This piece was featured in the Ánimo Voices Writing and Art Competition, which invited students to consider a change they’d like to see in their community or the world and to convince an audience, through any genre of writing or visual medium, of the importance of this change. The competition was an opportunity to motivate, recognize, and celebrate our strong student voices through writing and art.

I am a Latina woman. Though I was born here, I have Mexican blood running through my veins, and that is something that I am extremely proud of having. In my community, we have always faced the struggles of racism. “Wetbacks, beggars, and illegals,” are just a couple words that the people in my community have been called. Something that many people tend to overlook though, is that my people are one of the most hardworking people you will have ever seen or known. You can see us everywhere! Selling refreshing fruit in the hottest of days and such beautiful flowers in the middle of the street for whenever you forgot a small gift for a loved one. We landscape your gardens. Pick your fruits and veggies. We do the majority of the hands on labor this country needs. All to support our families. Even in the most tragic situations, you can see an old man out there with his bucket of flowers when he should be at home resting. And that is something that I am extremely honored to be a part of.

The truth is, my community, as well many other minority groups, struggle with the lack of representation in high level jobs. Latinos are underestimated therefore "under qualified." We are belittled when put against white folk. We have to stick with the low level hospitality jobs being offered, because that’s all we are “qualified”to do. And don’t get me started on those with no legal status, who sometimes aren’t even offered any help at all.

This continues on to students in the lower income not being exposed enough, or at all, to people from their backgrounds making it big in life! Many brown students, like me, are probably inspired to become a lawyer, or a doctor, or an engineer, but because of the lack of representation of our background, we tend to lose hope. I remember as a child, knowing that no one in my family is someone that ‘big’ in society compared to many other students in a UCLA program I am in, who have family members that are physicians, surgeons, etc and I firmly believe that that needs to change!

During the COVID crisis, everyone was affected worldwide. But you cannot compare the struggles of a white person versus the ones of a person of color. Besides having more exposure to the virus due to the area most people of color live in, COVID was the main reason why many struggle with their bills still after almost a year from the lockdown. The loss of jobs resulted in not having much to eat, or maybe even nothing to eat, and this was primarily seen in people of color. My family was one of millions who had very little money during the lockdown. We struggled to pay bills, even rent, when we would normally pay on time. Food was scarce. We had to limit our rations every day in order to ensure that there was enough for the next. So how can you compare these struggles compared to many others who could afford takeout from restaurants every now and then? Who have been taking vacations or mini visits to other places. Many fortunate families were able to stock up since the beginning, making sure that food would never go scarce, but many weren’t. Many like mine. How can you compare those people to many families who struggled on getting basic human necessities? A roof. Food. Water. All these things that people of color do not have the luxury of having at all times.

Of course after every storm, there will be a rainbow. And luckily, something that I have learned from being part of a hispanic community, is that family is everything. Something that my dad always says when we are going through dark times is, “at least we have each other.” And that phrase honestly never became so clear to me until now that the pandemic hit. Although my dad had no job for almost half a year, on the bright side, he was able to spend so much time with us. My sister and I are so accustomed to him working almost every day that spending every single day with him for six months was a blessing that only comes by once in a lifetime. Apart from that, thankfully neither me nor my family got COVID. And it’s memories like our daily game nights, or movie nights, and late night beach drives that will stay in my memory about our days during COVID. No matter what the situation is, your family will always be there for you.

Motivation is how I cope, and I am sure it is how many others of my background cope as well. When it comes to the lack of representation of my community, I think about becoming the example that many students like me can use in the future. I want to become the inspirations I was not exposed to very often. If talking to schools with students from low income areas is all that could take to inspire anyone from an underrepresented background, or an underprivileged background, then I am all for it. It is what I want to change in this world and leave my personal mark. I want to inspire others like me to dream big because anything is possible, no matter where you come from, where you live, and how you live.

Our struggles do not define us! We people of color were born into a system where we have to work harder to even reach the same level every other person is at. And so taking back all the words we have been called before, the doubts and misbelief in ourselves, is what we use as fuel. We keep ourselves up for our families. Our parents, siblings, and future generations. We power ourselves for the fight we need to go through in order to make it out good in this society.