At the Latinas Organizing for Leadership and Advocacy training in North Carolina, I was handed a piece of paper. I flipped it over and the sign asked me why I am a poderosa. I stared at the blank paper for a few minutes, remembering my senior year of high school.
High school for me was nothing like the movie Mean Girls promised it to be. I was never bullied or excluded from the lunch table for wearing sweat pants on the wrong day of the week. Instead, my life changed drastically when I understood the difficulties I would face after graduation because of my undocumented status. Not having those magical 9-digit numbers called Social Security separated me from my friends, and made the college application process that much more complicated.
I spent most of my senior year curled up in my mother’s arms, or on my pillow when I felt like a burden to her, crying. I always knew I didn’t have papeles but I believed the promises my teachers told me, about working hard to achieve your dreams. I didn’t know that all this hard work would go unnoticed if I wasn’t a citizen. Despite all the obstacles placed in front of me because of my immigration status, I was able to enroll in college. Financing my education would be one of many challenges.
After entering the adult world, finding affordable care has difficult since I do not benefit under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or any other relief I’ve come across. When it comes to rushing to the emergency room, I hesitate, worrying about the large sum on a bill that will be waiting for me in the mail. While I continue to push for marginalized communities to receive access to education and care, it’s difficult when I can’t obtain this myself. Since these problems continue to exist, I’ll empower my community to stand up and create the change they want to see. The time to stay quiet and wait is up.
So the sign asked me why I am a poderosa. Well, in the darkest of times I’ve found strength to get out of bed in the morning. Because in a country where I’m constantly told I don’t belong, and where relief never reaches my neck of the woods, I’ve found reasons to keep fighting and resisting. Because being a poderosa means I allow myself to be weak, to cry, but then I get up and find solutions. Because I refuse to let myself give up, even when those around me say I won’t make it. Because I share my strength with those around me. I am a poderosa because I am undocumented and unafraid.
– Contributed by Angy Rivera, Community Mobilization Intern