When I first visited Washington D.C. in April 2009, my life changed. As I walked through each museum in the National Mall, I learned about the accomplishments of the men and women before me. Looking over the artifacts and being immersed in history, it changed my understanding of our Nation and how we had gotten to that point. I remember thinking that as a young woman, as a Latina, there was limited information on display or even references about both of those labels I identified with. I came home from that trip convinced that my future was going to involve museums and libraries then I had stumbled upon the US Latino Museum. Although there wasn’t a museum YET, I was convinced that by the time I was out of college there would be a place for me to see our history on display. I look back now thinking about how that path to put the American Latino Museum in the National Mall would not be so simple.
In the book Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldúa, Anzaldúa wrote “Cradled in one culture, sandwiched between two cultures, straddling all three cultures and their value systems, la mestiza undergoes a struggle of flesh, a struggle of borders, an inner war”. I recall reading that quote in my senior year of college and realizing that that ‘inner war’ was exactly how I had been feeling since I was a preteen. I reflected on my past experiences and thought about how if I had seen more diverse representation in my life, specifically women of color, than maybe I wouldn’t have felt so lost or so alone growing up.
Which brings me to present day, working for HACE has been a dream. I wake up with a purpose every day, something I know a lot of people are not able to say. Our mission to help Latino/a/x/e professionals reach their full potential is an honor. I could not be more grateful to play a small role in a person's growth. During my 6-month review, I had mentioned that I had seen Patricia was a part of the coalition to pass the bill to build the American Latino Museum, I had let her know that was a movement I had been following since high school. It was one of the reasons why I had decided to pursue a degree in Library Science. She smiled and gave me some more information about the movement. A few weeks later, she had asked me to sit in on one of the FRIENDS group meetings and take notes. I had no idea a Zoom call in my childhood bedroom would lead me right back to Washington D.C.
When Patricia said that she wanted me to come to D.C. with her and join the FRIENDS group in their lobbying efforts, I was ready to get on the next flight out! I still did not know what was in store for me in two weeks. I hate to admit this, but I am easily intimidated. The imposter syndrome creeps up every now and again. Standing outside of the Rayburn building in a dress from TJMaxx and H&M blazer, it started to happen. I’m just a girl from the Southside of Chicago! I am half-Mexican, and I do not speak Spanish! I began to question what I am even doing here. But after sharing how I got into this, what this museum would mean to me and to my future generations, I realized again the power of representation. Without this museum, these next generations would possibly share the same mindsets and I never wanted anyone to feel like I felt in my early 20s. The National Museum of the American Latino belongs on the National Mall. Generations of young people DESERVE to walk through a museum filled with exhibits that tell their story, that show them faces of men and women that look like them. A spot in the National Mall solidifies that we as Latinos matter, our history is important, and our contributions to the American Story will never be forgotten.
Sitting in those offices, walking through the halls, & walking up those steps was humbling & incredibly empowering. I was there trying to write history, trying to make a difference. Just a girl from the Southside of Chicago. I say it often, but do not give up on your dreams. Do not stop thinking that the impossible is possible. I always talked about the people I wish I had growing up. But after those two days, I came to realize that I am the one that I was always waiting for.