Once Silent, Latinas are Now ‘Louder’ and ‘Braver’
Many of my African American friends often ask me, why are Latinas so quiet? Why don’t they speak up when they are being defamed publicly or when injustices are committed against them? This is a fair question. I respond to my African American sisters, “Thank you for speaking up. Thank you for your service of holding the voice for all multi-cultural women, which includes Latinas, Asians, South Asians, and women of many other cultures and religions. Thank you for suffering the consequences on behalf of us all, in every corporation, in every organization, in every community.“
Allow me to explain why we are the way we are, and why we are changing.
I don’t think most people in the U.S realize the historical narrative in this country, and in our school system, is black and white. No one ever discusses the history of the rest of us. As for Latinas, no one knows that most of us originate from countries where, if we spoke up, we would disappear (and be referred to as “desaparecidos”), never to be heard from again. Most people don’t know that many of us lived in social cast systems in which we didn’t have any of the freedoms women enjoy here in this country. Our families grew up where many of our banking systems collapsed, forcing us to leave our countries penniless, wishing to never have to go through that again. Most of us (or our families) grew up in a place with left or right-wing dictatorships, corrupt governments, or communism, so we are used to radical and disruptive behavior from governments. Most importantly, we or our relatives crossed the border as economic immigrants or political refugees of our own volition. No one forced us to come here. So, despite anything we experience, we are still grateful!
This Hispanic Heritage Month, I am happy to say things are changing. There is a seismic shift in our community and Latinas are leading the pack. Younger Latinas are no longer carrying the PTSD and traumatic baggage of our families. We are speaking up: #LatinasLoudAndBrave
I am so proud of so many Latinas who were called to speak up and rose to the occasion on behalf of their community. Mónica Ramirez, the daughter and granddaughter of migrant farmworkers, and co-founder of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas is one of them. She is also the founder of Justice for Migrant Women, and a civil rights attorney who has devoted her entire life to representing and supporting Latinas and immigrant women who have faced sexual and economic exploitation, including pay injustices, for the last two decades.
She came into the spotlight when she wrote a letter of solidarity on behalf of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas–and the 700,000 farmworkers her organization represents–to women in Hollywood who courageously spoke out against sexual violence because of the #MeToo Movement. This inspired them to create Time’s Up, and then the Time’s Up Legal Defense fund to help survivors of sexual harassment. The fund has raised more than 20 million dollars since its inception. Monica made sure Latinas were not forgotten in the conversation of sexual abuse, pay disparity and domestic violence. You can watch Monica Ramirez’ Self Made story HERE.
Monica is also the leader behind the country’s largest Latina Equal Pay Movement, the national Latina Equal Pay Day campaign, which is observed on the day that Latinas catch up to what white men were paid the year before. This year it is being observed on November 20th.
In addition to Monica, there are many Latinas WHO ARE LOUD AND BRAVE, and are showing us the way! I honor them and I am proud.
- Carmen Perez, Co-Founder of The Women’s March
- Emma Gonzalez, Co-Founder of March for Our Lives
- Ana Maria Archila, Co-Executive Director of The Center for Popular Democracy, and Maria Gallagher, both sexual assault survivors and advocates. These are the two women who confronted Senator Jeff Flake in the Senate elevator to convince him to investigate Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
- Cristina Jimenez, Executive Director of United We Dream, Mac Arthur Genius Awardee, devoted to the Dreamers and their rights.
- Paola Mendoza, Activist and Film Director who created the “I am a Child” Campaign
- Maria Teresa Kumar, President and CEO of Voto Latino
- Rosario Dawson, Co-Founder of Voto Latino
- Dolores Huerta, American Labor Leader and Civil Rights Activist, Founder and President of the Dolores Huerta Foundation.
- America Ferrera, Eva Longoria, Gina Rodriguez, Karla Souza, Christy Haubegger, Alex Martinez Kondracke, Salma Hayek and Olga Segura on behalf of #TimesUp
- Stephanie Valencia, Founder of The Latina Collective, which unites and connect Latina powerhouses to help create opportunities for all.
2019 Hispanic Heritage month is about Latinas being #LouderandBraver.
This essay was featured in the Oct. 13th edition of The Sunday Paper. The Sunday Paper inspires hearts and minds to rise above the noise. To get The Sunday Paper delivered to your inbox each Sunday morning for free, click here to subscribe.