I can't hide the fact that I'm Latina. It's in my name, in my hair, and in my food.
But I don't get to go places simply because I'm Latina. I didn't get into college because of my name - I got in because I had the grades, SAT scores, and recommendations I needed to get in. I didn't get my first job out of college because of my hair - I got it because I'm a hard worker. And I didn't get to where I am today because of my food - I got here because I'm resourceful. In other words, I'm Smart. And I happen to be Latina.
Don't get me wrong - being Latina has its serious advantages. My name sounds like a song. Everyone is jealous of my hair. And my food - oh, my goodness (ask me to make pastelón sometime - you won't regret it)! I have a rhythm in my step that's been engrained in my body since the day I was born. I get to live between two cultures, at the same time, because I speak both English and Spanish.
But it also has its disadvantages. People use stereotypes to decide - before they've ever met me - who I am and what I'm capable of. As a woman of Hispanic heritage, I'm struck with what I call a "double whammy" - I have to face the hardships of being a woman in a male-dominated society and being Latino in a White-dominated society. Being a member of the "largest minority" means little when the majority is still in charge of the country.
So how do I deal with being a Latina? I get Smart. It's amazing how many doors open when people realize you don't fit the stereotype. If anything, they'll say, "Wow, she's Smart and she's Latina!" I speak 5 languages - including English and Spanish. I'm an engineer - whose parents are from Puerto Rico. I'm an entrepreneur - who likes to make rice and beans. I'm a Smart woman - who happens to be Latina.
Before people come after me and mention the phrase affirmative action - I should note that, sure, maybe being Latina helped me. But I have so much more on my resume than just ancestors. You won't get anywhere by assuming that things over which you have no control will carry you to glory. I didn't choose to be Latina. (In fact, on the worst days, when I'm directly in the path of the ugly face of discrimination, I even wish I were someone else.) But I did choose to work hard and learn at every opportunity.
The Smart lets me sit at the table with the good ol' boys. They let me in because I know something they don't: I'm an expert in technology. And, hey, BONUS: I'm Latina!
The Latina helps other Latinas understand that they can do anything, too. Be proud of your past, absorb it in the present, and use it to take charge of your future. Getting Smart is the key to unlocking your potential!
Looking back, it's been a tough road. But it's been a good one, too!