HOLA, Salem College’s Hispanic student organization, held its first panel on Nov. 9. “What Does It Mean to be Latinx?” featured three prominent Latina women who spoke about their experiences. Dr. Ana León-Távora, chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Assistant Professor of Spanish at Salem, moderated the panel by asking anonymous, student provided questions.
The discussion centered around the experience of growing up Latina and how each panelist discovered ways to be proud women of color. “I started wondering [when I emigrated from Venezuela] what does it mean to be Latina?” said Marina Castillo Gómez, an Immigration Attorney at Castillo Immigration Law Firm. “And it means a lot of things to me. It means remembering… if you want to achieve your dream, you need to ask yourself, who, really, you are.”
Gómez immigrated to the United States as an adult without being able to speak English. She recounted how she fell in love with advocating for her people. Having spent almost a decade in law school, often as the only Latina in the classroom, her experiences led her to advise Latinx students that if you want to do something “go ahead and do it. You’re young, you’re bilingual. You have all the privileges that I didn’t have.”
Patricia Perez Galeana, Deputy Consul General at the consulate of Mexico in Charlotte, shared similar themes in her experience. Her friends and family back home in Mexico frequently ask her why she chose to move out of her country. To them, she proudly says that she is passionate about protecting and helping other Mexican nationals find their way in the United States.
“You are the dreamers, but before you were your parents. I know that you face challenges every single day, but for your parents it’s so difficult. There are so many violations of their rights,” Galeana said. “I have to be here working for my people.” She challenged students to be unapologetically proud of their heritage, their families and their culture.
The third panelist, Silvia Ramos, is a Latinx advocate and an Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action Officer at Winston-Salem State University. Her words clearly resonated with her audience when she reminded them to challenge understandings of their heritage. “So, what does it mean to be Latina? What does it mean to be black? What makes you the judge of that?”
Ramos encapsulated the panel’s sentiments with her fervent in her belief that “there is a tremendous strength that comes with what it means to be Latina in this country and I wouldn’t want to be anything else.”