Monica Ruiz


Please explain what you do for living.

I am a community organizer at Casa San Jose, a project of the Thomas Merton Center. I work with undocumented immigrants to ensure that they are engaged in both civic and social activities in our community. I am an advocate for immigrant rights, human rights, affordable housing, and equitable development. I have my MSW from the University of Pittsburgh with a concentration in Community Organizing and Social Administration.

How important in your identity is being Latino?

It is VERY important! My mother is from Guatemala and my father is from Puerto Rico. I was born in Cleveland, Ohio but I still maintain my culture and Spanish language. At home my husband and I only speak Spanish to our children and we visit our native countries at least once a year. It is very important for us to keep our culture alive.

Is there something that you particularly value of your nationality or being Latino?

I value our customs: we are very family oriented we value education and have a strong work ethic. We spend time with the family and are united by food.

Have you been treated differently because of being Latino (in the workplace, in public settings…etc.)?

Unfortunately, here in Pittsburgh was the first time I had ever experienced racism. It started when I first got here about 8 years ago and it has been going strong ever since. Since we only speak Spanish to our children, I have on many occasions been told to speak English, and once was told that I am ruining their lives by not speaking to them in English. I have been told to go back to my country, that this is America and in America we speak "American," whatever that means. I have been denied service, I have had conversations with people in English, mind you I have no accent, English is my first language, and they will say oh do you speak English, WHAT!!! I have been speaking English this whole conversation! Anyway, well I could go on but I will spare you the crude details.