Good Representation—shows every Latina should watch

When I was growing up, the only Latinxs that I knew who transcended the cultural barrier between Latin and American media were Enrique Iglesias, America Ferrera, and Jennifer Lopez. When I was growing up, I didn’t know Christina Aguilera was half Ecuadorian, and people called me Ugly Betty because I had braces and was Latina. Today, you have J Balvin making the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States and Romeo Santos making songs with Nicki Minaj and Drake. You have primetime TV shows centering around the lives of a matriarchal Latina family and Kimmy Gibbler’s daughter is Argentinean. You have Guillermo Del Toro grossing hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office when Pan’s Labyrinth only grossed $83 million worldwide in 2006. While stereotypes are still rampant throughout modern American media, it’s definitely a great time to consume media as a Latinx. That said, here’s a list of shows with great representation of Hispanics/Latinxs that everyone should binge watch right now.

 

rs_1024x729-160920171249-1024-gloria-estefanJane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin is the American adaptation of the Venezuelan telenovela Juana la Virgen. It follows Jane Villanueva, a young college student living in Miami and aspiring to be an acclaimed romance author. Jane lives with her mom Xiomara and her abuela Alba, and the plot revolves around her getting pregnant, despite never having had sex. Jane the Virgin is unique and refreshing for a lot of reasons. Foremost, the main character is a Latina whose sexuality isn’t a major plot point. Jane is a virgin, she dresses modestly, and is very goal oriented with a strong emphasis on family, school, and work. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with being promiscuous, in a society where we are bombarded by the image of a sex-pot Latina, Gina Rodriguez’s portrayal of Jane is refreshing. Next, the show highlights on a very important facet of Hispanic/Latinx culture: a multigenerational matriarchy. It’s very common in our culture to grow up with your abuela as almost a second mom, and for mom to be the head of the household, more so when up to 43% of Hispanic women are single mothers, according to 2013 census data. This quirky and offbeat romantic dramedy also highlights telenovela culture, a huge aspect of Latinx culture. Growing up in a Hispanic/Latinx household, I’m sure you can’t even count the amount of times your mom or grandma rushed to plop in front of the TV to watch their novelas, and then immediately after called their friends to gossip about what just went down. In addition to being a retelling of a Venezuelan telenovela, Jane the Virgin also incorporates aspects and tropes of novela story telling into its own story crafting, and does a great job at educating viewers who had maybe never heard of novelas.

1466451898-orange-is-the-new-black-cast-1Orange is the New Black
Jenji Kohan is the acclaimed creator of the Showtime favorite Weeds, so when I heard she also created Orange is the New Black (OITNB), I was there. Though it was Kohan’s hilarious and masterful writing that drew me in, it was the amazing cast that kept me. With actresses like Dascha Polanco, Selenis Leyva, and Diana Guerrero filling its IMDB page, OITNB has given us so many iconic Latinas to look up to. Though all of the women on the show are in prison, one of the hallmarks of the show is its ability to humanize its characters and portray them as well rounded individuals with vivid backgrounds—even series villains like Pensatucky or Gloria Mendoza. One of the most compelling aspects of the story told on OITNB is that there are always two, sometimes three or more sides to the tale. Yes, all of these women committed crimes—sometimes heinous ones—to land themselves in jail, they’re all women nonetheless. Moreover, the Netflix show is based on a true story from Piper Kerman’s eponymous book about her year in a women’s correctional facility. OITNB peels back the curtain on what it’s like to be an incarcerated woman, and it does it in such a colorful—both in race and tone—and candid way.

 

629932948-1One Day at a Time
Before Valerie Bertinelli was the Nutrisystem spokeswoman that I was introduced to, she was one of the top billed cast members for the iconic 70s and 80s sitcom, One Day at a Time. Debuting in 2017, Netflix reimagined the sitcom—this time with a Cuban family. The reboot of One Day at a Time follows Penelope Alvarez, a recently divorced war veteran who lives with her mom (played by the living legend Rita Moreno) and her two children. Like Jane the Virgin, One Day at a Time explores the multigenerational matriarchy that is so common in Hispanic/Latinx families, but it also does so much more. It explores femininity as a young Latina woman in the form of Penelope’s daughter’s quinceñera, and pressure from abuela to be more “girly.” It very tastefully grapples with the topic of undocumented status and deportation. What’s more is that the show transcends issues that just affect Hispanics/Latinxs—it’s the true definition of intersectional entertainment. In its lighthearted and joking tone, it talks about the gender gap and racism, it tackles the stigma of mental illness in communities of color, it even touches on topics like war and the treatment of veterans. One Day at a Time is truly one of the freshest and most compelling sitcoms I’ve come across in a long time, and it does it all while making you laugh, too.

 

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3%

3% is an independent science fiction, dystopian thriller series from Brazil, making it Netflix’s first original Brazilian production and the second to be produced in Latin America. In 3%, people live in overall squalor, but are given a chance to traverse to the “better side;” that side being a life of progress and affluence in a mysterious location referred to only as the Offshore. The one caveat is that only 3% of the population will ever get the chance to make it to the Offshore, and thus the apt title. This series is sort of like a Brazilian Hunger Games, but way grittier, way cooler, and with a way more diverse cast. As Brazil is one of the most racially diverse countries in the world, it would be an utter shame if 3% didn’t have a hugely multiethnic cast. Alas, the casting didn’t let us down as it boasts a plethora of Afro-Latinos, light skinned Latinos, and everything in between. If you ever hear the words “all Latinos look the same,” refer whoever said it to this show. Diversity aside, the show is really good. After watching one episode, my friends and I found ourselves addicted and thoroughly attached to the characters on screen. It was so interesting to see how race and ethnicity are treated in a multicultural country that isn’t the United States. In addition to racial representation, there was amazing gender representation—I’m talking girl power to the max with strong, well rounded female characters interested in way more than romance. If you’re interested in action, mystery, and some great representation, look no further than 3%.

History of Multicultural Greek Organizations

Countless sources cite the positives of joining a sorority in college as a great way to make friends, an easy way to get into service and leadership, good access to an academic support system, and an excellent way to build a huge post-grad network. Furthermore, according to Elite Daily, students who “go Greek” in college are more likely to graduate. Moreover, according to the Fraternity Advisor, both the first female senator and first female astronaut were Greek, and 63% of the U.S. President’s cabinet members since 1900 have been Greek. That said, it’s no wonder there are an estimated 9 million Greek members nationally (both undergraduate and post-graduate).

Despite all of this data, you might still be looking at a sorority and thinking “that’s not for me.” Speaking from personal experience, I really wanted to join a sorority when I got to college, but what I knew about sororities didn’t click with me—I just didn’t see myself as a “sorority girl.” But one day, as I was walking through the student union at my campus, I came across a sorority whose banner was written in Spanish, whose members all had a strong air of individuality, and who were—for the most part—Latina. That’s when I knew I had found my home in multicultural Greek life.

But first, some history on Greek life in the United States:

The types of sororities and fraternities that are popularized in western culture belong to one of two councils: the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) and the Inter-Fraternity Conference (IFC). The former comprises of 26 sororities, and the latter of 69 fraternities. Greek life in the United States was started in 1776 by Phi Beta Kappa At the College of William and Mary, who are known as the first fraternity. It wasn’t until 1852 that the first sorority, Alpha Delta Pi, was founded at Wesleyan Female College.

Over fifty years later at Cornell University, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. was founded in 1906. Two years later in 1908 at Howard University, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. was founded. These two organizations would go on to be known as the first historically black fraternal organizations, and members of the National Pan-Hellenic Council. This council, also known as “The Divine Nine,” comprises of nine sororities and fraternities rich in African-American history and culture.

In 1931, a new kind of fraternal organization arose when Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity, Inc. was founded. This fraternity is known as the oldest Latino fraternal organization in existence. In 1975, two more organizations were founded: Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity, Inc., and Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc.—the latter being the first Latina sorority in the United States. Since then, multicultural Greek Life has been on the rise, a and oftentimes, students entering college don’t even know about its existence.

Multicultural Greek organizations can’t be grouped into one council like the other organizations because multiple councils exist. For example, there’s the National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations (NALFO), which is home to seventeen sororities and fraternities, from Alpha Pi Sigma Sorority, Inc., to La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity Inc.; from Hermandad de Sigma Iota Alpha, Inc., to Omega Phi Beta Sorority Inc. Though you do not have to be Latino/a or Hispanic to join one of these organizations, Latino fraternal organizations are deeply rooted in Latino tradition, with a strong emphasis on unity, strength, and diversity.

That said, there are many other merits to multicultural Greek organizations aside from the more blatant “multicultural” aspect. Foremost, multicultural fraternities and sororities tend to be smaller—a lot smaller—than NPC and IFC. That means that you can expect to know all of your sorority sisters. And I don’t mean having just seen them in passing and knowing their name—I mean knowing their name, favorite color, family history, having cried in their car at least twice, and meeting for Sunday brunch every week. In addition, a smaller chapter makes it more likely that you’ll get to work on the projects you’re interested in, and your opinions will be more likely to be heard. Moreover, though money should never be the thing that makes you choose an organization or hold you back from joining one, multicultural organizations do tend to be a little bit cheaper than NPC and IFC.

Of course, there are cons to joining  a multicultural organization. Because they are smaller, be prepared to work hard. Multicultural organizations do about just as much as their bigger NPC and IFC counterparts—that means parties, fundraisers, socials, recruitment, and community service done on a similar scale but with a fraction of the people to help. That just means that when you join a multicultural organization, you need to be prepared to work hard.

So, whether you’re about to start college or it’s still a few years away, or maybe you’re already there and are interested in a sorority, make sure to look into your current of future school’s roster of multicultural organizations. If you’re ready to work hard and live proudly in your culture and tradition, all the while still enjoying the benefits of being in a “normal” sorority, be sure to give multicultural Greek life a chance!

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!

How My Tía Became My College Goals

Lindsy Castillo

Lindsy Castillo

Written by Lindsy Castillo

As a kid, everybody had somebody to look up to as their role model, such as Superman or a Disney princess. Even though there was a time that I had wanted to be Cinderella, I later realized that somebody even better and closer to me would be my role model: my aunt, Jazmin.

When my aunt graduated high school, she had her mind set on going to a good college and pursuing her dreams of majoring in the psychology field. I recall her always calling to check up on the family. I would often talk to her, despite the fact that I was in preschool. There was a time that my family and I went to go visit her, and I thought that it was really cool that she lived with friends out of town while she went to school. I remember seeing how much fun she had and I suddenly became curious about attending college.

As things came up, she ended up leaving before she could finish school, so she decided to come back home and get a job. I was happy when she came back home. Even though once in a while I would obtain an attitude with her or get mad at simple things, such as the color she would fill in the butterfly on my coloring book, I would mostly have a good time with her.

After working with children, she decided that she would attend and finish school once again at the University of Texas at El Paso for a degree in education. Once my 5th grade year had started, she also began attending school. I was excited for her because I had always overheard her discussing with my mom and grandmother about going back and finishing college. Once she began to attend college again, she got very busy with homework and classes, which I secretly didn’t like. I knew that she was doing this because she had a passion for working with children and wanted to overcome statistics for young Latinas. I noticed that she was really committed and into what she was learning. She went above and beyond to make sure that none of the grades in her class were average or mediocre.

All the hard work has paid off. She is now a teacher at a middle school in El Paso, Texas. She is a teacher and is a first generation graduate from my family, which makes me really proud for her. It is obvious that she loves what she does. She’s always talking about how proud she is of her students, and how much progress is being made. There’s never a moment that she doesn’t think of her class. She could see the smallest toy, and say, “Oh that’s a character from one of my student’s favorite show.” I think that it’s amazing that she takes the time to get to know every one of her students, outside of schoolwork that is shown.

I think what inspires me the most about her is that she has never allowed sexism or racism to become an obstacle that she’d face during her college years. She believes that anybody that tries, believes in themselves, and has the right mindset can accomplish their dreams and goals. Whenever I think about giving up, I think of how she got things done and stayed committed to focusing on her career. Just the fact that I know that she tried her hardest and pushed herself past her limit makes me want to finish school and try my hardest at the things that I do. I want to go to college because of her, and because I think that it’s my responsibility as a teenage girl with a Mexican background to show people who doubt certain races or sexes that it can be done.

Preparing for College

Preparing for college requires more than motivation to go to school. It is important to take control of being able to have a good balance in everything. I like to go and talk to my teachers for each subject and see if I have any missing assignments or low grades that I can make up. If I have questions for my teachers, I make sure that I ask before the assignment or test is due. Taking control shows initiative on one’s own part. Not only does it help, but it feels amazing to know that everything is done and out of the way.

Another thing that I think will be crucial is not losing sight of what goals and dreams are being set. I’ve heard of a few people that just give up on college and end up regretting it later. I believe that if something is in the process of being done, it might as well be finished. A few distractions probably won’t be worth quitting something that is a passion.

Girl Talk: Dieting and Eating Disorders

Through various forms of media Latinas are seen to be either “short, fat, ugly, poor, uneducated, or gangster,” or “sexy, exotic, naughty, and beautiful.” Apparently, in the eyes of the media, we are either maids or accessory girlfriends- a portrayal of less than 1% of the actual Latina population. Such a phenomena is known as underrepresented bias.

Underrepresented bias, however, can be misleading and dangerous. For example, if a doctor has an underrepresented bias of cancer test results, that means the doctor probably took a sample of benign cells only, even though cancerous cells were present. He or she then concluded that the patient didn’t have cancer. Without a second opinion, this patient might never get the treatment he or she needs to recover.

For young Latinas, the media’s underrepresented bias towards Latinas unconsciously implants lies into their brain, which can lead to skewed self-identity. They might feel that as a Latina they can only succeed if they play the role of a sexy, accessory girlfriend, or incorrectly assume that they are destined to be “low-lives.” Worse, they might begin to associate “good looks” to success, and “ugliness” to failure.

More and more adolescents resort to dieting, and eventually disordered eating, to attain their idealized figure. A diet can be healthy, but not always. A person (or animal’s) diet needs to specifically fulfill their needs. Some people need to stay away from gluten, due to Celiac Disease. Others might need more protein in order to build muscle. Most of the time, the media tries to tell us that certain diets can help one “lose weight fast” by cutting calories, carbohydrates, or fats. While their claims may be true, it doesn’t mean that this kind of diet is healthy for everyone. Calories, carbohydrates, and fats are required at different quantities for different people, and are essential to life. Nonetheless, the way the media portrays these diets can influence people to believe that they’re”good, healthy diets” for everyone, justifying what can become anorexia or orthorexia.

Of course, the media isn’t the sole cause of eating disorders. Eating disorders might emerge from past experiences with bullying. They might be triggered by a highly stressful point in life, when one feels their only sense of control is in what they eat. Often times, they start off as an attempt to eat healthier, but become addiction later on. Other forms of eating disorders, like bulimia and binge eating disorder, stem from emotional eating. Lastly, there is EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified).

Among Latinas, food culture conflicts with American standards. Food can be a big part family and social life in Latin countries, but not so much in America.

“In my experience, the eating disorder started as anorexia but it was was hard to maintain because food is such an important part of my culture and it’s always being presented or pushed,” explains Anahi Ortega.

If a Latina has a bad relationship with food, her traditional family might not understand its mental and emotional value, treating it as a physical problem. The food culture also makes binge eating and bulimia easier to hide. As a result, many Latinas go undiagnosed. 10% of Americans were found to experience an eating disorder sometime in their life, while at least yearlong present anorexia was found to be 0.02%, bulimia at 0.92%, and binge eating disorder at 1.19% in Latinas.

The low percentages are evidence that eating disorders need to be made more aware of and become less of a taboo to Hispanic culture.

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.

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.

Mi Familia: Grandma Jenny

My Great-grandma Jenny has always been a role model for me. Every Wednesday she heads over to Juarez, where she has her ministry Jehova Proveera Ministerio. As a ministry rather than a church, Jehova Proveera Ministerio  not only teaches the Word, but also provides those in poverty with necessities like food and clothing. On occasion, treats might also be provided. On Christmas, for example, toys are given to the children, and there is a large feast.

“People are looking for hope. They need it,” my grandma claims. “But a lot of people want hand-me-outs from places that don’t teach the Word.”

For my grandma, scripture has always been her source of inspiration and direction in life. 34 years ago, when the ministry began, it was a series of Bible verses that convinced her that beginning the ministry was God’s will.

The idea to alleviate the less fortunate came from the common Biblical theme to help those in need.

“We went to church and were following the teachings of Jesus,” my grandma attributed.

At first my great-grandma and her husband Ray Tapia helped another ministry. During those years there were “more pure people. And they were hungry. They needed clothes.”

Seeing the tragic reality, my grandma prayed that  “God would take us to Juarez,” and that “Jesus would let us know by scripture that it was okay to start the ministry.”

These verses led Grandma Jenny and Grandpa Ray to believe that God has given His consent, the first being found on a certificate my great-grandpa earned in a church group:

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

                                                                                            -II Corinthians 5:18-20

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

                                                                                                      -James 2:15-17

 

When my grandparents set out to start the ministry, a woman from one of the ministries they worked with told them that they could have their “ministry here in the outdoors.”

Up went the chairs, picnic tables, and groups of volunteers. Eventually, a building with a large room for worship, a bathroom, kid’s room, and a kitchen, would be built.

Although finding enough money to build or buy supplies for the ministry can be difficult, and transporting goods across the border can be a hassle, my grandma says that “God has [always] supplied for us. People always donate.”

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“One of the ministries that helped us was [the] YouthWorks Foundation [of Minnesota],” my grandma remembers. “[The] Youth stopped coming because of the shootings (in Juarez). Parents were concerned. But they (the youth volunteers) were the primary constructors.” In fact, it was the youth who built the ministry that stands today. Young people often told my grandma that they would volunteer to help educate others, but ended up being the ones who learned the true meaning of faith.

“They (individuals whom live in poverty) were happy even though they had nothing. The people were very grateful. It made us happy to see them come for the Word of God on their own.” Grandma Jenny testifies. She suggests that if you want to help a cause, you “need to go visit and see first-hand.”

Ever since she began the ministry, my grandma has “more peace” and can “see the potential in people and what they can do if they trust God.” As a teenager, she considered herself average.

“I didn’t finish high school because I wanted a job to buy nice clothes. I got married early,” my grandma laughs, regretting that she never completed her education. Education is something she values highly now, striving for each child in the ministry to have the chance to attend school.

There are about 50 children in all. Half in elementary, and half in junior high. The junior high students go to class in the morning and get out in time for lunch. Afterward, the elementary students go for their schooling, coming back later in the afternoon. Thus, every year, my grandma fundraises for uniforms and school supplies for each of these children.

On a typical day, the first thing my grandma and her four helpers (a cook and three other volunteers. Originally, my great-grandpa was the pastor, but after he died, a pastor comes and does the preaching and music.) do is discipleship and worship, which involves guitar and piano-based Christian music. Then, the children go to Bible study while the adults listen to the preaching. Afterward, the children are fed first, before or after school (depending on the time they go.). The adults are then fed and given a sack of beans, rice, and manseca (corn meal) each, for the remainder of the week.

“The Lord has been good to us. We love the people and they love Him. That’s what makes it work,”my grandma explains. That is the message she wants to instill in future generations. If you want to make a difference, you need motivation, and you’ll need to love God. For love conquers all.

My grandma has that kind of love and passion. While some people think that people join her ministry just to eat, my grandma sees it differently. What she sees is people who are not only physically, but spiritually hungry. When they are shown love through the way God’s people provide for them physically, they inevitably feel love for God Himself.

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.