Being a Latina in Trump's America

It's often when we face external obstacles that we feel the most pride. For me, one of those moments happened when I was ten years old. I was at the supermarket with my mom and younger brother; we were speaking in Spanish (as we usually did) when a woman interrupted our conversation. "Be sure they speak English," she told my mom. 

While my brother and I became silent, my mom turned to the woman and said, "actually they already do, as do I. But I want to be sure that my children speak multiple languages." My mom broke the silence and responded. That is power, I thought. 

This wasn't the first time someone had expressed their 'concern' after hearing my family and I speak Spanish in public. But it was life-defining. Seeing my mom combat racism and ignorance with strength and grace, fortified my pride. I was proud to be her daughter and I was proud to be Latina. 

I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and moved to California at the age of four. Growing up in the U.S. as an immigrant and Latina has shaped my perception of myself and those around me immensely. Though I was privileged to grow up in predominantly upper-middle class and socially progressive areas, I'm no stranger to the harsh realities of xenophobia, sexism and specifically, anti-Latinx rhetoric. 

From a young age, I've been very attuned to detecting scrutiny based on stereotypes and xenophobia. It's easy to enable these experiences to make us hyper-vigilant about detecting any underlying forms of aggression. We begin to feel like we have to constantly watch our backs and question daily social interactions. Even an off look can make us ask ourselves, "Is it because I'm Hispanic?" Consequently, we adapt this mentality that's never turned off because the reality is, we don't just experience racism through shoppers at the local grocery store who tell us to speak English. 

We experience it at school, at work, in social contexts... We experience it in media when we see that in 2016, only 2.7% of major film roles were played by Latinos (UCLA’s 2018 Hollywood Diversity Report) even though Latinos bought 21% of movie tickets sold (Motion Picture Association of America’s Theatrical Market Statistics). We experience it under our current administration with a president who refers to us as "animals" from "shithole countries."

Image via Giphy
 

Often, media conveys that with this current administration, it's a hard time to be Latinx. But really, this isn't new. These repressive systems and attitudes that diminish the Latinx community have existed, far before Trump was elected. 

Historically, the Latinx community has been compartmentalized into one all-encompassing box that neglects all the characteristics unique to different Latinx individuals. We come from a plethora of backgrounds made up of different nationalities, races, gender identities, languages, cultures, and histories. We don't all look, act, or talk the same. We can't be put into a box.

This one-dimensional depiction of Latinx people is especially prevalent for Latina women. "But you don't act Latina", "Are you illegal?", "You're so exotic" are just a few of the many comments that we hear. We're trivialized, fetishized, and neglected. Being a woman in itself already exposes us to sexism and inequality. When you add being a Latina woman on top of that, that scrutiny can become even more tangible.  

What's significant about this current political climate though, is that these attitudes have been given a name and a face - a president that not only condones discrimination, but promotes it. 

Every day, children are bullied and dismissed because of their skin. Every day, people that preach violence and hate are justified because, as Trump says, there are "very fine people, on both sides." Every day, undocumented families are separated from the homes they grew up in, the classrooms they made their best friends in, and the lives they've worked toward. 

Tolerance and mutual respect are deemed "PC" and "liberal bullshit." But really, it's anything but. Whether it's related to the rights of Latinx, women, people living with mental illnesses, LGBTQ+, whatever it may be- advocating for minority representation and equality isn't bullshit. It's not about being #triggered. It's about fighting for what matters. Because this isn't just about a hashtag. It's not just about a red hat. These aren't just partisan issues. These are human issues. 

As Latinx, we're told we don't matter. 

But here's the thing: we do matter. Our language proficiency, socio-economic level, documentation status, or skin color don't make us any less or more worthy than another human being. Integrity, perseverance, compassion- these are the things that determine our worth. 

As disheartening as this time may be, we have to stay informed.  We have to combat the micro-aggressions, the stereotypes, and the violence with education and empowerment. We have to keep going.

We need to break the silence and show our powerWe need to be proud. 

My name is Catalina Fernandez and I'm a proud Argentine, Spanish speaker, and dual citizen. I'm a proud Latina.