A M'ija to Meet: Jo, Cuban and Chicana

What I love about being Latina: The fluidity of language, culture, community and knowing that, almost anywhere, I can find community and be grateful in having those moments of solidarity and joy.  

What I love about being Americana: Who would disagree when we talk about the opportunities that this country provides? Although I am working class and access to opportunities can be more difficult to attain, I am proud that this country, along with my Latina sensibilities and family beliefs, has made me a person who strives to succeed and improve. The benefit of being Americana also reminds me I have the voice needed to strive for change in areas that affect me as a woman, as a lesbian and as an immigrant’s daughter: better access to insurance, education and safety. 

My biggest challenge in growing up Latina in America: Stereotypes abound for someone like me. I tell my daughter all the time that the world has its definition of what it means to be “American” and, because of skin color, gender, sexual orientation, class and race, because I am an artist, we are in for a struggle because we are really different. It can be hard to smile and continually have to answer intelligently when someone says about my daughter “She’s beautiful – what country is she from?”. It’s worse when, as Latinos, I’m viewed as being a less than appropriate mother because I am single parenting and queer. Family is a primary focus for Latinos. In just living my life and being the best mother I can be, I’ve already removed those stereotypes from people’s minds.   

My biggest support in growing up Latina in America: Friends I’ve made along the way who I now claim as sisters and brothers, as family – because they are going through the same things I am or have or will – trying to make a place for themselves in this world without getting lost. My mother and my antepasados especially influence me – their stories keep me fighting. I come for a long line of mujeres fuertes. 

Why I am beautiful: You don’t get this big curly hair overnight! It takes years of teasing – and what makes my hair so beautiful? My mama never telling me it had to be tied down, straightened, controlled. With the background I have, it was my mama who told me I offered the whole package and should be proud!

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