Above all, this is the year to recognize the value of women’s role in society and in the workforce. Since the pandemic, this country has seen 5.4 million women lose their jobs as of December 2020. At the same time, women are one in three essential workers, while thousands of women have had to leave their jobs to dedicate themselves to their families, which has impacted the economic health of their families.
This month we celebrate all these women for their courage, strength, and resilience. In writing this article, I have not been able to help thinking about the women who defined my life—my mother and my three sisters—whom I deeply admire and who shaped who I am today.
My mother, Amalia, came to the United States in the 1950s from a small town in Michoacán, Mexico, called Tangancícuaro. She arrived to settle with my father and older sister in Kansas City, Kansas. Having huge dreams for her seven children, she gave everything for us, and despite her lack of formal schooling, she always recognized the value of a good education.
She never worked away from home so she could take care of us. Although she occasionally helped the family, as much as she could, by taking care of other children in our neighborhood —as if taking care of seven kids were not enough! But those are the sacrifices Latinas make. Sacrifices like the one my older sister, Martha, also made.
Martha has special needs, but her sense of social responsibility has not waned. For 30 years, Martha traveled every day on three buses to get to work in a restaurant located in a major shopping center, where she cleaned tables and thus helped contribute to the family. Last year, Martha contracted COVID-19. Like so many families in the United States and around the world, we were very concerned because the risks were greater for her as a person in her 70s. While Martha temporarily lost her sense of smell and taste, fortunately her other symptoms were not severe. We’re grateful that she survived a disease that has already ended the lives of more than half a million people in this country.
My sister Rose Mary is also a survivor of a disease that kills thousands of people a year, mostly women: breast cancer. Rose Mary has also been a great support to my family and an inspiration for all of us. After working many years in administrative support at a bank, she made a great sacrifice on behalf of my family by taking on the management of my mother’s care after my mom developed Alzheimer’s. And Rose Mary’s strong sense of faith has anchored our family throughout the years.
This story wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t talk about my twin sister Mary. If any of you have a twin too, you know how fortunate it is to share such a unique and special bond. All our lives we have been there for each other and honestly there is no one I admire more. I’m so proud of what she has accomplished in her career. Mary was the first Latina to become a federal judge on the U.S. District Court in Arizona. After serving for more than a decade in that position, she was appointed as a judge on the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
My admiration and respect for these four women who have walked by my side all my life is obvious. No one undertakes the journey of life alone. My mother and sisters, like my father, brothers, and my husband Mauro, have taken me to where I am today, leading the nation’s largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization, UnidosUS.
I will never fail to recognize the courage of these women in my life, the helping hands they have given me, and their unwavering support and belief in me. We have all benefitted from the values instilled in us by our parents: faith in God, a strong work ethic, love of family, knowing the importance of being a good neighbor and a clear appreciation for what we have as familia.
I know that my family’s story of determination, sacrifice, and dedication will resonate with many of you. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, I invite you to also think, reflect and thank those women in your life who have helped you to get where you are today, who have influenced you, and who keep inspiring you every day to be better.
This month and every month, we celebrate women in our lives. And let’s make sure that they and everyone else in this country have the support and relief they need to move forward and thrive after this pandemic.
UnidosUS, previously known as NCLR (National Council of La Raza), is the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization. Through its unique combination of expert research, advocacy, programs, and an Affiliate Network of nearly 300 community-based organizations across the United States and Puerto Rico, UnidosUS simultaneously challenges the social, economic, and political barriers that affect Latinos at the national and local levels. For more than 50 years, UnidosUS has united communities and different groups seeking common ground through collaboration, and that share a desire to make our country stronger. For more information on UnidosUS, visit www.unidosus.org or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.