Being The Only Latina In The Room

By Savannah Castaneda

I have constantly been the only Latina - hell, the only woman - in many rooms for many years.

In between undergrad and grad school, I worked within the corporate, governmental, and political sectors - all spaces that are not meant for Latinas, Latinxs, and other BIPOC to thrive in. I was constantly talked over, dismissed, and harassed by white people, and especially white men. They would constantly try to belittle me, make me feel like my ideas and lived experiences were invalid, and that I was here because "I'm the Latin representative." It took everything in me to show up to work sometimes. I felt like I had to constantly hide my truth. Hide who I was. I felt like I constantly needed to code-switch. Whether it was how I talked, how I dressed, how I wore my makeup, how I changed my hoops out when I got to the office and feeling the need to hide my tattoos. It was especially hard having a whole room of people be very privileged and think the world revolved around them and their needs. It was hard to hear them talk about low-income communities "needing to work harder" for their money and benefits, or about how Black and Brown people were ultimately destined and inherently meant to end up in jail or prison.

I felt like a zombie when I walked into those spaces. And I felt like I had let my ancestors down. They worked so hard to give me this life. To lay down the bricks to get me to these kinds of opportunities. But it meant nothing to me (and nothing to them) if I was hiding our beautiful culture and roots. It meant nothing if I couldn't be me. The whole me.

I hope that wherever you find yourself, you always remain true to yourself. I hope you keep your culture and roots at the heart of yourself. I hope that you never feel ashamed to be YOU, because you are amazing. And I hope you never dim your light or energy for anybody else. Wear that red lipstick, bright, long acrylic nails, and fashion pieces that express the real, authentic you.

Be proud of your community and culture, chingona! There is no one else like us!

Much love,


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