There is no United States without Hispanic and Latinx Americans.
This isn't just because of statistics — which show that as of 2020, nearly one-fifth of all people in the United States identified as Hispanic — but also because of the many ways that Hispanic and Latinx culture and achievement have shaped our lives.
From life-saving inventions like the artificial heart, birth control, and the neonatal artificial bubble, to cultural symbols like color TV, the ebook, and even the beautyblender®, our everyday worlds have been shaped by Latinx and Hispanic inventions.
Meanwhile, groundbreakers like Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Sonia Sotomayor, Joan Baez, and Sylvia Rivera have used activism, art, and more to change the world of politics and create a more representative America.
The world of democracy and voting rights is no different. Last week, we highlighted just a few of the change-makers that allow organizations like the League to exist today. Now, we'd like to highlight a few that we know very well: members of Team LWV.
What do you do for the League, and what brought you to that work?
Amilcar Guzmán, Director of Outcomes & Evaluation: I work to ensure that we are measuring the impact of our advocacy. This means, defining metrics of success, developing surveys and conducting focus groups, and sharing information with key stakeholders.
I believe that we all have a role to play in defending our democracy. At this critical time, mine is to help make the League a stronger place by capturing our impact.
Luana Chaires, Organizer: One of the biggest reasons I decided to work for the League was their commitment to empowering voters and defending democracy. There are many opportunities to work directly with Leagues doing incredible work, from fighting for redistricting reform to educating voters through VOTE411.
Isamar Garcia-Hernandez, VOTE411 Project Coordinator: I ensure that voting information is both accurate and accessible in two languages for voters in all 50 states and Washington DC. I also serve hundreds of state and local Leagues that provide election information. I was drawn to this work as a passionate advocate for diversity in all areas of democracy.
Mariana Schmalstig Diaz, Evaluation Specialist: In 2020, I found an evaluation fellowship opportunity with the League, specifically evaluating the People Powered Fair Maps™ initiative. After serving in that role for about a year, I was hired as the Evaluation Specialist. I am eager to continue the established work of measuring success and creating a culture on the importance of collecting data and assessing the extent to which the League is meeting its goals.
Stephanie Hernandez, Social Media Specialist: I’m responsible for the League’s various social channels, creating digital content, and strengthening brand visibility.
As a first-generation Mexican American and the first in my family to graduate from college, my parents early on instilled the values of community and the power of our voices. At the League, I have the opportunity to make an impact on my community.
What's an Accomplishment, Personal or Professional, That You're Really Proud Of?
IGH: During my senior year of college, I worked as a Campaign Organizer and then Legislative Assistant for Arkansas House representative Megan Godfrey. In this position, I introduced the Representative to the issue of DACA recipients being banned from sitting for the NCLEX nursing exam, resulting in a bipartisan introduction and passage of HB1552, which now grants nursing licenses to DACA students in the state of Arkansas.
SH: Although I graduated from college a few years ago, I still carry that moment with me every day. It’s an accomplishment I share with my parents – who did everything they could to ensure a better future for their children. It also serves as a reminder of the sacrifices and the injustice my family endured when they migrated to the US in the early 80s.
MSD: I recently completed a vipassana meditation course; I learned this particular technique to eradicate suffering. With short breaks in between, I sat from 4:30am-9pm to meditate for 10 days. In order to minimize distractions, I did not have access to any electronic devices and took a vow of silence. It was one of the most challenging and yet fruitful opportunities of my life. I received so much wisdom and feel grateful for the opportunity to go deep within, concentrate the mind, and accept reality for what it is for me in every moment.
LC: One of the most recent professional accomplishments that I am proud of is the rollout of our advocacy communications on OutreachCircle. Of course, rolling out a new digital tool has challenges, but being able to create a set of systems to onboard and train Leagues has been extremely rewarding.
AG: I have dedicated my career thus far to ensuring that underserved communities have the opportunity to fully engage in society by obtaining a college education and voting. I’ve had the privilege to develop policies, evaluate programs and teach classes that all work toward these goals.
When You Think of Your Heritage, What Comes to Mind? What Brings You Joy?
LC: When I think of heritage, I think about the inspiring leaders who came before me, from Rodolfo Gonzales to Octaviano Larrazolo and many more. All advocates for civil rights that worked to enhance our people's lives in this country and change what is not fair or right. It brings me joy that I get to work in the same space as these icons and in a way that I can be part of the fight.
MSD: I love to hear the different languages and accents used by my people. They are so funny, loud, and caring! I also very much enjoy the delicious variety of Peruvian dishes that are influenced by many other cultures. I can’t pick a favorite, but a few of them include ceviche, papa rellena, and lomo saltado. Music is another aspect I appreciate from my heritage, as it is likewise diverse and unique. Always makes me want to get up and dance (or maybe sob for a bit:)!
SH: When I think of my heritage, I think of family and how it’s one of the most important elements in our culture and values. I also think of food! Mexican cuisine is so diverse and unique throughout the regions in Mexico.
IGH: As a daughter of Mexican immigrants and as a first-generation Mexican American, I pride myself in being the seed my parents planted when they first arrived in the United States. I'm a proud product of farm and poultry workers who eventually found their home in Springdale, Arkansas. It brings me joy to see their sacrifices validated. I hold my Mexican culture closely and dearly as a sign of gratitude to them and my ancestors.
AG: The richness of the Latino/a community. Contrary to popular belief, Latino/as are not a monolith. As the demographics of the US continue to shift, I am excited for Latinos to play a larger role in shaping the future of the country.
Dominican food and Bachata music are just two examples of things that bring me joy and that I believe will bring others joy as well.
Do you have any advice or words you’d share with someone of Hispanic or Latinx heritage pursuing work in a field like yours?
MSD: As an underserved community, there are many ways our power has been taken away from us. As a Latinx, you deserve to have your voice heard. Similarly, it’s important to uplift those around you who have also been oppressed. Speak up when it’s necessary, especially if you’re the only Latinx at the table; but also take a step back to make room for others who don’t always get a seat at this decision table. It’s a delicate balance to check and appropriately use our privileges. I’m proud that the evaluation field not only values “high quality, ethically defensible, culturally responsive evaluation practices” but also holds dear the principles of diversity and inclusion. Use this perspective to your advantage.
AG: Seek out mentors! So much of what I learned and where I am I can attribute to the mentorship of dedicated professionals.
SH: My advice is, “que tu puedes” (you can do it). Pursue a field that you care about and the impact you want to have.
LC: You are enough. Your skills are enough, and it's okay to take up space. We need people like you in this field for our entire community to be heard. The work is long from done, so don't feel intimidated to reach out to folks already in the fight.
IGH: Staying true to yourself and upholding your personal values in and outside of your professional work will guide you to the right place. Always keep those outside of the room in mind when taking up space in important conversations. Value yourself for who you are first, and the great work you produce second.
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