Latinas in Action

This photo series aims to capture the true and inspiring stories of Latinas at Harvard and beyond and how their background has influenced their future. These stories entail the beauty of family, dreams, and culture. Although each story differs in context, they are all unified under the common theme that through perseverance and maintaining a vision truly anything is possible.

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Maria Jose Perez Franco

2020: Economics with a secondary in  Sociology

What is the influence that your family and background has had on you?

My family is everything to me, and they are the reason behind why I am where I am today. I was born in Guatemala, but immigrated to the U.S. with my mom and two brothers to Dallas, TX when I was three years old. Through my family, I was able to understand what perseverance and determination really is. Along with this, my family provided me with an unlimited amount of love and support that always allowed me to dream big and pursue my passions. Since I grew up with two brothers, I had to learn how to be tough pretty quickly, but I'm so thankful that they taught me how to stand up for myself. My immigrant and first-generation background have allowed me to empathize with others along with teaching me how to surpass barriers.

Why did you join LEAD?

My mom immigrated to the U.S. as a single-mother of three without knowing any English or having any family that would help her. Growing up, my mom has been the definition of strength and the person that inspires me in every single thing I do. Growing up, she always taught me that I could do anything I set my heart on. She always told me that my gender and my ethnicity were not barriers for my dreams, but were instead strengths. Throughout the years, she always emphasized our Guatemalan background, and made me proud to be a Latina, even when I wouldn't necessarily get the same message from those around me or the media. Through her strength, I also saw the difficulties that she faced because she was a Latina woman. I joined LEAD because I want to demonstrate how inspiring Latina women can be, and just how much they can achieve. I want to show everyone what my mom showed me when I was growing up.

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Jeannie Regidor

2020: History and Literature

What is the influence that your family and background has had on you?

I was born in Miami, FL; my mom is Cuban, and my dad is Costa Rican. Growing up, I spoke a lot of Spanish because it was the language preferred by my parents. I grew up living with my great-grandmother who helped raise me and my brother and I remember doing so well in school that my parents would dream about me going to Harvard one day. I have four younger siblings and as the eldest I always felt like I had a more parental role in my family. I would help out with my siblings whether it was with homework or dinner and they looked up to me as a role model. My parents worked hard to give us better lives than what they had, and they always emphasized the value of education. My grandmother and great-grandmother shared in this sentiment, so I was constantly surrounded by people who encouraged my love for learning. It is in part because of them that I have always tried my best in school. I am thankful for how I was raised and how it has inspired me to strive towards my future goals.

Why did you join Latinas Unidas?

I joined LEAD because I wanted to give back to the Latina community. Latinas in my life: my mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother, my sisters, and my friends have all inspired me on some level and I felt like LEAD was one way in which I could inspire others. I think that a conference like LEAD helps Latina women realize that they can be successful despite inequalities in the work force and that we are stronger when we come together and recognize each other’s achievements. As a freshman in college, the LEAD conference showed me that there are Latinas out there making the world a better place and there are other women like me who want to make a difference as well. A conference like LEAD brings the success of Latina women to the forefront and pushes back against societal narratives which downgrade them. I am happy to be giving back to Latinas and for having the opportunity to create an event that unifies Latina women and strengthens what it means to be Latina.

 

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Maribel Nava

2020: Sociology with a secondary in Ethnicity, Migration and Rights

What is the influence that your family and background has had on you?

I was born in the wonderful city of Houston to the two most hardworking and loving Mexican immigrants I know. I grew up speaking Spanish, listening to Joan Sebastian and watching Rebelde. It was important for my parents that their children maintained a strong connection to our heritage so we were taught to respect our elders, resilience and the power of honesty. My parents came to this country with the hopes of giving their children a better future and this unconditional love has been their motivation. My attainment of the “American Dream” is wind in my parent’s. As the oldest of four children, I have grown to be an additional parental figure for my siblings and want to pave a path for them to follow their passions. I am thankful for my upbringing- I was loved, appreciated an encouraged to spread my wings.

Why did you join Latinas Unidas?

I have always had a strong system of support of Latina women in my life. My grandmothers are both strong independent women who have dedicated themselves wholeheartedly to  . My mother is introduced me to the world of feminism and my godmother has supported my educational endeavors. I try my best to be a positive role model for my two younger sisters. I wanted to have the same support system at Harvard and have found that community with Latinas Unidas. I gained access to a network of inspirational and passionate Latinas who I see as my family. I am excited for LEAD because we need better representations of Latinas in professional careers, and government. I can’t wait to connect with Latinas across the nation!

 

Diane Guerrero

Actress/Philanthropist

Diane Guerrero is a Colombian-American actress known for her roles in the prominent TV series: Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin. Diane Guerrero was born in New Jersey, but raised in the streets of Boston with her brother by her Colombian parents. At the age of 14, Diane’s parents and brother were deported back to Colombia; Diane being a citizen of the US was left alone, dependent on the help from family friends and neighbors. Despite the chaos surrounding her Diane stayed in the US where she graduated from high school and went on to study at Regis College. From there she pursued her career in acting by moving to New York.

A lot of Diane’s success came from the struggles she faced living with her family in Boston in addition to losing them. She attributes a lot of her hard work to this and even pursued turning her experience into the memoir “In the Country We Love.” The memoir follows Diane’s story and narrates what it is like to live in the US with undocumented family members—an experience shared by many others. In addition to her acting career, Diane does a lot of work with law offices providing representation for undocumented families and pushing for their rights.

 

 

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Aranza Caballero

2020: History and Science with a secondary in Ethnicity, Migration and Rights

What is the influence that your family and background has had on you?

I grew up along the border of South Texas and Mexico and without realizing it at first, I learned to love two countries, two cultures, and two different groups of people. Having lived in both Mexico and the US shaped who I am and what I believe in, and it wasn't until I left for college that I realized how much I appreciated it. From a very young age, my family instilled in me a love for our Mexican heritage and identity, teaching me to be proud of my roots and enjoy our tamales, corridos, telenovelas, quinceañeras, and many more things. I owe everything I have and everything I am to their love and unconditional support. Without their sacrifices and teachings, I would be in a very different place, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Why did you join Latinas Unidas/LEAD?

Latinas Unidas is my home away from home. When I joined LU, I was looking for a community I could feel comfortable with and ended up with so many sisters I love immensely. I grew up surrounded by strong and beautiful women and am glad to have found that at Harvard. Through the work we do in LU and LEAD, we empower each other and show that just because there isn't representation in many fields doesn't mean that we can't break barriers and become that representation ourselves. I feel incredibly blessed to be surrounded by phenomenal women who inspire me and support me all the time, pushing me to be better.

 

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Carolina Jimenez

2019: Government and Sociology

What is the influence that your family and background has had on you?

My Colombian heritage has been fused into all aspects of my life. I was only allowed to speak Spanish at home, I watched telenovelas- not cartoons, and while my classmates were sleeping on Christmas eve, I was dancing to Joe Arroyo. Growing up, I noticed that many of the traditions that i practiced at home were different from my peers, but I soon learned to embrace those differences as they made me unique. These differences, however, also transcend past just the cultural aspect of my life. I am the daughter of two Colombian immigrants. My parents are my heroes, as they have sacrificed so much in order to give my sister and I a shot at our own American Dream. My parents have taught me the importance of resilience, humility, and kindness. They instilled the belief of education as man’s great equalizer within me, and it is what drives my commitment to my education at Harvard. I would not be who I am today without my parents, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Why did you join Latinas Unidas?

Growing up, I don’t remember ever seeing someone who looked like me on TV, or on the news. It wasn’t until I was older that I truly realized the lack of representation of Latinas in leadership positions, different areas of the work force, and so on. LEAD works to change this. LEAD gives young latinas the tools and skills to succeed in their own areas of interest. Coming to Harvard, I wanted to find a community that would act as a second family. A community where I could ask people for help, where people would make me laugh, and, if ever needed, a shoulder to cry on. LEAD has been that for me. It is a community where I only see people rooting for my success. I hope to continue to be a part of this organization for the rest of my time at Harvard, and to keep working towards uplifting and inspiring young latinas.