by Samantha McLane, PPFA
There are several things that make us Latinas proud of our culture: We have booty-shakin’music, powerful art, humor, passionate spirituality, a rich history, and oh yes — pretty amazing food. Our tierra madre Latin America is a fertile, rich, and vast land that evokes energy, vitality, and hope. Here in the states, in addition to sharing such a great cultural background and strong ties, we Latin@s have constructed our own identity in ways that make our communities very diverse and strong. We are not only Mexican voices, but also Guatemalan, Peruvian, Honduran, Puerto Rican, and many, many others. As a Latina and Mexicana, I am elated about the fact that we Latin@s are becoming a powerful and influential community at many levels in the U.S.
Nevertheless, I am also conscious of the struggles that our communities face when it comes to accessing basic fundamentals such as health services, well-paid jobs, education opportunities, and housing. Unfortunately, Latinas are the most affected by such lack of access. As Jessica González-Rojas, director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, points out, even though the Affordable Care Act covers millions of women, millions of Latinas still won’t have access to lifesaving care and contraception because of their immigration status. It saddens me to learn that Latinas are at a higher risk of getting sexually transmitted infections due to cultural stigmas about sexuality, poor access to health care, and lack of knowledge and awareness of these risks.
What’s more, women’s health has been under attack in states across the country. Driven by politicians who want to take away critical health care from women, including birth control and cancer screenings, these efforts only exacerbate the challenges Latinas face in accessing the care they need.
But despite all these challenges, we Latinas are poderosas and we can change the course of our lives if we get together and act together. Our strong voices have demanded that our reproductive health and rights be protected. We have shown that despite cultural taboos, stereotypes, and stigmas, we are a force of strong women who will fight for our rights.
We are poderosas because
- We are paying attention: In recent years, politicians have played politics with women’s health and rights. However, these attacks on women’s health have made us stronger because we are more informed about legislative policies that harm our reproductive health and the health of our community. We understand how Latinas and their families are struggling to access basic health services and we know we need to work to change these inequities.
- We are speaking out: By informing our communities about the importance of defending our rights, we are raising awareness, and turning awareness into action. We have been very vocal about the fact that nobody speaks on our behalf except ourselves, that our politics are personal, and that we will unite to protect our health, our communities, and our bodies.
- We are acting: Our relationships with our families, friends, and communities have empowered us to act and to make a difference. We are taking to the streets and participating in press conferences, marches, and rallies to be present and represent our communities. We are participating in campaigns like this 3rd annual Latina Week of Action one organized by The National Latina Institute because we know that our voices can make an impact.
The most exciting part is that all these actions will help make presence bigger and more powerful. This is why we Latinas somos poderosas. And this is why you are poderosa, too! Get involved, watch, speak out, and act!