There are many facets to our identities. Typically, we start with the obvious but there are numerous layers. For me, my gender, race, and nationality have played a pivotal role in my life. My family moved to the United States from Sinaloa, Mexico, when I was seven years old. Initially, we lived in California and ultimately settled in Yuma, Arizona. As an adolescent, I missed out on several opportunities because I was not a U.S. citizen. Being undocumented meant I could not qualify for scholarships or take advantage of other educational opportunities despite maintaining good grades.
As I grew older, I began realizing how my status as a Mexican immigrant and a woman intersected. For example, as a Latina, I was treated differently and faced a different kind of discrimination. Among other Mexicans, it was about proving authenticity; outside of my race, it became about proving that I had assimilated into American culture.
These challenges followed me into my Army career where I was told that to compete, I had to “keep up with the guys.” This was frustrating since these standards kept shifting. There were certain preconceived notions of what I could or could not accomplish as a member of the Hispanic/Latino community. This was equally frustrating. It was during my time in the Army when I earned my American citizenship. This is a wonderful thing, which opened many doors for me. However, because I am an immigrant and a woman it still felt as if people placed me in a secondary class of citizenship.
Through a wide range of life experiences, I have come to realize the nature of intersectionality. The Hispanic/Latino community remains divided by biases. Different groups of Latinos are made to feel lesser than other groups within the same community. For example, I am rather fair toned. I have been told by some groups that I am “too white” and therefore not a real Mexicana. Meanwhile, other groups have indicated that I am “too dark” and cannot “fit in” with those other groups.
It is important to me that we all begin to address the issues that are inherent to achieving diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. I believe people should be proud of their heritage and not held back by systemic and discriminatory practices. When more than one form of inequality is present in a person’s life, it exacerbates issues. One of the missions of the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) is to address these multifaceted and often complex issues.
In the last few years, I have come to understand these challenges in greater detail. I am excited to put the lessons I have learned into use with my new team here at EDI. As the Principal Strategist for the Hispanic/Latino portfolio, I am entrusted with identifying opportunities and challenges associated with creating an inclusive work environment within our National Institutes of Health community. Additionally, I have the privilege of chairing the Engagement Committee, which recommends, supports, and leads actions and activities to help recruit and retain a diverse, high performing workforce that is reflective of all segments of society. I am honored to be here and excited to meet and work with all of you.
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to introduce myself and give you a little insight into my journey.
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