In light of Women’s History Month, we must pay attention to all women and the diverse experiences that they all face. We must think of Latina women, Black women, Asian women, Indigenous women, Muslim women, and trans women. We must think of all the women who fought for true equality — equality across the board — not just the spotlight few. In a campus where the growing majority of the student population is Latinx, and within that the majority being women, we must think of the Latina women who have crossed borders and countries to provide a better future not only for themselves and their immediate family, but for their entire communities. Women with no knowledge of the English language, educational backgrounds, or legal authorizations to work cross the border to seek better opportunities every day.
On Monday, March 9, four Latina women that work with Community Education Program Initiative, a program on campus that connects undergraduate students with community adult learners, visited Whittier College. These women came to speak at Garrett House about their experiences as immigrant women in the USA. They all shared the sacrifices that they made to be here in the U.S., as well as their stories as immigrants.
The first woman shared her experience of having to leave her two children back home and travel to the U.S. in order to be able to financially provide for them. During her time here, she ended up having another child who was diagnosed with severe autism. Balancing two different families in two different countries without fully being here nor there has definitely taken a toll on her. That is what she sacrificed to be able to have a better future and provide that for her family as well, even if that meant her not being present to see them flourish.
The second woman talked about coming to the U.S. at 10 years old, when she was not able to make that decision for herself. She did not come voluntarily, but decided to make the best out of her reality. She had to learn English and assimilate into American culture — not out of want, but out of necessity. She later received her citizenship and has dedicated her life to tutoring other immigrant Latina women to study for their citizenship exams. She now works for the census during the elections because she finds it important to lift Latinx voices.
Another woman shared how her mother came to the U.S. without knowing anyone or where she was necessarily going. She paid someone to help her cross the border and helped her find a job. Crossing the border at night one day, she fell very hard and hurt her foot. She was told she could either stay there and get sent back or keep walking. Today, she tells her story with pride; she was able to cross the border and later able to bring her kids, who have both graduated with college degrees.
The last woman shared about her experience migrating to the U.S. and how she blindly followed her husband, who had a glamorized idea of what the U.S. would look like. Once she got here, she faced one obstacle after another — language barrier, financial problems, and the constant fear of deportation. She was constantly terrified of being outside, told from everyone she came across that she could get deported at any moment. This constant fear made her stay in the house and eventually drove her crazy. She decided to finally step out of her comfort zone so that her daughter could have new experiences. Unlike the other women, she was very privileged in many ways, but the move hit her emotionally — more than anything. She felt this way because she never felt at home. She used language as a way to maintain her culture for herself and her family. Her language has helped her make a community in a place that did not welcome her. The Spanish language was the only pride she had left, the only thing that could not be taken away from them.
Latina women represent strength in every single aspect. Immigrant women have left everything back home and have made an effort to make the U.S. feel like home, even at times when they are the least welcomed. Immigrant Latina women migrate to seek better opportunities, brighter futures, and financial or political stability. We must commemorate not only immigrant women everyday, but all of the marginalized women who are often excluded from women-run movements. It is our duty to continuously strive for intersectional thoughts and actions, to help all women — not just the ones who speak the loudest.