This for some reason or another seems to always be the hard part, how do you answer this without sounding cocky? Or the biggest dilemma what if how you see yourself does not add up to how others perceive you? Are they wrong or are you wrong? No clue, so I will try to do my best and hopefully my loved ones will either agree, disagree, or laugh.
I am: passionate, loving, intelligent, spiritual, loyal, feisty, happy, creative, compassionate, a dreamer, a believer, a meditator, a vegetarian, a student, an advocate, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, a tree-hugger, runner, excellent dancer, bilingual, proud Latina, and above all I’m unconditional. However, with all this being said there’s two things I must emphasize, my extreme passion for writing and advocacy. I have never strived to write the next Great American Novel, my goal has always been to be an advocate through my writing. I knew at the age of ten that I wanted to be a writer; however, I also knew then what I so strongly believe in now: my writing would be used as a voice for the voiceless.
What does a ten year old know about the voiceless? I don’t know about other ten year olds but I do know about this ten year old. Sit tight, this is where it starts to get interesting. I am a first generation American, my Salvadoran mother came to this country to accomplish the good old American Dream at a time when the civil war in El Salvador was at its strongest and staying in that country was the equivalent to starving. At a very young age I was my mother’s translator, I got to witness first hand the difficulties and the living in fear that my mother and those like her had to live with on a day-to-day basis. I had to watch as English speaking people would mock non-English speakers, or give them the wrong change at stores because they knew they (the illegals as they were called) wouldn’t say anything out of fear of having INS called on them.The worst part is not being able to say anything even when your blood is boiling, because you don’t want to cause trouble for your mother. I’ve heard stories of how women didn’t receive any prenatal care because they didn’t know what services were available to them, or that legal status was not taken into consideration when requesting these services. My mother was one of them, the only reason why she ever got help was because she had accepted to take part in a medical trial for the newest form of contraceptive-IUD in the late 1970’s. These were typically the best way to get medical care. After doing some research on this, there was some really negative outcomes on this trial, luckily my mom just got me. When the doctors realized my mother was pregnant and was considered a high risk pregnancy because she had the IUD, she got sent to-what was considered then-top of the line social medical care.
At the age of ten (the 1990’s), our family (consisting of a single mother, older brother, a newborn, and myself) here in the US (my mother had 2 more daughters and a mother in El Salvador to provide for) hit hard times. This was when I must say reality hit and I stopped being a ten year old child, but became a ten year old adult. At this state of my life I got to see the best and worst of humanity. As my family struggled financially people, including some family members (one in particular) came through for my family. Providing us with food, clothes (hand-me-down’s were a blessing), moral support, and sometimes even financial help. I started figuring out ways to raise money for the household either by babysitting, collecting and selling newspaper or cans (to be recycled, yes this is also when that passion began). My friend’s mother’s would invite me over for dinner and send an extra plate home for my mother because they knew we didn’t have food at home. On one occasion my friends and I started collecting pennies, all the children in the apartment complex where we lived brought me all of their pennies, we rolled them up, and off we went. As a multicolored caravan making our way to the grocery store to buy food for my family’s dinner that night. I’ll never forget how one of my mother’s ex-employers called her up on Thanksgiving day and told her to get ready he was going to pick her up and take her to shop for all the fixings needed for Thanksgiving dinner, he ended up buying two weeks worth of groceries for our family. This event is what urged me to promise myself that I would someday return the favor to the Universe. That I would too help people in need, that I too wanted to be of service to humanity. This man’s kindness and compassion did not only feed us that night, and the ten more that followed, but it inspired me to pull through in this world because I had a promise to keep to humanity.
Some of you might ask ‘how is it that things got so bad? What about welfare, food stamps, WIC, medical, etc?’ Well, this is were some of the worst part comes into play. My mother didn’t believe in welfare, at least not for her. She believed that there were other women and families that needed it more than we did, and she didn’t want to take whatever funds were going to be provided for us from them. She was a legal resident during this time which is why she wasn’t scared to apply for food stamps and other aid; however, when social services got wind that my mother had gotten a ten cent raise, the food stamps and medicare stopped. My mother went to the offices to try to explain that she didn’t see this raise because at the same time she got the raise her hours had been cut. Her case worker wasn’t having it, she didn’t care, and sent my mother home with a new set of fears and worries. I couldn’t help but ask myself ‘how someone that is there to help, could care less about helping us?’ I new promise was made: I will help whomever needs it and if I don’t know how I will figure a way to help.
As a young child I also got to visit El Salvador during the war, I heard and saw all the noises and scenery related to such. I heard machine guns, soldiers running and harassing civilians, saw tanks, saw misery, violence, and anguish. I later lived there as a teenager a few years after the war had come to a halt and saw the aftermath, it really wasn’t any better. Violence and poverty levels were high, I got robbed by machete point by someone younger than I. A second time on the bus on my way home from school. Families didn’t know wether loved ones were alive because they were kidnapped and never seen or heard of again, or wondered if they made it to the North okay without being hunted down. In this country, so small and yet so beautiful I got to experience in body and soul what the outcome of war is. Not in dollars or Colones (salvadoran currency), but in human casualties. Unfortunately, this country will never be the same the damage was to great for it to ever go back to being completely democratic, or a sovereign state free of any international influence.
I have highlighted some of the major instances in my life that have forged my
passion for being an advocate, a servant to humanity, a beacon of peace, and just a down right good person. In my actions of kindness and compassion I honor those that did the same for my family. By participating and volunteering in organizations such as APLA (Aids Project Los Angeles), Susan G. Komen for the cure, and the American Cancer Society I honor friends and family that have lost their lives to such dreadful diseases, which also inspired me to not only write a check but take action first hand to make sure that a cure is found so other families won’t have to go through what ours did. As I strive to be a voice and raise awareness, I do so in the hopes that people will get involved to prevent such situations like the ones that occurred in El Salvador, Argentina, Republic of Congo, or in the USSR from happening again. I truly believe we have an obligation to not only one another but also to the planet. I leave you with this: Would you stand by as someone hurt or was unjust to your sister/brother or mother/father? Would you sit back and let someone come into your home and destroy it? The way I look at it we are all, as members of the human race, related and we all live in the same house-Earth.