Latina Women take the Lead!

Beatrice is working on the computer on a project.
A photo of Beatrice working on the computer.

By Beatrice Santiago 

“What would you like to do when you grow up, mija?’’ asked my mom. This is a question that am I sure most of us were asked at some point in our lives. As a young Latina woman, this question always lingered in the back of my mind. Because I had an idea where I wanted to go. I wanted to go to college and get into a career of my choice. Currently, I am in college and my career is still in the works. I knew that when I would tell adults that I wanted to become a movie director, even an actress, but first receive an education. They would support me, yet I knew that they probably thought I could never make it. Who would take a high school student seriously with those types of dreams?  Little did they know. After my parents realized that I was actually being serious about going to college, that it was truly something I wanted to do, they supported me in every possible way. Now they are my biggest supporters.

Yet many families still have the mentality that women should take care of the house and the children while men go out and work to provide for them. Those type of expectations are especially put on Latina women. My family would always tell me that if I didn’t go to college, then I would be expected to find a man that could provide for me because I wouldn’t go far in life without a man next to my side. Or that I would get pregnant and regret it later on. This made me begin to create negative thoughts in my head–I wasn’t good enough. Or I’m not college material, I’m not capable of finishing college and finding my dream job. There were times where I got so upset, even when I did come to college. But, then I would remember stories about Sonia Sotomayor becoming the first Latina in the Supreme Court, or Gina Rodriguez winning a Golden Globe award for Best Actress in Jane the Virgin. 

“Get an education. The one thing that nobody can take from you is your education.”  “I’m here, I’m present, I’m a contributor to society, I deserve to be part of this conversation, I have an opinion, listen to me roar,” said Gina Rodriguez in an interview.

Sonia’s and Gina’s stories are inspiring, and the struggles they had to go through to get where they are today blew my mind. I would think to myself,

“Struggles are real, they will come, but that won’t stop you!”

It hasn’t yet, although there are times where I definitely think I won’t make it. Instead, I try to take those moments and learn from them. Many Latina women are not expected to go to college and succeed. When they do succeed, people say it’s impressive and unbelievable, as if it were an unreachable task because it is expected of a man, but not a woman. 

Well, let me tell you, it is more common than many people think. Latina women are actually attending and graduating from college more than Latino men are. As Latina women, many of us struggle to find the resources available for us to continue our education. But when we find those resources, we take advantage of them. Take for example the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) at the University of Idaho. This program helps first-generation students from farm working backgrounds succeed and adjust to a new environment. Each year, around 35 students are selected to be part of this program. Almost all of them are from farm working backgrounds. I was part of that cohort last year. More than half of us were Latina women, while 13 of them were men. If you go to the CAMP office and look at the pictures from past cohorts, you will see a common trend. More women than men.

According to the U.S Census Bureau in a Huffington Post article, women are advancing in not only education, but entrepreneurship and employment. We are breaking cultural barriers. In 2004, 18.5% of Latina women completed high school and admission rates have gone up in recent years. A 2015 report by the Department of Education acknowledges that Latinas have definitely advanced with high school completion and college attendance. Yet, there is more to do. If given the resources, such as access to how to find scholarships, the numbers of Latina women in college will only increase.

Instead of expecting Latina women to not succeed in high school or go on to college, schools should provide programs that help these young women find available resources. Schools should offer workshops that these women can relate to, and talk to them to see how we can help them go on. If it hadn’t been for the good mentors that I encountered towards the end of my senior year of high school, I am not sure I would have gotten this far. It would have been a million times harder to get where I am today. 


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