Things my mother taught me

A year ago, I moved back to where I grew up. This time, I was 14 years older, had a good paying job and, for lack of a better word, was an adult. My fiance (now husband) and I bought a house near the park where you could find us every Sunday, the grammar school I attended and my parent’s house. We are now also not too far away from the Midway Orange Line that I take to work every day.

Because I live so close to my parents, they’ve decided to spoil me rotten and pick me up every morning to head to the train to go to work. Don’t worry, it wasn’t just for me, but also for my mom who still works downtown at a law firm. She taught me how to ride the train to meet her for lunch at 10 years old, during the summer when I was out of school. She taught me the importance of directions and explained how to find my way around when I got lost. Luckily, in Chicago, we’re on a grid and well, it’s not too hard to understand and learn.

Since I’ve been riding the train with her for about a year now, and like I said, am substantially older than I was when we rode the train together when I was in high school, I’ve come to realize just how much of a gift it is and have learned to cherish the time we have together in the mornings, telling stories, laughing or complaining about how tired we are.

My mom and I are a lot alike. If you know me and you’ve met my mother, you’d probably say, “Duh.” But I’m also a lot like my dad. I’d like to think that I’ve won the best qualities of both of them. Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about not necessarily how alike we are, but WHY we are alike. I pride myself as being a good listener– I can listen to understand, even though I act like I’m not listening at all– and it’s something that I learned because of my mother.

So I decided to compile a list. Not necessarily about lessons that my mom taught me because I don’t even think she thought she was teaching me when I learned these things, but about what I learned because of her.

Don’t force anything. I’m extremely impatient. Mentally, I want things to happen quickly especially if I can control it. I wanted things to happen instantly. I wanted my parents to always say yes to me when I asked to do something. I wanted to be like my friends so I would have them and they wouldn’t think I wasn’t cool. I wanted people to like me because– they didn’t. Be patient, my mom told me. Don’t force it. I didn’t understand that until I became an adult. If things are supposed to happen, they will. With time things will emerge and they will grow into something more to my liking. I also realized that I couldn’t control what was out of my control.

Later on, I learned that the only person I could control was myself and that any consequences that may have occurred was because I allowed it to happen or I made it happen. From then on, I took my dad’s chill approach to things and made a lot more intentional decisions in my life.

Learn to understand but don’t waiver on your morals and values. This was not easy to learn. Like I previously said, I learned the importance of understanding as a kid because my mother would always tell me how good we had it. We would never know what my mom and her 7 siblings had been through. She was right and when I finally put two and two together, I told her, well, we’ll never know because we didn’t live through it and because you don’t tell us about it. So she started telling us why we had it so good. Later I understood why my mother and her siblings were raised the way they were because I listened to my grandmother, and even then, I came to understand my mother better because I had a feel for what she experienced.

This later emerged into something I liked to call my “spidey senses” because I learned to understand individuals based on their experiences. From this, I could understand why people acted the way they did and in a way I was putting myself in their shoes. I realized later that a lot of people didn’t think this way.

I also challenged my mother. I know that. I wasn’t the easiest kid to deal with because I didn’t necessarily ask for permission and I am incredibly independent and stubborn. When I started to get exposed to things outside of my realm in high school, we would get into the roughest of arguments all over one topic: Religion. I was learning about atheist philosophers and questioning life’s meaning. Who was right? Who was wrong? Why not ask questions?

My mother fought me back and said, “I have faith because I was taught to believe, not question.” She wanted me to do the same, but instead I chose to question everything. I didn’t understand accepting things as they were and sometimes I still don’t as someone who’s open to different theories and philosophies. My mother isn’t like me in that regard, but those are her morals and values and I have to respect that. I get upset sometimes that she may not understand (and may not want to), which is how she taught me the importance of doing just that.

Hard work and merit live above and beyond favors. Oh the irony in being a Chicagoan! Mom always taught me to do things myself. If I wanted a job, I had to search for one. If I wanted an internship, I could ask around and look for resources. She hardly ever helped or did any of that for me. She never asked her bosses for favor or did she have me work in her office. She let me do my own thing because I was going to meet people and build my own network. Now, maybe she just thought that I wanted to do something different from work in a law firm, but a little introduction would’ve gone a long way! Nevertheless, I realized that I could go out and do it on my own and I learned the power of my will and motivation. Not to mention, the thrill of completing or executing a project because of the work I put into it.

The moment I realized that it was true was when she told me that a former boss of hers was writing letters to his friends on his son’s behalf. “Can you believe that?” Yes, mom because a lot of people I knew had their parents do that for them. But not my mother. She was going to make me work for what I wanted– and so far, I have and the reward is very, very sweet.

Follow Through. Oh, man. This is one of my favorites. It came in handy when I played basketball, too. When I was in grammar school, I was in numerous activities. In my younger years, that included choir and band. After about 3 months in choir, my friends wanted to quit and did because their parents let them. I couldn’t. My mother told me, “You wanted to do this, you committed to it and you will finish the year.” What a drag!

When my friends all got tired of band and they quit, I told my mom I wanted to quit, too. “Why?” I had no good reason! And that’s when I heard, “If your friends jump off a bridge, are you going to, too?” Fine. So I stayed.

Needless to say, I got used to finishing what I started and I learned to keep my word. I really learned how to see things through because I knew that it would bring me a feeling of accomplishment in the end. Although I did quit the choir, I played flute all through high school and am really glad that I did.

Be humble. Keep striving. My mom always showed us that you shouldn’t brag about things. She taught us that we shouldn’t let good things inflate our ego. This has probably stayed with me and built a foundation in me, creating the person that I am today. I’ve realized that even if I talk about myself, it could be used to inspire or work with others — not making it about me. I’ve always strived for more.

Four years ago now, when EXPO Collective put on its first art fest, I couldn’t appreciate how wonderful it really was. I can now. But back then, I just thought– there’s more to be done. This isn’t the last of it. I could never really gloat or brag about things because for me, those things were not the end– they weren’t worth the brag. Instead, my mission was to continue the art fest year after year and try to benefit as many people as I could along the way because everything I was doing was a means to an end.

Gender what? Gender roles existed only in tradition in my house. As a Latina, (and if you’re Latinx, you’d understand) I was taught that girls were nice and pretty growing up. We didn’t use bad words, we were supposed to serve our fathers and we were supposed to stay home. Yeah, not me. I rebelled hardcore.

“Would you treat me different if I was a boy?” I asked my parents once. Yes, they said. It wasn’t fair and I told them so. They were going to treat me like a nice little girl because I didn’t have a penis, yet I could play basketball, softball and be a tomboy climbing trees and getting dirty. I understand now that they wanted to protect me and that’s the way they knew how, but I saw it as a reason to empower myself. I knew I was as strong (mentally) as any boy, and that I could do what I wanted.

My mother did tell me that I could do what I wanted and she definitely has a privileged mind-set, not letting anything stop her from doing what she needs to do, but after thinking about it you could understand the conflict that she felt.

Growing up in a traditional Mexican household versus growing up in the states where we were told we could live the American dream was one big conflict. My mom and aunts stood up for me when my grandmother insisted that I serve my father and boyfriends. They told her that I should be able to go out because that’s what life was about. They told her not to worry about me being a callejera or that I was out with friends, though they probably worried themselves. I remember when my grandmother asked how I was supposed to get married if I didn’t just settle down and stop traveling so much or wanting to do such big things. My mom told her that I’d find someone who wouldn’t mind and would go with me (and I found him). They all didn’t want me growing up that way, they said.

As I got older, I noticed that my dad was home with us usually after school and he would cook for us. My mom even complained once that his rice was better than hers. There was no role to be played in the house based on gender with my parents. They were a team and still are. I learned then that my dad would probably always be physically stronger than my mother, but we wouldn’t be where we are today without her motivation of our education, passion for learning and stubbornness.

Of course, I owe that to my father as well, for not being a machista and thinking progressively about women’s roles (especially since he was surrounded by us all the time), among other things like having faith in his daughters. As much as I think my father would have liked a boy, I tried my best to play the role. ;p

But what makes me believe of my father as a feminist and progressive is that he’s even said it: we wouldn’t be where we are without my mom.

And that’s pretty dope.


What is Community?

What is community? I ask myself this a lot because I want to be able to make it and build it and strengthen it. In the past week, I’ve seen so many answers to this question and the most amazing part is that although I’m observing it, I’m also part of it.
Community is mourning the loss of a great souls, mentors and friends. Telling stories, keeping them alive and celebrating the life they’ve lived. Always a time cut too short, they’ll forever live in us and in our memories.
Community is seeing people who’ve worked their ass off get somewhere and celebrating it with them. It’s knowing that people hold special talents and ingenious creativity and helping them get to where they want or need to be.
Community is seeing all the hardship happening and deciding that you want to do something about it. It’s organizing events, meet-ups, or a time to be together to lean on each other for love and support.
Community is challenging the status quo and encouraging other people to do the same. It’s standing up to authority in the name of people other than yourself. It’s asking the right questions and helping people to understand the fact that not everyone may be looking out for their best interests.
Community is asking if family members are OK because people know you have loved ones in countries hit hard by natural disasters.  Backgrounds don’t matter or what country you were born in, people are suffering and someone you love may be affected. 
Community is checking in on one another and making sure that you’re getting through everything with sanity in tact. Whether it’s to ask how they’re doing, sending virtual hugs, prayers and good vibes, positive thoughts and feelings go a long way.
Community is not defined by location or ethnicity. Community is not confined by blood. Community doesn’t just stay in the ‘hood and die in the burbs. Community is not just organizing for the good fight or just in the streets during a protest.
Community is love, compassion and a shared strength. When I look at my community I am proud and feel empowered. I see people who have my back. I see people that I’ve supported since day one get to where they want to be. I share stories with amazing folks who are shaking up the world– reporting on it, painting it, telling its stories, singing its songs, uniting its people, helping the less fortunate and documenting our journey on it.
Here’s to my community.

Women’s March on Washington D.C. (Chicago Version)

Being part of this epic movement of women and people across the world marching to battle racism, hatred, sexism, misogyny and xenophobia, I felt energized. Like in the past, I’ve felt united with my people, however this massive event makes the other protests look small. I saw people of all ages walking, chanting, singing some Aretha Franklin songs and capturing the moment. Of course, though, the signs were the best. We saw Carrie Fisher make an appearance, men reminding everyone that they can be feminists, too and of course the epic Shepard Fairey posters that came in every size.

Thanks for taking a look. Leave a comment. Share your photos, too!

When Gender Roles Don’t Make A Difference

If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I’ve been in relationships. Whether I write non-fictionally about them here– well, that’s a different story. But this story is more about gender roles than anything else.

In recent times, gender has been an increasingly important topic of conversation– not because it should be, but because this whole bathroom conversation brings up the issue. We’ve also seen the way women are treated as a result of the patriarchal society we live in that serves men in every way, allowing them to obtain certain rights and privileges just because they have a penis. This goes from the rich rulers of the world to the working-class; men are seen as the go-getting, intelligent, ambitious bread-winners and what adds to it is that they think that way, too.

Women are women. Men are men. You have a part to play, so play it. At least, that’s the underlying message. Women serve men, are nothing without men, whose sole purpose is to find a man, right?

I grew up enveloped in the concept of gender roles. I heard it all. “You act like a boy,” “You were raised like a boy,” to “That sport isn’t for girls,” and “You don’t know how to be a girlfriend.” Because it never made any sense to me (I asked my parents if they would treat me differently if I were a boy. When they said yes, I started to defy them.) and rationale was weak, I began to run in the opposite direction of what was expected of me. I wasn’t going to fall into any expectation, if I could help it.

I wanted to be equal to all the boys. I saw the difference in how they were treated versus how I was being treated. I wanted to be treated the same, with the same privileges. I always believed that I could take care of myself but I don’t have a clue where that came from.

As a girl growing up, I was told that as I got older I was going to have big boobs and a big butt. I gain and lose the butt, but my boobs aren’t as huge as I had been left to believe they would be. Suddenly, I felt less than because every other girl grew into C and D cups, while I was stuck on a B.

Subtleties, however both affected my identity and gender. I was too strong. I wasn’t like the other girls. I didn’t have what I was “supposed to.”

When the first boyfriend I had in four years decided to cheat on me repeatedly, I stayed because I thought, “He said he loved me. He must. Is this the best I’m going to get?” I actually thought it was going to be that way. Then when I realized that I was worth too much more than that, I left. But it made an impact. If this guy said he loved me, but did the complete opposite, would they all be like that? Did I have to play that game, too? When I talked to other guys, he made me feel terrible as if I was the one cheating. He put all the blame on me. Because he was the man, he could do what he wanted and all he had to do was apologize and I’d take him back. But I felt less than. I wasn’t good enough to keep him.

As an adult, I’ve had men stop calling me because I voiced my opinion or start a fight with me because I talked to my guy friends without him around. “A taken woman doesn’t do that,” he said. And there I went, feeling less than again.

Then, I was gas-lighted. The guy I was with didn’t at all act like he cared about me, when in fact he was in love with me but wouldn’t admit it to himself or me and he couldn’t show me his true feelings, let alone tell them to me. He did the minimal to show he cared until it seemed he didn’t care at all, and I left. And there I went, feeling less than again.

But men don’t talk about their feelings unless they’re intoxicated. Men do whatever they want because if a woman was desperate enough she’d wait. Not me. I never had a problem leaving.

Lastly, I was made to believe that if I couldn’t conform, I wouldn’t get married. Plain and simple, I was too bro-ish, too man-ish, too aggressive and “twice the man I can ever be.” Why couldn’t I just be a really strong woman? Stronger than a man?

I can also get into the way I’ve been talked to professionally. “With a smile like yours…” “You should get on that getting married tip,” “She was really pretty, just like you,” “Oh, are you his assistant?” Would any of that be said to a man? What does anything have to do with the way I work or the way I do business?

I was taught that if I have to meet with men, to take a man with me. I couldn’t get into a room and close anything all by myself. When I say that to certain people, they ask me, “Why do you think that?” It’s easy to say, “because I’ve lived it.” I’ve gotten to the point, though, where it doesn’t bother me.

I always believed that the people you love are not defined by their body, but their souls. The connection isn’t just touching, but looking at each other’s eyes, laughing and being happy. It is the happiness in your heart when your best friend calls or the feeling of loving energy radiating from your father’s chest as he hugs you. Without that soul, the body is lifeless, it is nothing. I’ve truly loved people in non-romantic ways and have felt that I’ve connected to their soul.

Hence my dislike for gender roles and the idea that you are your sex.

Then I met my current boyfriend. There never was a sense of roles we were defined by. He told me he never wanted me to change, I told him the same. In six months, we’ve cried to each other, fought with each other and talked through everything together. Never has there been a doubt in our minds to sleep on it or leave it unresolved for too long. We talk everything out, are honest and feel even more confident in this relationship we’ve shared together.

How we “act,” doesn’t matter. For weeks, when I went from job to job and worked at home, too, he would cook for me, clean the house and do the laundry. And he worked the night shift. He didn’t sleep very much. When he moved in, he wasn’t working at all, but I told him I’d be OK supporting him while he found something. He in turn, took on the responsibilities at home because someone had to. I was extremely tired from working so much and only really cleaned on the weekend, much anything else.

He already knew he wanted to take care of me and I him, in every way. How we acted, the roles we played didn’t exist. There were no roles because we were being ourselves in the truest sense– authentic about who we were, how we acted and why.

Over the years, I’ve learned to get rid of those people who thought I had a role to play and instead found those who didn’t care about what I looked like or that I was a woman, but looked deeper to find my heart, my brain and my soul. I’ve found male counterparts that I can converse with, hang out with and work with who have made me even better and stronger and more self-confident and self-reliant. I’ve tried to pass that along to other women as well, calling them “Chingonas” and “hustlers,” because what you DO and GET DONE is not at all defined by your gender. And women should always support women.

When you find that person or persons who let you be yourself, don’t look down on you for being a man or a woman and who don’t expect anything because you are, keep them. Keep them in your lives for the longest time. As long as you can. Forever.


And in the 28th year, God gave her insight…

Warning: This may seem like an egotistical post, but I’m happy for where I am in life and am celebrating it the way I know how.

I haven’t written on this blog in a while, but it’s about time that I do. Today is the last day before I turn 29. It is the last day of my 28th year of life and I have had an amazing time.

Here are some things that I learned about the people around me and myself in the last year. Although it hasn’t always been easy, everything that I’ve been through has been well worth it for the outcomes and precious moments I have garnered. My life has been a piece of work all adding up to the now, to the present, to this moment in time. I’ve worked hard, made moves and have dared myself to be as individualistic and powerful as I know I am, making waves in my life and helping others to do the same.

  • Surround yourself with people you want to be like. I didn’t realize how much I wasn’t doing this until this past summer when I surrounded myself with geniuses in their own right. I began my incredible friendship with Adrian, who gave me the opportunity to have a hand in his amazing project TheMillennial.Be. I made it a purposeful mission to be friends with Ricardo, a fantastic artist who is nothing but love, consideration and kindness that I needed. My relationship with Libby became stronger, and as an independent, intelligent, creative woman, I found that she was as encouraging and honest, two things that I wanted around me always. It doesn’t stop with these three, at all. There are plenty more of you out there.
  • Learn from the decisions you make. Whether they are good or bad, big or small, everything I did in my last year I learned from. I decided to quit my job and start Pícaro Media with my friends, a company that was geared to people like us. Not only did I learn what it took to start a business, but I also learned confidence in what I knew from a business perspective. I learned that my ideas were of greater value than I thought and that nothing was wrong with taking chances. The worst they could tell you is “no.” I learned what it was like to live without health insurance which only deepened my knowledge about what it’s like for people to deal with diabetes without a support system that I had had all my life. I learned how to work for myself and I didn’t mind. I still don’t.
  • I’m ridiculously creative. The artists that I’ve surrounded myself with this past year had a great deal to do with that. This was my artistic year. The genuine ability to create and dish out ideas, feel inspired and motivated by them and executing it all gives me a high like no other. Thank you to the visual artists, actors, writers and musicians who surround me. You make my life awesome.
  • I found my self worth. Not that it was hiding anywhere, but it became apparent to me starting about two years ago just how valuable I really am. I know what I can do and I am proud of my talents, successes and accomplishments. No one can take that away from me.
  • I can make anything in my mind become a reality. From Clique to self-assigned writing assignments to making ends meet when no income was coming through the door to the EXPO Collective, I’ve made many things happen and have gained a lot of experience from it that is only going to catapult me into dream land.
  • I have never been more motivated to give back and help others like I’ve been this past year. I’ve really learned to take care of myself and have been happier for it. My girl Celina has always been on top of me to take care of myself and look out for numero una. Now that I’ve come to know who I am and look out for myself, I’m strong enough to help others in whatever way I can. From speaking at GED classes, to being a mentor to younger individuals, answering questions, being a role model and helping people find their way is an amazing reward.
  • Relationships are everything. From finding a new job to having people reciprocate the love I have for them, relationships are the pieces to the puzzle that are most important. I’ve realized this more than ever and I know that I have to listen to people instead of assuming I know what’s going on inside. I wouldn’t be where I am or have the amazing life I have without the relationships that I’ve built throughout the years.
  • I will never again apologize for my happiness. Who I am is who I am. It took me 28 years to get where I am and I’m so grateful for everyone and everything I encountered. A certain special someone has reminded me repeatedly that though my cheery and hyper side can get annoying, I should never apologize for being happy.
  • God is the Universe and the Universe is God. That’s it.

Although I have been working on each of these things for a while, it all came to fruition this past year. I’ve grown a ton, met amazing people and have truly found my happiness. I thank you all for being in my life and for allowing me to be part of yours.

Let’s continue this ride together and making it happen, amigos!

Con mucho amor y cariño,

Kiki ❤

The Game Changer

There’s always that one. That one that comes into your life and turns it upside down and inside out. Whether it was for the good or for the bad, always one. Maybe one of each.

As women, we blame “That One” for our men’s commitment issues, among other things going on. She’s the one that treated him horribly or the one that broke his heart. But what happens in the reverse situation?

Most times, men just assume women are crazy or are too needy and gas light them into being too intense and wanting too much. Unlike women, who choose not to blame the men but their former women, the thought of a jerk that may have hurt her never comes to mind. Instead it’s something like, “You know how women are…”

But let me tell you, I know that jerk on a personal level. He came into my life in the strangest fashion, which I should have red flagged from the beginning but I was such a delirious college student that didn’t really care about herself (I know that now), that I took it at face value and ended up a hot mess in the ICU due to health issues at the end of it all. I mean, it couldn’t have been more telling.

I try and figure out what I was focused on and really, I wanted to be able to make the relationship work. After years of not dating anyone, I fell for the words he couldn’t back up. I think I felt like I was missing out on something. But this was definitely something I could have lived without.

We fought horribly. He would leave me hanging and not contact me for days at a time and he would tell me that he had something important to do. I remember the nights he would leave and say, “I’ll come back in a couple of hours and we’ll have dinner” although I knew he wasn’t going to come back. To this day, I expect people to keep their word to me or else I lose faith in the only thing they have to hold on to.

He ended up being a cheater for more than half of our year-long-and-some-change time together. He probably was seeing more girls than the one I ended up meeting.

In the end, I couldn’t help but blame myself. I thought it was my fault for not being good enough. I didn’t understand what was wrong with me. However, I stayed because I kept telling myself that the good was great but the down times hurt me so bad, I abused alcohol just to get through it.

I carried a lot with me, including turning to alcohol when I felt terrible about things. It sunk into the depths of who I was and turned me into a horrendous person. The relationship I had after suffered from my low self-esteem and confidence. I couldn’t get out of myself long enough to see the good I had.

It took a few years but I finally dug myself out of the hole I was in. With how I felt to the alcohol abuse… I swear I was on the road to being an alcoholic for real. Every time I felt bad, anxious, out of control, I needed a drink. It was in 2010 that I bucked up and finally understood who I was as a person. I quit drinking for a year to understand what it meant to me and how it had to change. I finally understood the power I had on the inside in order to love and give and I revived the person that I was and am supposed to be.

Needless to say, I still have remnants of that terrible year in college. There are things that remind me of that year and what I felt, making me nervous and want to run away. Too bad, now. I make myself face what is going on and I stand strong, battling myself on the inside but making it work, ultimately, on the outside. People I know now and met after college would not believe for a second the person I was then.

Just ask my homies. The friends that saw me then and helped me through that situation are still friends now. They are proud of me and I love them for lending that helping hand, propelling me forward.

This was the “bad” game-changer. The one that killed you a bit. But then, there’s that “good one” too, called by various names: The one that you let escape, The one that got away, The best relationship you never had, The one that broke your heart. The “good” game-changer that showed you your worth but, it just didn’t work out.

That story is for another time.

Who are these “Latinos” you speak of?

What is it about Latinos that lead people to believe that they have to be spoken to in another language. Ok, ok, I guess all of the speaking Spanish is a dead giveaway, but then again, why are people having such a hard time reaching this demographic of people? These black and brown people who speak different languages and just act so…so… differently?

Ultimately, what people don’t understand is that Latinos are just like the rest of the country. We listen to music, we speak English, we watch things in English and we go to school here. Let’s specify Latino as someone of Latin American descent who lives in the United States; immigrant generation through second, third, to ninth generation. Yes, there is such a thing. Usually, they’re known as Texans.

We just look at things differently. Many researchers in terms of language say that we’re smarter for being bilingual. When you talk about cognitive development, having an extensive vocabulary and having a sort of natural focus on things, it’s kind of impressive. Since we’re bicultural, we grow in a more worldly fashion, most of us. We are less likely to put others down because of their differences and more likely to learn about a variety of cultures in the world. If anything, the more diverse we are, the more we absorb.

But hell if you hear someone with an accent. They mark you as a foreigner and hold it against you that English wasn’t your first language, not that you’re learning a new one. Have you ever thought about it this way: I know they have an accent because they speak another language and therefore should be admired for speaking a language other than their own? Nah.

And that’s not just for Latinos, that’s for all immigrants.

Little me.

Since I was a kid, I spoke Spanish. Right out of the womb, I was talking to my dad and grandmother in their native language while growing up with my cousins, mom, aunts and practically everyone else speaking English. They tried to convince me I was American… the little American girl I was supposed to be until someone pointed out my tan coloring and a girl at school told me I was too dark to like a lighter-skinned boy. My first memory of Kindergarten was teaching the girl sitting next to me how to say the days of the week in Spanish. Since day one, I was spewing my Latin goodness into the world.

I knew I was different, but not in any way that was going to make me ashamed. If anything, it was going to show my parents how strong I could be as a girl of Mexican descent in this country and how I was going to make it work for me. I noticed all the differences growing up and how I was a part of organizations, clubs and more because I was brown and spoke Spanish.

I was going to be the educated Latina that no one was going to put down or insult indirectly (even though it happened anyway), because I was going to tell you the truth. I was going to tell you how it really was with the history, the insight and the stories.

After playing my role as an “angry minority” in college, a friend of mine told me, “Don’t hate, Christina. Educate.” And damn, Ric, I took that to heart. So here I am, explaining. Or at least trying to.

With that said, I feel like I have to teach almost everyone about who we are as a community, as a

Mural art in Pilsen | Chicago

culture and as a group that is going to be one of the most powerful in the country very, very soon. This is why I’m very much in favor of quality education for children of color, why I expect so much out of my sister and little cousins and why I expect goodness, quality and high standards out of those around me. If you hold them to a high standard, they will perform at a high standard.

I also believe in knowing your place, or that you even have one. This is why I tell people about Latinos’ history in the United States, because, darn it, we have been here for a very long time and we’ve contributed so much to the building of the country. Those kids I went to college with, who chose to learn about it, naturally made their way into social services to help, pick up and lend a hand to people we know need help, using education as the tool to help do that, not to learn about the situations. That came from experience.

Many of my friends and I, we’ve taught ourselves about our place in the country, what we’ve given, where we’ve lived and what caused societal issues that affected the underrepresented communities of the nation. We learn about it and tell our stories through music, writing, theater and standing up for ourselves against any kind of oppression whether stereotypes, discrimination or prejudice. We do it through marches and collaborations; love and support; toughness and expectations. And ultimately, my team and I plan on standing up for ourselves by changing the way people think about us.

This new community, this new generation of Latinos who have chosen to make a new path though education and equality, this is the generation of Latinos who will take over this country. These are the people you have to talk to: the professionals who sit in the next cubicle, your boss, the guy on the bus, your lawyer, your doctor, your waitress and the musician on the stage. They may not “look” Latino, but trust me, they are.  We’re all around you, so don’t be afraid. We probably like the same things you do, talk the same way you do and have pride in the same sports teams you do—and no, it’s probably not a soccer team.

You can talk to us in Spanish, we will understand you. But you know what? Treat us as humans, as equals. In the end, that’s what wins, isn’t it?