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.

And We’ll Keep on Dancing

On June 12, 2016, 49 Queer Latinx and Black people were killed in Pulse, a popular queer POC nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Several news outlets deemed it as the worst mass shooting in United States history. * As soon as the news was heard, several individuals and communities came together to host vigils for the 49 Latinx and Black Queer lives that were lost to violence. To grieve, to mourn, to be angry.

However, mainstream news outlets such as CNN automatically pointed to the mass shooter and his relationship with Islam. Conversations about gun control and Islamophobia were the main concerns about this tragedy. How about the deep homophobia that was the anchor of the shooting? How about the toxic masculinity that the shooter was obviously dealing with? How about the parents who’s biggest fear of losing their child to explicit queer violence actually came true? How about how ethnicity and race were at the forefront of this tragedy?

To all the beautiful queer Latinx lives that are no longer with us, to the lives that were lost to the homophobic violence, to the lives that got whitewashed by the mainstream media, your lives mattered and they still do. The queer latinx communities all over the world will never forget the beautiful, complex, and resilient lives that were dancing and living their queer Latinx lives.

Your lives will be honored by one of the greatest revolutions: dancing. Our souls will remember the fear and systemic violence that was enacted on our communities and dance with even more joy and resilience. We’ll dance the salsa, the bachata, the merengue with the bodies that we were given and always remember to be free whenever we have a chance. And we’ll honor you with honoring ourselves and our true queer, Latinx selves.

 *The Wounded Knee Massacre that happened in South Dakota in 1890 has been the worst massacre in the United States.

Rape Culture in Hispanic Communities

Teens holding handsYou will not find a single family sitcom that does not have at least one episode dedicated to “the talk.” The likelihood of flipping through the TV channels late at night and stumbling upon a scene of a teenager in 1980’s acid-wash jeans, having a heart-to-heart about the birds and the bees with their shoulder-padded parent, is much greater than your chance of being struck by lightning. The chances that this conversation would be taking place in a Hispanic household, though? Not so great.

In the Hispanic culture, discussing sex with your child is seen widely as taboo, or inappropriate. For many Hispanic youth, the uncomfortable acknowledgement of a transition from childhood to young adulthood is made only in the form of a short statement: be careful. These two simple words mean something too simple when told to a son; be careful not to get her pregnant. Yet when told to a daughter, their meaning changes drastically from advice to warning. For a Hispanic woman, ten cuidado often translates to, “Be careful… not to show too much. Be careful… not to give the wrong idea. Be careful… not to get raped.”

Sexual assault is an issue that affects innocent women across all cultures. In the United States, 1 in 5 women, both Hispanic and non-Hispanic, are sexually assaulted during their lifetime. The collection of behaviors and attitudes that encourage or allow for that staggering statistic to exist is referred to as rape culture.

There are specific challenges that Hispanic women face, which perpetuate rape culture and the rate of sexual assault. For example, while Hispanic women are not assaulted more frequently than non-Hispanic women, they are more likely to be assaulted by a spouse or intimate partner. In the Hispanic culture, a woman’s primary role is traditionally thought to be as the homemaker, a wife and a mother. There is nothing wrong with a woman choosing to devote all of her attention to her family. But the key word here is “choice.” According to the Women of Color Network, 8% of Latinas are sexually assaulted by a spouse or partner during their lifetime. In many of these situations, a woman will not seek help or report the assault, because there is so much pressure on Hispanic women to comply with their husbands, or with men in general.

As awful and inexcusable as sexual assault is, it does happen. So while the many causes that lead to sexual assault should still be addressed, it is also important the after-effects of sexual assault be addressed as well. Resources that offer counseling, medical and legal help to victims of sexual assault are important to one’s recovery. If it weren’t difficult enough for victims to seek out this type of assistance, (giving a testimony of a sexual assault forces the victim to experience the same emotional trauma all over again, a reason why 80% of all sexual assaults go unreported) language barriers pose additional headaches. “Many rape crisis centers do not have a Spanish-speaking advocate available,” says the Office of Victims of Crimes, “so the phrase ‘I’m sorry I don’t speak Spanish’ may be the only response many Spanish-speaking victims receive.” With 41 million native Spanish speakers living in the U.S. today, the demand for bilingual resource centers is great, and the supply of them is small.

The problem of sexual assault and rape culture, especially in Hispanic communities, is present, and goes far beyond this article. And though a solution will not come overnight, countering rape culture can begin with informing each other on the importance of consent, with teaching young men not to rape, instead of teaching young women not to get raped, and with making victims feel brave and supported when they decide to share their experiences with sexual assault, not judged or blamed. This topic of conversation is not pleasant, and it is not comfortable. But if I have learned anything from sitcom episodes about “the talk,” is that healthy, open discourse usually ends in understanding, improvement, and the applause of a live studio audience.

Counting the Votes

821-ivotedstickerIt’s a sentiment that becomes even more popular during election years: “I’m not going to vote.” Those who make this declaration often follow it with such reasoning as, “My vote doesn’t even count.” Now what could be the cause for such a pessimistic attitude? It is a complex and key component of our country’s presidential election process called the electoral college.

How your vote works:

When you vote for a candidate, you are actually casting a vote for a group of electors. Electors are people chosen by the political parties in each state as people who are either loyal to their party or to their party candidate. Each state gets a certain number of electors (the number of senators plus the number of state representatives). These electors make up the electoral college, and are the actual people who vote for the president. When a candidate wins the popular vote (the vote of non-electors, a.k.a. your vote) for a state, then the group of electors for their political party also win. Those electors then get to meet and vote on who they believe the president should be. The candidate who wins the majority of electoral votes becomes president.

Why your vote counts:

The election process can be quite confusing, and many people believe it to be unfair, or undemocratic. Why should the president be chosen by a small group of people who were not even elected by population, but who were appointed by political parties? Our country’s motto is E pluribus unum, “out of many, one.” At what point do the “many” get to have a say in who their leader should be? The good news is that although the outcome of the popular vote is technically not what decides the President, it does have an important role to play. For starters, many states require electors to vote for the candidate who won that state’s popular vote. This ensures that the wishes of the total voting population are not ignored.

There have only been four occurrences in U.S. history when the winner of a presidential election was not the winner of the popular vote. This is out of 56 total presidential elections. This means that the decision of voting citizens is carried through 71% of the time. It may seem crazy for that number to be anything less than 100, but according to the Library of Congress, the founding fathers had their reasons. They believed that “the use of electors would give our country a representative president, while avoiding a corruptible national election.”

Whether you agree with the electoral college voting process or not, whether you agree with the candidates or not, forgoing your vote does not make a statement. All it does is lessen the support for the causes which you believe in. It is especially important for women of color to exercise their right to vote. It was not until the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights act that minority citizens could overcome obstacles like high poll taxes and literacy tests when trying to cast their ballots. Women only won the right to vote less than 100 years ago, with the passage of the 19th amendment in 1919. Countless people throughout history have poured their blood, sweat, and tears into fights for suffrage. That “I Voted” sticker shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Beyond the Ballot:

Voting is probably the most obvious way to make your political voice heard, but activism does not have to be limited to one day every four years. You can stand up for what you believe in by volunteering on the campaign of a politician who advocates for the same causes that you do. You can utilize social media in a positive and respectful way, sharing your opinions or links to articles that inspire you (ahem) with your friends. Activism does not have to wait until you are eighteen years old, either. Volunteer opportunities are available to all, and you can always encourage parents and adult relatives to show up at the polls. Now, if you are reallyinterested in social activism, passionate about politics, then just run for public office yourself! Get that political science degree, girl, and be the change that you want to see in your community!

Are Sororities Right For Me?

Before coming to college I thought sororities were not as inclusive with Latinas. How could I, a black haired, brown eyed, tan skinned girl, who would never be caught wearing anything other than sweat pants and sneakers, fit in with a bunch of sorority girls? Plus, weren’t sororities for girls with bad grades, who liked to drink and party? Yeah, not for me. But as it turns out, sorority and fraternity life is available to people of all backgrounds. Here at the University of Texas at Austin, I got involved with Sigma Lambda Alpha Sorority Incorporated, Señoritas Latinas en Action (SLA), and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Now, for those of you chicas who are soon to be freshman and don’t quite understand what a sorority is, here’s a quick overview as described by Ball State University:

–      A group of women formed by sisterhood and common goals and aspirations;

–      Who make a commitment to each other for life;

–      Who share in their efforts, friendship and knowledge;

–      Who grow, learn, and together make the Greek Letter Organization.

These common goals shape the foundation of a sorority, but each sorority is different with a unique vibe and dynamic.

While attending Adeleante, a university sponsored event aimed to promote Latino based clubs and organizations, I was getting ready to leave when I was stopped in my tracks by loud stomping and chanting. I turned around to find a group of girls “Strolling” on stage, dancing, stepping, and yelling their hearts out as they recited their sororities goals and values. It looked like so much fun and I felt such admiration for what they stood for that I decided to stay a few more minutes. As they stepped off stage, I watched as they walked towards their booth and in a matter of seconds I was standing there, too. While the show they put on was spectacular, I realized that although they seemed like great girls they just didn’t seem like the group for me. So, again, I decided sororities weren’t for me. I was completely done, UNTIL… I was called over by a girl with blue hair, and another dressed like the next CEO of Microsoft, and another who was dressed in gym shorts and a t-shirt, like me! Speaking with them for just a few minutes felt like I had known them all my life. That day I met my sisters, my best friends, and even some of my current roommates. I soon came to find out how Latina sororities are not like white sororities. We are loud and proud of our Latina heritage. We have cookouts, we stroll, we educate others of the different cultures, we participate in events that serve our community, and, when you feel alone and far away from your loved ones, we are a second home away from home.

While being in a sorority was the best choice for some, including myself, it’s not for everyone — and that’s okay! Keep in mind that not every sorority is the same, it’s important to review your options. Pick a sorority that builds you up, and brings out the best of you. When I told my friends I wanted to join a sorority, the first thing they told me was “don’t let them change you.” However, a good sorority WILL change you. They won’t change who you are. They will change how you are for the better. In your areas of strength they will make you confident. In your areas of weakness they will provide a safe place for growth, a hand to hold when you need guidance, and continuous support throughout your journey. You can make your experience a stereotype or you can use it to build a strong foundation for your future. That is every individual’s choice.

If you do join a sorority, you are most likely to meet a group of girls that will leave a mark in your heart for a lifetime. Sisters is not a word taken lightly. And I promise you that even after you graduate. When everyone goes back home and you are miles and miles apart, there will be snapchats and groupme notifications 24/7. There will be random trips to visit each other, and there will be tons of beautiful memories and a bond so strong that can never be forgotten.

And I’m not the only one who thinks so either, Wendy Mejia, Biomedical Engineering graduate from 2015,  says: “SLA prepared me as a leader in the work force. I owe my success in my career so far to my sisterhood; holding office as president developed my leadership and management skills that are essential in a start up environment. Being in a sorority holds many negative stigmas, however, SLA is one of the best choices I made as an undergraduate. Not to mention, I found my best friend through SLA, who I never would have met other wise.”

To find out more about your school’s sororities, visit your Student Affairs office (or website) and go to back-to-school events. Most school’s host welcoming events for greek life (sororities and fraternities) alone.

East Los High and Latinx Visibility in Hollywood

EastLosHighKey

East Los High is a teen drama series that first aired on Hulu in 2013 and has since had three very successful seasons. This show, which is meant to take place at East Los Angeles High School and its surrounding neighborhoods, has been compared to other popular teen dramas such as Degrassi andGlee. However, East Los High is different from these shows in that it focuses on the lives of Latinx teens. In fact, one of the writers and directors, Carlos Portugal, specifies that one of the goals in creating this show was to portray real-life situations that impact teens in east Los Angeles.

In order to accurately represent the Latinx teen community in east Los Angeles, the majority of the show’s cast is Latinx identifying, which is a very rare feature for Hollywood productions. It is so often the case that the majority of TV show and movie cast members in the U.S. are white. In fact, according to a recent study, only about 5% of actors in Hollywood identify as Latinx. Many believe that people of color as a whole have been poorly represented in Hollywood, which is evident in other studies as well, which suggest that Black, Asian, and Native American actors also fill a fairly small percentage of roles in Hollywood.

 

On the subject of Latinx visibility and representation in Hollywood, however, 19-year-old college student, Miriam Myers has this to say: “When I think of Latinx representation… the first thing that comes to mind is telenovelas, or other shows where the females are cast into roles that fall into a common stereotype… So even though there may be some visibility for Latinx people in Hollywood, the issue is that there is a certain type of visibility. Those that are most visible, I would argue, are those that fit the mold.” It is clear that Miriam considers this casting trend in Hollywood a problem because she, a Mexican-American identifying person herself, knows that the Latinx community has so much more to offer.

 

The creators of East Los High take pride in the fact that, once you get past the soap opera-like drama that usually attracts viewers, what you have is a show performed by actors who actually identify as Latinx and who are portraying real-life situations that impact underrepresented teens in East LA. The show covers topics such as immigration rights, financial troubles, ethnic discrimination, sexuality, and also makes use of Spanglish and bilingual dialogue. Miriam believes that it is valuable for young adults to have a true-to-life show such as this. Viewers can watch the show and say, ‘Hey, that character is totally like my mom, brother, friend, or myself!’ You don’t get that very often… [and] the fact that East Los High incorporates bilingual dialogue makes the show seem more believable… the show is giving Spanglish a sort of visibility that hasn’t has such a strong presence…”

It is clear that East Los High is a show aiming to break down barriers in Hollywood, and four seasons in, we can tell that those behind the shows are succeeding. Danielle Vega, one of East Los High’s cast members, while discussing the show’s success in an interview, was quoted to have said, “I think that Hollywood is finally starting to get it!” By saying this, Vega is implying that Hollywood is starting to realize that there is value in accurately representing the diverse cultures in this country. Miriam agrees with Vega, saying, “The fact that there are casts made up mostly of Latinx-identifying actors, or of people of color in general, is a huge step forward… Hollywood has made progress, that’s for sure. But that does not mean that the work is finished.” Working to increase Latinx visibility is certainly key at this point. It isn’t necessarily right that the Latinx community has had to overcome limitations and stereotypes in Hollywood, but it is amazingly empowering to see the Latinx leaders in the TV and movie industries overcome the odds.

How to Motivate Yourself

Girl writing

Written by Kristy Brewster

Trying to find motivation is kind of like trying to find buried treasure– it’s a little difficult. Actually, it’s VERY difficult. At least for me, anyway. I’ve always had trouble with motivation—probably because I’m a little lazy by nature. So, if motivation is something you struggle with, too, here’s a little information that I learned from one of my psychology professors at the University of Texas-Austin.

Replace “should” with “could.”
The word “should” saps motivation because it takes away your autonomy. Autonomy is what you have when you hold the ability to make your own decisions. The word “could” maximizes autonomy and, thus, increases motivation. Saying “I could study” instead of “I should study” makes it more likely that you will end up studying because you are making that decision for yourself and for what you believe to be in your best interest. Try to keep “shoulds” for moral imperatives. For example, “I should not kill someone.” Yes, you probably should not do that.

Have goals that are meaningful to you.
Invest yourself in your goals. Let’s say that you still have some studying to do for an upcoming exam. If learning is more important to you than making an A, reframe your goal so that it reflects this. Remind yourself that you are studying because you want to learn as much as you can from your class.

Keep your eyes on the prize.
What’s the prize? Do you want to become a doctor? Do you want to write novels for a living? Remember what you want and always keep it in the back of your mind. This will help get you through the most mundane of tasks.

Think about what YOU want.
Choose your own goals and toss everybody else’s ideas out of the window. You’re not going to be very motivated if you’re working towards someone else’s dream for you. Are you majoring in engineering because that’s what you want or because that’s what your parents want? Remember, no “shoulds.” Instead of thinking I “should” have a more realistic job, ask yourself:What would I do if I “could” do anything?

Have days where you schedule nothing.
Burnout is real. It’s totally okay to have a lazy day every now and then. Whether it’s once a week or once a month, having a day where you have no responsibilities allows you to recharge and go into your next work day with more motivation.

There you go! Hopefully you find these tips helpful—they’ve definitely helped me. See if they work for you and then let me know what you think in the comments. Good luck!

Female Led Blogs Worth Checking Out

latina girl on computer

The beauty of the internet is that it serves as a platform to give everyone who has access to it a voice. While there is many negativity throughout the internet, here are a few Latina/Female run-blogs that need more exposure.

Feminist Culture (feministculture.com)

Feminist Culture was started by teen feminist Alexis Moncada in March 2015. The blog accepts contributions from everyone who submits an article. The writers post articles, book suggestions, videos, and other media sources discussing every feminist issue as Moncada’s goal is to make the site as inclusive as possible through intersectional feminism.

LatinxForChange (latinxs4change.blogspot.com/)

This blog is a small time blog with contributing writers from all around. The blog addresses all kinds of issues concerning Latinxs such as racism, culture politics, and change. This is a very new blog and it is worth the read. One of my school friends occasionally submits her own articles and poetry to the blog.

Natalie Sylverster (nataliasylvester.com/blog/)

Sylvester is a more of a personal blog. Sylvester shares her experiences as a fiction writer and freelance journalist. This blog is definitely for the bookworks. Sylvester released her first book Chasing the Sun back in June 2014. Definitely check out this blog if you’re in for a laugh.

Dulce Candy (dulcecandy.com/)

Dulce Candy is a fashion and beauty blog created by Latina YouTube vlogger Dulce Tejada. Tejada posts daily her Outfit of the Day along with helpful information about where she bought her outfits and such. Even if you’re not into fashion and beauty, the blog is very aesthetically pleasing.

 

DIY – Emoji Jar

PicsArt

written by Ana-Paola Perez

This Jar is perfect for a gift to give a friend,or even for yourself! All you need is a small jar, yellow paint, sharpies (color depends on the emoji you want to make), a paint brush, and a stencil of the emoji you’d like to make.

  1. You can start by adding paint to the inside of the jar. You can either move the paint inside by simply moving and rotating the paint. You can also just use a paint brush to speed up the process.
  2. Then, use a stencil to make the face. To make the stencil just print or trace the emoji and cut out the eyes, mouth and accessories.
  3. Tape the stencil to the jar and begin coloring inside the stencil with the sharpies.
  4. When the stencil is removed you can clean the edges by lining it.
  5.  When the yellow paint is dry you can put anything inside like pencils, pens, scissors, make up brushes, money or change, or even flowers for decor. It’s super easy and fun to make.

What to Expect When Starting College

College: the next big step you will remember for the rest of your life. It’s different, exciting, stressful, but also beautiful. It’s where you will start learning about yourself and the world. You will discover people that are like you, experience things you never thought you would, but will also more than likely be scared during the process. Don’t worry, chica, I got you. These are the three top things I wish someone would have told me when I started college.

Peer Pressure
Movies, social media, memes, and shows portray the average college life to be full of drinking and partying, but that isn’t always the case. Yes, you will be asked to go out, and you should once in a while, but never feel like you have to. Never feel that to be accepted you need to drink and be this crazy party animal. There are many college students, including me, who prefer to stay in on a Saturday night to watch a movie while enjoying the company of friends. You will be surprised to know that the older you get, the more you prefer to have little gatherings with friends than to be this super-wild-let’s-go-out-all-the-time person. Don’t believe what movies portray. College isn’t about partying.

Classes and Social Life
When I started college I thought it was great that I only had a class twice a week. I told myself I would make straight A’s, study a couple of hours, and then head out to Chipotle with my girls. Yeah, keeping up with classes was ridiculous. College classes are completely different from high school, especially when you’re a freshman. Most of your classes will have 50 or more people, your professor might not ever know your name, and they don’t remind you when something is due. Because of these new classes and the new environment, it’s easy for freshman to lose track of time. Academic probation happens more frequently than you think. Don’t worry though; it’s not the end of world and it’s simple to fix. In order to avoid academic probation, first and foremost: stay on top of your classes! Go to class, do your homework, study, and use a planner. This planner will be your holy grail. Start by writing down the important due dates from the syllabus and calendar in your planner. Also, study groups, tutoring, and just seeing your professor during their office hours can come a long way. Your college wants to help you succeed, so take advantage of your resources. From professors to taking advantage of programs/resources, they will help you learn how to balance school work, work, and your social life.

Homesickness
In the beginning everyone is super excited to go out on his/her own and become their own person without mom or dad being in the way. Slowly, but surely, you will start to realize that you’re tired of dorm food, doing laundry on your own and even miss hearing your mom call your name from across the house. You guessed it: you’re homesick! I felt this drastically when I moved five hours away from home. I missed my mom’s home cooking, my annoying little siblings, and just the smell of my old home. This is totally normal! You’re not alone because everyone experiences this when they’re away from home for the first time. To help get over your homesickness, join a club,or a couple clubs, make it a hobby to learn your mother’s recipes, get into a new hobby, or try fun workout groups at your school’s gym. There are even clubs catered to Latinas or a specific activity (video games, music, cooking, writing, hiking, dancing, etc.). Being involved in school will help you take your mind off of being homesick — plus, you’ll be able to make more friends and have more fun!

College is scary, yes, but once you’re there and get a feel of things, you’ll feel right at home. Though there will be stress and frustrations along the road, the college experience is one you will cherish and hold sacred for the rest of your life.