Mia is a 17-year-old Chicana girl living in Pomona, California, where the majority of the population is Latino and Latina people. She believes in the importance of education and her Mexican American heritage, and she considers herself lucky to have strong female role models in her life who work hard to keep their culture alive while accomplishing big things in their careers.
“My community allows me to witness the everyday efforts of Mexican Americans trying to keep their culture alive while living in this country. This is a struggle for many Chicanos and Chicanos or multicultural people,” says Mia. “I worry that our culture will be erased if we remain ignorant of our history.”
With that in mind, Mia has made this video to interview the Mexican American women in her life who have helped teach her the values she holds today and who have inspired her to hold onto her heritage.
“Culture is something that you practice every single day,” says Ms. Rita Torres, who teaches Mia’s Chicano studies course. “It’s the day-to-day values and beliefs that your family instills in you, helping each other out, looking at the extended family as your family instead of just the mother and the father and the children.”
Dr. Martha Gonzalez is a Chicano studies professor, the lead singer of the band Quetzal, and another strong female role model in Mia’s life.
“I try to read things about my culture, I’m always teaching about it,” she says. “I’m always trying to keep my pulse on what we’re doing in our communities to strengthen our communities.”
Dr. Gonzalez says she’s amazed at how resilient her Mexican American community has been over the centuries in holding onto their heritage. She hopes she can continue the tradition, even in this modern world.
“If I leave one part out, I’m leaving a piece of myself out,” she says.
Ms. Torres emphasizes the way heritage shows up in the workplace as well. “In the United States and definitely in California, you’re not going to have a workplace where you only have one culture,” she says. “You have to be able to work with people from different cultures, and I think if you figure that out, you’re going to be able to get along with people better.”
Being a multicultural person is difficult sometimes, but it’s so important to keep these cultures alive, because they are so rich and inspiring! It’s a shame that more people are not encouraged to hold onto their heritage. Mia, for her part, is trying to keep it close to her heart and share it with others.
“I am fortunate to have examples like Ms. Torres and Dr. Gonzalez—strong women who have accomplished so much in their lives while never losing touch with their heritage,” says Mia. “I know wherever I go in life, I’ll always know how to stay true to my story, my family, and my culture.”
In the video below, which Mia entered in the Girls’ Voices for Change Contest in the hopes of receiving a scholarship, this courageous young lady gives a presentation on her life and the ways she is making a change for the good in our world by focusing on her education and her heritage. Check it out!
All around the world, many girls have little (or no) access to a proper education and the opportunities they need to succeed and break out of the cycle of poverty. It is so important that we do everything we can to support these young girls and help them achieve their goals!
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?