By Savannah Garza
When I was in middle school I was asked if I wanted to join a new organization starting up in Austin called Con Mi Madre. Over the years the organization has gained more recognition as they help and empower young latinas to strive for success and make it to college.
When I was younger I didn’t understand why I was in the program nor did I fully understand how they were going to help me go to college or “empower” me. I didn’t understand any of these things fully until this year as my participation with them is coming to an end since I’m graduating and going to college next semester.
Every year when the school year comes to an end they have a special conference called “Soy Unica Soy Latina” for middle school and high school girls. This past conference made me realize, after all of these years, why I was in Con Mi Madre.
The conference started off with a Zumba session, everyone joined in for about half an hour and danced Zumba to different reggaeton songs. After, a talent show was held where girls in the organization could sign up to sing, dance, or whatever else they wanted to perform. I was astonished at how much talent such young girls possess at their age, all of the girls either danced or sang which was expected, but what surprised me was how good they were already at ages 12-16. When I was younger I was never able to break out of my shell and perform in front of 60 people the way they did. Con Mi Madre has always put an emphasis on not being shy, that we as Latinas shouldn’t feel silenced or less valid than others so seeing these girls express themselves and not caring what others think, made me feel so proud and empowered. After the talent show we broke out in to different sessions. My mom and I attended a session that put an emphasis on our identities. We were asked what we identify as, some said Latina, Mexican, Texan, Hispanic, and some jokingly said “Longhorn”. All of the mother and daughters then made art collages expressing who they are and what their story is. The fact that I love art and want to pursue it as a career along with embracing my culture more made this activity a really nice experience. After we finished the collages some mother and daughters shared their stories and collages. Almost all of us included how important avocados and Mexican food are to us somewhere in our collages. Most of the girls were first-generation children, their parents were from Mexico and came to the United States for their children. Every one of the girls and their mothers had a strong emphasis on going to college and how important family is.
The last thing we did at the conference was listen to guest speakers, some were college girls who did Con Mi Madre in high school, the chief executive director spoke too along with two women who’ve played a big part in the organization for years. All of them had interesting stories, many of them lived in families with 3+ siblings and had single mothers trying to raise them. One woman went to an elementary school where speaking Spanish wasn’t allowed. Another claimed throughout high school she was never “Hispanic enough for Hispanics, never white enough for whites; never poor enough for the other kids on her street, never rich enough for the kids at her Catholic school”. One girl was a computer programming major who did Con Mi Madre in high school, it was empowering to see this successful, young Latina work in a field where not many women and specifically, Latina women, were in. She told us how hard it was for her to find internships and to get denied a couple times, but this year she finally got an internship with ExxonMobil. The guest speakers then told us, “if you can’t get in through the front door, go through the back door, if you can’t get in through the backdoor, go through the window”. They told us to no matter what, to be persistent, don’t give up and settle for failure but keep going until you are where you want to be. This stood out to me the most during the conference.
When I looked at these women before me, I felt compelled to find success just like they did. They all started with struggles and hardships and as I looked around the room, so did many of the other girls sitting in the room. Many are first-generation kids, first to go to college, only one in the family who speaks English, have single parents raising them, have financial hardships, or face oppression in their every day life. After 5 years of being in the program, it was that moment when I realized I am in this program because I am a Latina and I should have the same opportunities as others, I can be successful in life, I can do anything I want despite my background or how much money I have, I can set an example to other young Latinas and empower them too. At that moment I had never felt prouder to be Latina.