As we close out Latinx Heritage Month, we are reminded that celebrating our culture and learning more about the cultures of others extends beyond the boundaries of a calendar and into our daily lives. We are proud to call the Latinx community part of our family and we stand in solidarity for their rights, and that means making sure their voices are heard.
Join us in celebrating Latinx Heritage Month by honoring the histories, cultures, and contributions of Latinx communities. Meet the team at our organization that is bringing their cultures and experiences into the work they do with their community, from empowering Latinx patients, staff and volunteers to expanding efforts to improve sexual and reproductive health.
The following is an interview with Raiz Organizer Alexis who works in the Lancaster community. Right now she is engaging voters and volunteers ahead of the election.
Where is your family from and what do you love best about your culture?
Alexis: My father is from Chiapas, Mexico and my mother is from Mexico’s capital, Ciudad de México. Even my sister is from Chiapas, but I’m first generation. I was born in Texas, and when I was 5-years-old we moved to Northumberland, PA. I still live there now. It was overwhelming for my family, adjusting to stigmas.
I love that the concept of family and food for Mexicans is a driving force. Even if you are not family, we will treat you like family. There’s a sense of wholesome solidarity and we like to bring people in to share in the complete experience of a meal.
What brought you into political work?
Alexis: When I was in high school, I was so different from my classmates, ideologically and socially. It was hard growing up in a white area with people not understanding or willing to understand a different worldview. I noticed a shift my senior year of high school, that people were much more willing to be educated and I saw my classmates ideas change. That’s when I wanted to start organizing and influencing others on a larger scale so I got involved with different organizations on my college campus and started to recognize my talent as an activist and a liaison to my community.
What inspires you to work with PPPA?
Alexis: Growing up, my parents never really had accessible health care and they didn’t know English, so I would go to the doctor with them. The free or reduced clinics my mom went to weren’t helpful or caring and that was tough to witness growing up.
That injustice was a huge driving force in my life. I want people to have the care I didn’t have as a young girl because women’s health is so important for Latina folks, and Planned Parenthood provides that. I want to be able to help and extend my knowledge to my community.
What challenges do you face?
Alexis: I feel like I’m challenged in finding strength and confidence. I have confidence in myself, but building that through organizing is hard. My family experienced truly awful things in the 1970s and 80’s in Mexico. Activists were murdered by their own government and people lived in constant fear of violence. There were people on my mom’s side of the family, leaders in the worker’s unions that went missing, and today my family still has fear for standing up to power. Their traumatic history only encourages me more though, to do the work that my family did before me.
How does your culture motivate you?
Alexis: Southern Mexico has a long history of organizers and coalitions, and hearing stories from my mom about how our people fought for the betterment of their land inspired me as a child and really is a driving force for me now.
When I was younger, my parents would speak Spanish and people would laugh, but the country is changing and becoming more diverse so hopefully people don’t have to grow the way that I did. Other kids made fun of my clothes, my accent, my food, but now I see people recognizing that we are more similar than we are different. I try to see this as a positive, share the beauty of my culture and work to break down stigmas.
What do you wish more people knew?
Alexis: I wish people would see the reality of our people and not the stereotype. Mexicans are hardworking and they bust their ass in high labor jobs. My parents have done every job you can think of from picking produce and cleaning houses to working in restaurants, and they worked multiple jobs to make ends meet. This is true of an entire network of people I know.