On Hispanic Heritage and Feminism: An Interview with Ashley Rivera

Hispanic Heritage Month, starting on September 15 and ending on October 15, is a time dedicated to celebrating the diverse cultures of Spanish descent. So many Hispanic women like Sonia Sotomayer, Gloria Estefan, and Frida Kahlo grew to become such strong female influences for girls all over the world. Even though Hispanic Heritage Month is over, its never to late to learn more about what millenial Hispanic women think of their culture. 

In honor of this very special month, we sat down with Ashley Rivera, a strong, Hispanic woman in our community, to talk about how her culture affected her attitude towards certain things many years after her family made the move to America. Here is what she had to say:

  1. What is your ethnicity?  I am Hispanic and my family is from Sonsonate, El Salvador.                                                                                                                                                        

  2. Where were you born? I was born in Long Island, New York.

  3. How do you define “Hispanic”? Being Hispanic, to me, is more than speaking Spanish and having family from a Latino country. To me, being Hispanic is having huge barbecues with carne asada and chimol on the table, it’s being introduced to new members of your family each time because your family is just that big. I don’t think the fact that I have never lived in El Salvador makes much of a difference. Would I have liked to have grown up there? Yes, but I still have so much pride in my country and my people. My family has always done a good job in making sure that I know my roots and I think that’s really what makes you Hispanic, having a deep appreciation for your Latin roots and showing them to the world with the utmost pride and passion.

  4. What are the traditional roles of women in your culture? The roles of woman in my culture tell the same tale woman have been battling for generations, it is based around a very patriarchal society. Woman are raised to be good and obedient housewives that raise the children, cook, clean, and never question the role of the males in the household because they are the ones who work to make the money. In my family, however, it was very female driven, because most of the men were not in the picture. Luckily, I grew up surrounded by strong women who fought for everything they had.

  5. Who was your greatest influence when you were younger? My greatest influence was always my mother. She was very far from perfect, but I looked up to her regardless. She came to the states in 1992 at the age of 15. Knowing no English, she was thrown into high school in Hempstead, New York, an area ridden with gangs.  She faced a lot of adversity in her early years, but she never gave up. She has been beaten down so many times, yet she still stands up with such grace and fights with such ferocity. She fought so hard for us. As a single mother there were so many times she went hungry making sure we had enough to eat for every meal. There were so many nights we could have spent sleeping in the car, but she always made sure we had a roof over our heads, even if she had to work 3 jobs. My mother has shown me what it is to never need anyone, especially no man. She is resilient and she has shaped me into the woman I am today. If I don’t like something or if I am unhappy with something, I know I am the only one who has the power to change it, and because of her I have the fearlessness to do something about it. My mom has taught me what it is to fight, what it is to appreciate, and what it is to work hard.

  6. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not? I definitely consider myself an intersectional feminist . To be a feminist is to demand to be treated with equity compared to our male counterpart. I was born into this world with 2 strikes, one strike for being a woman and a second strike for being a woman of color. I grew up always knowing I had to work twice as hard to get half of what I deserved. For that reason, today I am a very loud latina using my voice for the women who were not able to speak out before me.

  7. What are some characteristics you display, which you believe demonstrates your empowerment? One characteristic I believe I display is that I’m loud. I don’t mean in an obnoxious, I yell all of my words, type of way, but instead in a way that I vocalize my thoughts and opinions with no apologies. It took me years to feel empowered enough to do so, because before I used to let my voice be hushed for fear of having my opinion be disagreeable and challenged. So, now I am proud and stand firm and loud in my beliefs.  I will not be silenced, especially not at the expense of a man’s feelings. Also, I believe I have been blessed with the gifts of both sympathy and compassion. Now, being sympathetic and compassionate towards other people is simple, I think what really shows my empowerment is being those two things towards myself.  I have had to forgive myself for so many things. I do not think there is anything more self empowering than the act of self love.

  8. If you could tell a little girl in El Salvador anything right now, what would it be? I suppose I would want to tell her to get an education. I would tell her that she could be anything she wants to be and that her limits are so much more insignificant than what she believes. I would want to tell her to put her needs first and to never let anyone put her down, especially a man.

All Photos Credit to Ashley Rivera.