Fighting Latina Stereotypes

Chicas share their thoughts on Latina stereotypes.

“In the media, Latinas are usually portrayed as three silly and flat characters: the chola, the maid, and the home wrecker. The chola portrays the typical thin eyebrowed, thug girl that goes around low income neighborhoods beating everyone up. With this stereotype the ‘chola’ aesthetic is slandered and ridiculed. The maid represents the cleaning lady who takes care of the home and raises the kids in almost every TV show. Finally, the home wrecker, represents an over-sexualized Latina woman who is what every married woman worries will take her husband out from under her. Usually she is nothing more than a wicked gold digging mistress that steals a marriage’s happiness.

However, we as Latinas should not let these stereotypes define us. I am proud of the chola community’s aesthetic and how they are able to form a new style of makeup that took the 1990s Latina community by storm. I am proud of our fellow women working as maids, trying to make a living in order to raise their children right and give them a better life. I am proud of all Latina women that are judged based on their body. I want ALL LATINAS to know that their body does not define them and they are more than just a set of hips for someone to look at.” – Paola, 18

 

That Mexicans are dirty, that they never finish anything they start, they’re always late….all these silly stereotypes, are just that. Stereotypes.

Those ideas we tend to form about certain people or groups of people without taking the chance to really get to know them.

 Some of the most hardworking people I know are in fact Mexican or of Mexican descent — starting with my parents, who have worked their whole lives just to give my brothers and I a comfortable life. And I am sure many other parents are just the same. To me these stereotypes are so silly, they are not true and do not describe the people around me — my family, friends, those who share my culture. At times the stereotypes upset me and make me mad.

But how many times do we fall into stereotypes of other cultures different from ours?

It’s not just about fighting the stereotypes about our culture that bother us, but also trying not to make any about others.

Stereotypes are silly!! Doesn’t matter who they are about!” – Itzel Barraza, 24

Spotlight: Latina Activists

Armed with a powerful voice and a passion for civil rights, these woman made a huge impact with their activism.

55e0ea00650a118795263a90450ac488Rigoberta Menchu, Guatemalan activist, won a Nobel Peace Award in 1992 for her contributions to civil rights campaigns. Born and raised in Guatemala, she overcame civil disobedience and grief. Various members of her family were tortured, which includes her mother and father. As a strong-willed woman, she overcame a lot and has made an impact in her community.

 

 

Photo Credit: NYdailynews.com

Photo Credit: NYdailynews.com

Claudia de la Cruz
She is a Cuban activist who helps young women in Washington and New York with her campaign D.U.B. (Du Urban Butterflies Youth Leadership Development Project). Born on February 5, 1986, she witnessed countless harassments and injustice against immigrants in her neighborhood. She found Du Urban Butterflies Youth Leadership Development Project (D.U.B.), which helps young women all over Washington and New York.

253e696746f398ef3a19a2e05d936eabJovita Idár
Prominent journalist in the 19th century, who became the first president at La Liga Femenil Mexicanista, is an inspirational activist. She is known for her journalism and activism in education. Throughout her career she worked with a lot of newspaper focusing on articles facing Mexico’s problematic in politics and social issues.

OMG, She Did Not Just Say THAT!

 

I’ve always been the kind of girl who has the answer to every question in class, and for some reason my teachers prefer to pick on the kid who doesn’t pay attention.

One day, when I eleven and just in the fifth grade, I raised my hand. I wasn’t called on but I forgot to put it back down. I completely zoned out. For a couple of seconds, I sat there annoyed. “Por que nunca me escoje! Soy la unica interesada en la clase,” I thought. I knew what was going to happen next. La profesora would pick on the boy sitting in the corner scribbling T.H.U.G L.I.F.E across his knuckles, in an attempt to humiliate him for not knowing the answer. I had seen this one too many times, and so I became lost in my own thoughts.

As I stared at the different objects in the room looking for something to entertain me, I noticed the projector light cast a shadow from my teacher’s glasses. I had seen her face a million times, and it always looked the same to me. But not this time. This time, there was a shadow that lined her eyebrows and the space between them so perfectly that she appeared to have a fuller unibrow than Frida Kahlo. The five year old in me found this sight so amusing; I think I may have sat there over ten minutes, solo mirando y apreciando, just looking and appreciating the view. After all, it’s not everyday your teacher grows a unibrow.

Irritated with me for still having my hand up my teacher asked, “Alondra what do you want?” and you won’t believe what I said next…

“YOU HAVE A UNIBROW!” I blurted, almost shouted out. It was all so surreal. No lo podia creer. It felt like one of those scenarios that play out in my head when I day dream. But the laughter of children, and the burning sensation I felt across my face, that occurs only when I blush a real blush, told me that all of it had really just happened.

Fortunately for me, the class ended quickly afterwards. But the embarrassment I felt that day, still resonates with me when I tell this story ten years later. I’m sure you probably have a similar tale to tell, or that you would rather not tell… because of how embarrassing it all was for you, but trust me when I say that when you get older, all these embarrassing stories will be the ones you remember with most joy and laughter.

Live life to the fullest and enjoy every part of it, even the little mistakes. And don’t be like me or “thug life” kid, pay attention in class!

Photo Credit: rantchic.com

Photo Credit: rantchic.com

Mi Barrio: Female Saints and Heroes Exhibit

Photo Credit: Elpasoartmuseum.org

Photo Credit: Elpasoartmuseum.org

The exhibit of Female Saints and Heroes, on display at the El Paso Museum of Art (EPMA), is not unlike the women portrayed in the collection of paintings. Tucked away in the innermost point of the museum, this exhibit showcases a modest 26-piece collection of petite paintings, which would seem rather unremarkable at first glance when compared to the grandiose six-foot tall renaissance works hung in gold-plated frames just a few steps away. In fact, if you blink, you just might miss it. And yet despite its humble quality, the exhibit’s contents and its existence actually carry a great amount of significance.

Those 26 paintings are referred to as retablos (translated as “behind the altar”). The retablos are devotional images common throughout Mexico, which depict Catholic religious figures, especially saints. The EPMA houses a total of 900 of these types of paintings from the 1800s, but has chosen to display such a small portion of its collection for one very important reason; these are the only retablos that focus on women. According to the museum’s website, only 20% of all 19th century Mexican retablos depict female saints, and those that do were created specifically for a female audience. The idea was for average Mexican women to view these retablo saints as spiritual role models.

Unfortunately, it comes as no surprise that the frequency of these female-centered retablos should be so low. The history of underrepresentation of women in arts and media is long, and continues to this day. With this in mind, it is easy to walk into this exhibit ready to recognize symptoms of gender inequality or gender stereotypes. These retablos do have some disturbing recurring themes, such as the idea that a woman may become spiritually enlightened or worthy of praise only if she will suffer silently. (A trio of retablos that illustrate Saint Rita smiling peacefully with a wound on her forehead reinforce that theme.) Although the female retablos do demonstrate some signs of a male-dominated culture, it is also important to recognize the rather surprising amount of feminism that is also present in these paintings.

The Female Saints and Heroes retablos are more than portraits of women in traditional roles of housewife or mother. Churches were, and still are, considered very sacred spaces to followers of Catholicism. The fact that any female image would be hung upon a church wall as an example of a strong, wise, powerful person means that women at least had the potential to be highly regarded or admired, even in macho 19th century Mexico.  There are even two retablos featured in the exhibit, Trinity with Two Saints and Trinity and Six Saints, that include a woman amongst a group of male saints and warriors. “This exhibit is important,” reads one museum plaquard, “by reminding us how these larger-than-life women inspired the spritual devotion and action of everyday women in 19th century Mexico.”

Female retablos may be few and far between, they may be small, and they may even be a little somber at times. The point is that they give us glimpse into the role models of the Latinas who came before us. They are portraits of the women who many of our great, great grandmothers prayed to be like. This exhibit gives a space to the retablos that inspired the wisdom and strength of Mexican women who may not have had their voices heard in the 19th century, but who passed on those traits to the Latinas raising their voices and claiming their own space in the 21st century.

The Female Saints and Heroes exhibit is featured at the El Paso Museum of art through November 6.

True Stories: Cultural Struggles

Fandi and Ariadne share their experience with cultural obstacles.

“I’ve had struggles with my culture before, and one of the most recent ones has been when I decided to come to study here in the US, my parents where really happy about it but the rest of my family wasn’t exactly delighted with this.

My grandparents are one of those old, very traditional couples where the man is a “macho” and the woman is more submissive to him, and on top of that they are not very fond of changes or new things. And when I told them about this they weren’t happy about it, they told me that I was going to change completely, that I was going to forget my family, my Mexican traditions and even Spanish!

It was a challenge for me and for them to understand my decision; they were mad at me and used to tell my parents to stop me from going on a different path than the rest of my family. But my parents were really supportive and didn’t let my grandpa intervene in my future.

I think it’s been one of the biggest struggles related to my culture because it wasn’t any kind of discrimination or a stranger; the ones who were affecting me where my grandparents!

I understand their concerns, and I get that they have different opinions, but they’re my family! And they were trying to stop me. Later in time, before my grandpa died, my dad told me that he was afraid that no one would talk to me and that he always thought that I was going to be rejected everywhere for being Mexican.

A few months later when I got accepted to college, he was the happiest one; he was telling everyone in the family how I was going to succeed in life and all of that stuff that grandpas usually say about their grandchildren. And it was only the first step, then I started to get good grades and he told me that he was really proud of me and that he was sorry for how he behaved in the past.

Months passed and he became more ill, but that didn’t stop him from being proud of what I achieved.

So if you feel that something or someone is stopping you from what you wanna do just because you’re this or that, don’t let that stop you! Opinions will pass and maybe people will change their ideas, so if you’ve decided to do something… The only thing that I can say is go for it.” – Fandi Zapien, 19 

“My biggest struggle is… my bad english. Even though I was born in the United States, my English is not as fluent as I wish. Most of my life I was in Mexico, but my school was bilingual and had been teaching us English since Kindergarten. When I came to El Paso for college, I was able to understand English, but it was so hard for me to communicate. I felt so tiny in a place where everyone was so good with embracing the language.

Now, my english is not bad. It is easy for me to communicate and express myself. I have an accent, but they have told me that it sounds as if I were from Spain or Italy, is kind of funny, which is kind of funny.” – Ariadne Venegas, 23

 

6 Latina Olympians to Watch

maxresdefault-1Although summer may be more than halfway through already, there is still plenty to look forward to with the Rio Olympics just around the corner. As the August games approach, those prestigious spots on the U.S. national team are filling up fast, many of them by Latina athletes. Balancing elite physical training with families, academics, and careers, here are just fivesix of this summer’s many U.S. Olympians who are actively proving that Latinas are strong in mind and in body.

DIANA TAURASI is widely considered as one of the best, if not the best, female basketball players in the world. Hailing from Chino, California, Taurasi grew up speaking both Spanish and English as the daughter of an Argentinian mother and an Italian father. Her talent quickly stood out as an athlete for the University of Connecticut, where she graduated with a degree in Sociology, before becoming a WNBA rookie of the year. Taurasi has become an all-time leading scorer in the WNBA while playing for the Phoenix Mercury, though she did take a break from the American professional league this year in order to focus on her primary position on a professional women’s basketball team in Russia. “D.T.,” as she is also known, has already led the U.S. women’s basketball team to the Olympic gold in Greece, Beijing and London, and hopes to repeat the team’s success again this summer in Rio. Though Taurasi is incredibly focused and hard-working, her USA Basketball online profile also describes her as “…a true jokester when she’s not playing some serious basketball.”

MAYA DiRADO safely secured her spot in this summer’s games after winning first place for the 400-meter individual medley race at Olympic swim trials. According to a Washington Post article, this will be the swimmer’s only appearance on the Olympic stage. A native of Santa Rosa, California, DiRado graduated from Stanford University in 2014 with a degree in management science and engineering, and will be trading in her professional swim career this fall for a career as an analyst at a management consulting firm in New York City. Twenty-three-year-old Maya is also recently married to a fellow Stanford swimmer.

ANITA ALVAREZ and her competition partner, Mariya Maroleva, will be the only two representatives for U.S. synchronized swimming at the 2016 Olympics. Both of these women were on the U.S. women’s synchronized swimming team that that won gold at last year’s U.S. Open and National Championships. Alvarez, herself, is new to the west coast. She moved from upstate New York all the way two Concord, California when she was just sixteen in order to train with the U.S. National team, a difficult decision that appears to be paying off for the now nineteen-year-old athlete.

JACKIE GALLOWAY, a dual-citizen of Mexico and the United States, first appeared on everyone’s radar at age fourteen, when she became the youngest person to ever make the Mexican national taekwondo team. Now, twenty years old and residing in Dallas, Texas, Galloway’s recent successes have earned her a ranking as number four in the world, and a spot on the U.S. team in Rio. Along with being a world-class athlete, Jackie is also a scientist, majoring in mechanical engineering at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

ANGELICA DELGADO is petite, without a doubt. She stands at 5 feet, 3 inches tall, and weighs only 114lbs. Just looking at her, you might not guess that she is actually a four-time national champion in Judo, ranked twentieth in the world, and first in the U.S. A twenty-six-year-old first generation child of Cuban parents, Delgado is entirely aware of the value of an education, as she currently attends Florida International University. She is also aware of the impact that her success could have on her community. Angelica’s Facebook profile reads, “Coming from a lower-middle class family has taught me that dreams don’t just simply come true; you must work, grind and hustle to make them a reality. I will work, grind and hustle to become the first Hispanic-American to win an Olympic gold medal in Judo.”

LAURIE HERNANDEZ is a typical teenager in many ways; she enjoys painting her nails, listens to pop and EDM music, and walks around with a bubbly attitude and wide smile wherever she goes. Unlike most other sixteen-year-olds, however, this New Jersey native has devoted most of her young life to rigorous gymnastics training. Hernandez has even been home-schooled since third grade in order to concentrate more on her sport of choice. The sacrifice has definitely paid off for Hernandez, though, as her third place all-around finish at the U.S. Olympic trials last month earned her a well-deserved ticket to Rio. This is only her first year transitioning from junior to senior-level competition, and the “Human Emoji” (a nickname referring to the athlete’s emotionally expressive face) has already joined an exclusive group of Olympic gymnasts- Latinas. According to People Magazine, only a handful of Hispanic women have ever represented the U.S. in an Olympic gymnastics competition. As a second generation Puerto Rican-American, Laurie hopes that her success in the games will help to inspire future Latina olympians, saying in an interview with the NY Daily News: “People are people. If you want something, go get it. I don’t think it should matter what race you are.”

Spotlight: 5 Latina Athletes

sports

Have you heard of these leading Latina athletes? Check them out:

Diana Taurasi
Outstanding basketball player, and  two-time winner of the Big East Player of the Year award. Since her childhood, Taurasi has shown immense talent by winning several awards and tournaments. Now, she is a three-times WNBA champion, six times All-Star champion.

Amy Rodriguez
Rodriguez, a Cuban Futbol soccer player and winner of 3 gold medals and a silver medal, is known for her speed; she is a force to be recognized. Rodriguez has attended the Olympics and FIFA Women Cups, and even had to miss a couple of games during her senior year of college to attend the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Idalys Ortiz
A Cuban judoka, a practitioner of judo, and winner of 16 gold medals and 4 bronze medals, Ortiz has participated in the Olympic Games, World Championship, Panamerican Games and Panamerican Championship. In the 2008 Olympics, she earned the recognition of being the youngest Olympic medalist — at the age of 18! She is a highly accomplished judo athlete, and is one to truly admire if you are into martial arts.

Mariana Pajon
Pajon is a Colombian Olympian gold medalist and highly successful cyclist. She earned her first national title at the age of 5 and first world title at the age of 9.  Better known as La Reina del BMX, Pajon has been riding since the age of three, which has led to gaining several titles, 14 world titles to be exact, and other awards throughout her career. From being called La Reina to La Hormiga Atomica, and/or La reina and Marianita, she is a master at BMX riding.

Monica Puig

Winner of  the Premio Juventud-Nueva Promesa deal Deporte Award, Puig  is a highly accomplished Puerto Rican tennis player. In 2016, she reached her best singles ranking of world number, 36. She has won the WTA Tour Championship, International, Panamerican Championships and has participated in the Centroamerican Caribbean Games. In 2010, she became the Puerto Rican athlete of the year.

Career Spotlight: History Professor

Me_Exec_Summ_smallerIrma Victoria Montelongo received her Ph.D. in Borderlands History from the University of Texas at El Paso.  Her fields of study include Gender and Sexuality, Latin American History, U.S. History with a sub-field in Immigration Studies, and Borderlands History with a sub-field in Race and Ethnic Studies.  Her research and teaching interests focus on race, class, gender, sexuality, and criminology on the U.S.-Mexico border. Dr. Montelongo became a fellow at the Center for Collaborative Online International Learning at the State University of New York Global Center.


Q: What are your job responsibilities?

A: I am responsible for teaching three classes this semester. Also, I am the program coordinator of the online classes that UTEP offers, I coordinate professors by signing them which class are they going to be giving online and also help to train faculty. Everything that has to do with online class I am in charge of that.

Q: What are the courses that you teach?
A: I am teaching Chicano Studies, which is Social Issues, La Chicana and deals with Mexican american women and also Colonias in the United States. I teach a lot of different courses and I enjoy to see my students attending to class.

Q: What is your educational training?

A: I have a Bachelors, Masters and a PH.D in History. Also, I have sub fields in Immigration Studies, Race and Ethnicity.

Q: How did you find your current job?

A: I found my current job by applying at the university. Thank God they gave me the opportunity to impart this course. I love to teach and see that my classes are interesting to them and, because El Paso has a lot of history with latinos, I think it is important for students to know about their ancestors and background.

Q: How did you prepare for this career?

A: I came to college late.  After high school, I started working and I got into college really late. But when I started to study again I enjoyed so much my bachelors that  decided to go for my masters and as well with my PH.D. Once you get started it is like non-stop.

Q: What is your favorite part of the job?

A: My favorite part are working with my students. I like to hear the good ideas they share to the rest of the class and the way they think about certain issues.

Q: What is the most challenging part of the job?

A: Being able to balance all the responsibilities. We have to teach, write, publish and we have to find out ways we can manage our time. It is sometimes difficult to find the time to be grading essays and exams, preparing for class, etc. Balancing the time to do everything that is required can be difficult.

Q:What do you do for fun when you aren’t working?

A: I am involved in different activities within the community. One of them is the TASK Academy, which is for teenagers that have problems in their homes. We try to help the students, especially since most have problems outside of school.

 

Latina Beat: Speaking Kriol

Butterfly logoA brief explanation of my culture background: My Spanish-speaking paternal grandparents are originally from Mexico. My maternal grandmother, also originally from Mexico, spoke Yucatec Mayan and Spanish. My maternal grandfather was born in China and spoke Cantonese. My paternal grandparents gave birth to my father in Belize, and my father and his brothers were raised in Belize by my great-grandmother who was also Mayan, but spoke Spanish to my father and uncles. My mother was raised in Belize as well and grew up speaking English, Spanish, Mayan, Cantonese and Kriol. Kriol is the most popular language in Belize. It’s sort of a broken English dialect spoken with a thick Caribbean accent. My father used to speak Kriol, but he is now only fluent in Spanish and English.

Whew. I hope you got that.

Growing up in a multicultural family, I celebrated a lot of holidays, including traditional American holidays like Thanksgiving and Fourth of July. I celebrate Christmas, Easter, and Good Friday every year because my mother is Catholic. I also celebrate Mexican holidays like Cinco de Maya and Dia De Los Muertos, and I visit Belize every couple of years to celebrate the country’s Independence Day on September 21. And of course, I celebrate Chinese New Years, too!

However, there were some downsides. I was picked on in school for speaking odd. I spoke mostly Kriol at home, but I also spoke English and Spanish, and the languages sort of got mixed up in me. Instead of saying “three” I would say “tree” or instead of saying “thumb” I would say “tum” and I never knew native English speakers can distinguish simple mistakes. It didn’t help that my Asian features are most prominent. And the problem wasn’t just with my friends at school. When I went to Belize, my Belizean family made fun of me for speaking too “American.”  And my Spanish-speaking family always complain about how I cannot roll my r’s properly and that I speak Spanish like a gringa, but my accent was definitely not “white,” it was Caribbean. For a long time, I felt like I wasn’t fluent in any language.

As you can see, it’s a mess.

However, now I’ve learned that the different cultures that are a part of me is what makes me uniquely beautiful. ‘Til this day, Kriol is still the language I’m most comfortable speaking. I do not care what people think about my accent because I know I can speak English, Spanish, and Kriol – just in my own way. And that’s okay.

Get Real: Boosting Self-Esteem

Butterfly logoOur Latinitas club talked about self-esteem issues and wrote about a time they felt they had low confidence. Then they gave advice to each other on these issues and moments.

“I’m always fighting with my siblings. I don’t feel good that my older sister is better in soccer than me. Also, I don’t feel very secure when I don’t pass the tests that we have. Also, on Instagram my sister posted a picture of myself and they said that I looked ugly and fat.”

Advice: You shouldn’t really care what they think about you, what matters is what you think about yourself. You should feel glad for your sister because there might be things you are good at and she is not. Nobody in this world is perfect and  it’s never wrong to feel insecure. You are not fat or ugly.

“I would get bullied because of how short I was so one of these guys would call me “shorty” I know this may not hurt others but it does to me because I have been through a lot in the past so it hurts.”

Advice: You should talk to your sister and papi and Destiny. “Shorty” can hurt a lot. You should talk to them about how you feel.

“When I was little I felt bad about myself because my parents couldn’t afford buying me a certain kind of clothes, so the kids used to bully me. I never told anyone or said anything because that was the only person I could hang out with. So when I would wear that clothes I felt bad for myself like, ‘why can’t I just be like everybody else?’ I just felt bad because I never said anything.”

Advice: My advice to you is to not care about what people say about how you look. You should care what’s inside of you.