the same situation you were in?
“They need to inform themselves, it’s a matter of educating yourself, your family, and your community. I would say being involved as much as you can, you are a political being and you have a responsibility, and knowledge is power and once you have that under your belt then you can find different avenues where you can defend yourself.”

You have such great comedic timing, how are you able to stay so positive and be so funny after everything that you went through?
It’s the way I deal with things. If I don’t laugh, I cry, so I do my best to continue laughing. I also love laughing at my own jokes. It is something that I definitely got from my dad, he would always be so funny and laugh at his own jokes and I think that is where I get it from.”

What is it like being a Latina in the film industry?
“It is certainly difficult but not impossible as you can see. I think the first step is believing that we can, and making ourselves heard. I think it is so important that we represent ourselves and realize that we are a part of this narrative, and that we are a part of this country and that is our country too. I think it is getting better, and I am certainly not going to give up and I hope others join me in this. I think all we have to do is just show up.”

In The Country We Love tells the moving, inspirational story of a young Latina who beat the odds and accomplished her dreams. Diane Guerrero’s bravery to share her story inspires me and Latinas everywhere to try and make a difference. If you haven’t had the chance go read In The Country We Love and inform yourself on how you can help make a difference and bring more awareness to immigration reform.

Self-Love is a Revolution

Above my bedroom wall you will see a piece of paper and written on it is Love Yourself. It serves as a reminder to do just that, love myself. There is no magic book, no magic cure to self-love. Self-love can only come from one source and that is you.

You are the person that is going to get yourself out of bed, that is going to look at yourself in the mirror and give yourself the love that you deserve. As a self-identified queer Xicana, it can be hard to wake up and see the beauty in myself. As anyone who identifies as a Latina in this world, it can be difficult to see the beauty of who they are when the world is telling them that their bodies, skin and language is not enough.

You have to realize that you are worthy of living, that you are capable of fighting your past and present and that you can give the love that you’ve always needed. Whether it be repeatedly going to therapy, setting your limits, telling others to respect your boundaries, taking some time off, exercising, writing your heart out, whatever it may be, do it.

According to Ovc.org (Office for Victims of Crime), it is possible that “by the year 2050, the amount of Latinas who have experienced some form of sexual violence could reach 10.8 million.” Toxic relationships, abusive households, are a result of this sexual violence. Let go of toxic relationships, people and places that give you no growth. Realize that you are made of pure gold and deserve the best. Self-love is not easy. You will fall down, you will relapse, and you will question yourself. And that’s okay. That’s more than okay. You are a complex, multidimensional human being and with that comes flaws, mistakes and regrets.

Remember that your being is a revolution. That your hair, your body, skin color, everything that you are made up of is a revolution. And when all aspects of your life are telling you otherwise realize that self-love is an extraordinary revolution.