Please explain what you do for a living.
I work in the Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS), which is one of six area and thematic studies centers under the leadership of the University Center for International Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. My role as an Assistant Director for Outreach allows me to provide activities and tools that support spreading Latin American and Caribbean knowledge to our students and educators. Pretty much 40% of my time is spent overseeing a school visit program where Pitt undergraduate students have the opportunity to visit and teach Latin American and Caribbean topics with Pittsburgh schools, including ones in suburban areas as well. In the other 60% of my time, I promote and organize cultural events such as film series, outreach fairs, lectures and conferences, furthermore educational events such as workshops for Spanish and Portuguese K-12 teachers and professional development trips.
I LOVE my job, in fact, I am proud as a Latina to support education in all levels for our future generations. Through the visits to schools and interacting with educators, I see the need to provide more resources to teach Latin American Languages and its culture.
Another assignment that personally makes me happy is to organize the annual Latin American and Caribbean festival, which today is one of the biggest Latin American and Caribbean festivals in the Pittsburgh region. Over 4+ months, I am pretty much working constantly to find local vendors and national and international artists and groups to become part of this festival. My challenge is to educate and highlight to our local community that Latin America and the Caribbean is beyond ‘rice and beans” or ‘salsa” as many people has ironically used it as a reference. I want to see Pitt and the city grow as a place for everyone, including their traditions, languages and culture.
How important in your identity is being Latina?
Muchísimo! Being a Latina is very significant to me, because I can recognize my identity and myself. I am always proud of my roots and my traditions, and I try to remember it on a daily basis. For example; I like to share with friends and coworkers where I come from, the meaning of my culture, my music, my favorite food and what I miss the most, Mi Familia! That is my way of being a proud Latina.
Is there something specific that you particularly value of your nationality, or of being Latina?
Colombia will always be my home, no matter where life is going to take me. Colombia is the land of amazing people and great coffee. That is the place that made me a proud Latina. I believe that is what I value most, because I learned to appreciate the concept of a family as the years go by. As Colombian, you grow up learning to love and support your family no matter what. For example, there is no limit of time or specific holidays to visit your relatives. We like to get together and celebrate life! In addition, the cooking is very important to me, as a Latina, I like to watch my Mom cook and share her favorite recipes. Family time is my motivation to travel back home every year.
Have you ever been treated differently because of being Latina?
I do not think so, even after so many years of living in the United States. Or maybe because of my accent people tend to treat me a little differently, but not disrespectfully. I try to be aware and to understand that I am coming from another culture and expressions can be taken differently. What I do is try to ignore the bad comments about Colombia and its wrong stereotypes.