Mónica Ramirez on Centering Latinx Voices During Hispanic Heritage Month
Hispanic Heritage Month takes place every year from September 15 to October 15 in the United States. It’s a month dedicated to celebrating and recognizing the contributions that Latinx people have made to the United States. Often times this comes in the form of glossy media messages that paint an image of a Latinx community whose main goal is to acclimate and achieve the American Dream. Here at Peace is Loud, we know how important it is to highlight stories that paint real pictures of the systemic racism we face in the US and the tremendous accomplishments Latinx people have made to advance social justice in spite of these challenges. We need to talk about the plight of undocumented people, stretching as far as the incarceration of children in horrible conditions in detention centers, to the blatant fact that Latinas find themselves at the bottom of the pay equity scale, making 54 cents to the white man’s dollar. As bleak as this may sound, we have made important strides in the political and community building arenas including: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez being elected for United States Congress Representative — told through Knock Down the House on Netflix, whose impact campaign Peace is Loud worked on — and Mónica Ramirez, one of the powerful changemakers on Peace is Loud’s Speakers Bureau, winning the Hispanic Heritage Award for her work advocating for migrant women rights at Justice 4 Migrant Women and National Domestic Workers Alliance.
We recently interviewed Mónica about how we can celebrate and center Latinx people during this time. Read what the long-time advocate, organizer, and attorney fighting to eliminate gender-based violence for migrant women had to say about Hispanic Heritage Month and what you should be doing now to support Latinx people in the US:
What does Hispanic Heritage mean to you? Why is it important that we center the voices of Latinx people in the United States today?
Hispanic heritage means love and joy. The Latinx community in the US and Latin American people around the world are loving, welcoming, and warm people. In our culture, no matter what ethnicity we hold whether it be Mexican-American, Mexican, Ecuadorian, Honduran or any of the countries that comprise our Latinidad, I have found that people readily open their homes and their hearts to others. I love this about our community. There is a vibrancy about our communities. From the bright colors that mark our celebrations, to the music that we create and play to the love of dance and celebrations.
It is very important to center the voices of Latinx community members at this moment that is particularly divisive and one where we find the Latinx community under attack because we speak with love, we promote acceptance and we offer alternatives- from alternative policies and practices to modeling a different kind of leadership. This was evident from the Querida Familia letter that we recently organized and published. Nearly 250 Latinx leaders came forward to speak with love and solidarity in a very dark moment in our history. This is significant and it embodies the way that we move in this world. It also provides insight into the kind of world that we are building through our leadership.
You work closely advocating for and with Latinx migrants in the United States – what are the top issues we need to learn and be aware of to uplift their voices?
For me, since I was a young girl, I understood the importance of elevating the voices of migrants in the United States because I learned at an early age that there is so much wisdom in the struggle that farmworkers and other migrant workers live through. Despite being paid low wages, exposed to harmful chemicals and dangerous working conditions and suffering wide-spread sexual violence, migrant workers in this country can teach us so much about what it means to be resilient, to fight back against terrible conditions and treatment even when all odds are against us and to live with love in the face of horrible treatment and conditions. We must uplift the power of migrant workers and the fact that they can be among some of our greatest teachers if we respect them and amplify their voices, as I do through my work and hope that others will do, too.
How does your work speak to Hispanic Heritage month? What intersections do you see that are important to note today?
In a lot of ways, I feel like I am a living that quote: I am my ancestors wildest dreams. When my family came to the United States from Mexico and traversed this country as migrant farmworkers, they did it with the hope that somehow they, their children and their children’s-children would one day have a better life. And, even though they had to leave their country of origin to achieve this dream, they did not have to leave our culture behind and they didn’t.
My parents, my siblings and I, as well as my own child, we are living that better life that my ancestors sacrificed so much for and it is one that honors our culture, while also offers our unique perspective, cultural traditions and values to this country.
My work honors my family’s past as migrant farmworkers. I learned the struggle of the farmworker community from my family and it is a very similar struggle today. It is one where a mostly Latinx workforce is still being underpaid, forced to work under terrible conditions and largely made invisible in our society. My job is to fight for both rights and visibility to make sure that the conditions improve so that farmworkers and other migrant workers will no longer be treated as second class citizens and their work will be valued, while also lifting up and celebrating who we are as people and what we have to offer as a community.
Who are some Latinx activists/organizers that we should be paying close attention to online?
I hope that folks will follow the work that I am doing online because we need support and help to amplify our message. Folks can find me online on Twitter and Instagram @MonicaRamirezDC and on Facebook at @ActivistMonicaRamirez. People should also follow @mujerxsrising and @domesticworkers. There are so many other activists and organizers who are making a big impact. Of course, without question, everyone should be following Dolores Huerta. She continues to break barriers and fight for our community. Cristina Jimenez from United We Dream is doing incredible work, as well as Bamby Salcedo who is a trailblazing trans-Latina activist. Faviana Rodriguez is one of the most incredible cultural organizers in our country. There are so many Latinx folks who are doing critical work on the ground and in communities across our country. People should also pay attention to who is doing the work locally. Support those folks and help them build in the places where you live.