Sofia Vergara, put on display like a rotating chicken

I want to tell you a little bit about Sofia Vergara.

The successful actress, model, producer and comedian was born in Barranquilla, Colombia in 1972 to a housewife and cattle producer. She was discovered by a photographer while walking on a beach and decided to pursue a career in modeling instead of dentistry. She made her first appearance as a performer at the age of 17 in a Pepsi commercial.

During the 90’s, when violence in Colombia became too much to handle, Vergara moved to Miami and brought her family with her. Her older brother was murdered during this time. All this while still balancing her career and raising her son, Manolo, born when she was 18. Her career in the United States didn’t immediately take off, but when it did, all kinds of endorsements and opportunities to appear on television shows as a co-host, guest appearances, as well as swimsuit calendars and posters became a reality.

While in the United States, Vergara did not put a hold on her dreams. She continued to grow and appear in various shows and movies. Even after her younger brother was deported back to Colombia, Vergara continued to push herself and her family. She even recruited them to participate in a head and shoulders campaign. Vergara launched her own affordable clothing line designed to fit women of different shapes and sizes. Most recently, she designed jewelry and also co-founded LatinWe a firm used by Hollywood producers to search for Latino talent. This firm has now become a multibillion dollar empire rooted in Vergara’s own immigration story and struggle to make herself known while recently arrived in the United States. She is now paving the way for Latino rising stars to also make a name for themselves.

Sofia Vergara’s story is one of pain, struggle and success. She has created opportunities that didn’t exist before while ensuring a space for herself among other big names. As a former young mother and Latina, it is amazing to see how far she has gone and what she has left to accomplish. However, what is not amazing, is the way she was put on display at the Emmy’s.

As a Colombian woman, I first hand know the stereotypes associated with my country of origin. Growing up, Colombian women are treated as pieces of meat. We’re supposed to fit a certain body type and you can literally see others fetishizing you once they know you’re Colombian. Colombian women are supposed to be the most beautiful and most sexy. Even Colombian mannequins have large breasts and butts. Being considered beautiful isn’t a bad thing, it becomes bad when you are dehumanized, belittled and only valued by your looks. It becomes a bad thing when we use this standard to measure others. A stereotype. This consumption of our existence isn’t new, not for women of color, not for Latinas and not for Black women. The displaying of women dates back to Saartjie Baartman.

Watching Vergara rotate on a pedestal, like an object or chicken being roasted, rubbed me in all the wrong places from the Emmy’s being a white dominated space to the person displaying her being a man. Despite her accomplishments, she is reduced to being a statute, only nice to look at. 

Vergara’s response was for us to “lighten up a bit” since she was in on the joke. The thing is, in order to be accepted by Hollywood, Vergara has had to do everything from dying her hair to appear “more Latina” to overexaggerating her accent for laughs. We are always the punch line to jokes or stereotypes. We are always suppose to laugh along while being reduced to nothing. We are always suppose to welcome abusive behavior and brush it off as “funny”. 

This behavior isn’t limited to the Emmy’s. For centuries, women of color have been treated as fantasy objects. Blow up dolls who serve only one specific purpose. Our bodies are constantly put on display and degraded while dancing, walking down the street or existing in our homes. Nowhere is safe from the greedy fetishizing gaze and hands that have attacked our bodies for years. Seeing it play out on TV is supposed to be a reminder of where our place and role is.

From one Colombian woman to another, I’m happy at Vergara’s accomplishments. I’m proud to share an amazing culture with her and watch as she challenges herself. There’s a difference between being empowered in your own body and it being used. Here’s to hoping that one day we are valued as human beings.

Ella me amo

Ella me amo con una pasión desenfrenada
honestamente
abiertamente
sin complejos ni limitaciones
sin pedir algo a cambio
sin desconfianza ni reservaciones

Ella me amo y aveses me pregunto porque de todas las personas en este mundo me escogio a mi
Me entrego su corazón y yo como egoista lo recibí
En un cajon cualquiera lo escondí
Y hasta hoy no me explico porque

Ella me amo
una persona cualquiera sin nada que dar ni compartir
nada de mi es especial
pero en su mirada me sentía
único
deseado
ideal

Ella debió haber sido un angel en otros tiempos lejanos
sabía más del mundo y del amor que yo
sabía de tristeza y de dolor
sabía como besar y acarisiar mi alma
y yo muy cobarde
muy inepto
muy torpe
no la supe querer
no la supe amar

Ella
con su mirada descosía mi existencia
me hacía pedazos y de nuevo me unía como un rompecabeza
su risa y pelo libre
sin miedo se lanzaba al abismo
siempre fue mas fuerte y valiente que yo

Ella me amo
cada esquina de mi ser roso con sus tiernos dedos
cambio mi manera de ver al mundo y a mi mismo
llegué a sentirme digno y dueño de su amor aunque en el fondo sabía que no lo era
nunca lo fui
y nunca lo seré

Ella me enseñó que podia ser mejor
con cada pelea
cada palabra que salía de su boca bañada en fuego consumía mi mente
hasta ahora me pregunto si todavía me ama
si algun día alguien me amara con la intensidad con que lo hizo ella
lo dudo

La busco en otros rostros
en otros brazos
en otros besos
me da miedo pensar que lo nuestro nunca sucedió
que lo soñé
que lo imaginé
pero no sería capaz de tanto
aveses encuentro su rostro en mis sueños
su forma de adorar quedo guardada en mi piel
aunque me estregué hasta los huesos no la puedo borrar

Ella nunca me reclamó porque no la amé igual
se que se dio cuenta
merecía mejor que yo
o quizas pudo ver que yo podía ser esa persona para ella
con su intuición divina
aveses creo que ella sabía más de mi que yo mismo
que veía lo que yo podía ser antes que yo lo supiera
llegue a creer quel universo la puso en mi camino a proposito y desperdicié la oportunidad
nunca me perdonaré todo lo que le hize
una diosa revolucionaría como ella
que lucha de la misma manera que ama
que se enoja con la misma intensidad que besa
no volveré a tener otra igual porque en el mundo no existen suficiente ingredientes para crear mas personas como ella

Ella mejoró el rumbo de mi vida
me enseñó de posibilidades la belleza y el amor
con ella a mi lado sabía que hasta lo imposible lo podiamos conquistar
lo reconozco ahora que ya es tarde
muy tarde para mi
el tiempo la favorece a ella
me falta mucho por recorrer
quizas algun día la alcanzare

Llegué a pensar que solo era feliz a mi lado
hoy me doy cuenta que no fue así
que esa es su forma de ser
dispuesta a sentir con una felicidad interna y eterna
nunca fue mia
ella le pertenece al mundo al universo al cielo y todo poder divino
por ella llegue a creer en Dios en la paz y la justicia

Nunca pensé de como sería mi vida sin ella
mujer excepcional
que hasta en las malas me amo y vio algo en mi
que todavía no se que era
mujer enfrentada a la vida
le tuve miedo y hui
pero en la esquina de mi soledad aun la encuentro
aunque nunca le entregué mi corazón ella con sutileza se lo robo
es mejor así pues yo no sabía qu
é hacer con el
si me lo permite y me alcanca la vida intentaría amarla de verdad
espero algún día pedirle perdon y agradecerle todo lo que me enseñó
espero agradecerle por todo lo que me amo

In no particular order - top Selena women power songs


Add moreeeee!

Community not Condominiums

[Inspired by the build community not condos street art in Brooklyn]

Doña María is up before the sun rises

Moon shining on her face she gets ready for the morning commute

It’s her job to feed others

Moon shining on her face ella empieza a cocinar arepas, tamales, café y chocolate

Arepas made with corn and cheese

They start to melt as soon as they touch your mouth

Tamales wrapped up in leaves

That break off at a single touch

Authentic café from the hills of Colombia

Chocolate de la Abuelita

The food is hot steaming up her small home in Queens, NY

Where she has seen her children grow into young people

Their infant pen marks on the wall and cracks on the tiles from rough play are still present

They wake up to the smell of comida caliente

“That’s not for you!” she reminds them

Packed in her food truck she makes her way down Roosevelt Avenue

 

Las luces all around her

Always the same routine

True Colors Gay Bar is now closed after a long night of celebration

Newspaper clippings, apartment rentals, and jobs are stapled across every wooden pole

Se solicita mesera

One bedroom apartment

Close to the train

Dishwasher needed

Hablamos Español

Hablamos Ingles

A man is selling social security cards

Abundancia Colombian Restaurant is on the right

Mamas Empanadas

There is a catholic church on the left

Venga y pare de sufrir

Need help with your taxes?

There used to be a movie theater here

Right across the street from la panaderia

Near the hospital where she gave birth, Elmhurst

 

She arrives at the same street corner she’s worked in for the last several years

74th street

On this corner

In her truck she has paid years of

Rent

Food

School trips

Clothes

Construction of a house abroad

Care for parents abroad

And saving for college degrees

Doña María knows these streets like her hands

Cracked and calloused

The same streets she has walked up and down with her family on hot summer nights

Ices and paletas in hand

The same pot holes

The same broken bricks

The same graffiti

These streets have not changed

El dueño de la bodega speaks to her on a first name basis as he carries the store pet

There are no strangers here

Esto es comunidad

Moon shining on her face she lights up her truck

Ready for service

The lights read, “open”

 

¿A cuánto los tamales?

¿Tienes más arepas?

Un café por favor sin azúcar

Yo quiero un café, dos de azúcar y un poquito de leche

Café para mi, más leche que café con una de azúcar

Solo una arepa hoy porque estoy cuidando mi figura

¡Hola Doña María como esta de bonita hoy!

¿Y sus hijos como están?

Questions comments and food orders

This is the routine

What puts food on the table

 

Doña María always cooks and sells just enough

Never more never less

She’s content with the little she has

It was never about wealth or riches

The sacrifices were for happiness

Sin papeles pero con sueños

Sin papeles pero con dignidad

Without papers but with dreams and dignity

 

The 7 train runs every minute during rush hour

Shaking the street when it passes by

Waking everyone up

It runs from 42nd street Times Square to Flushing Main Street

Purple

Bright

Illuminated and alive the train is never empty

The train is never silent

The train is always busy

The train is multilingual

From the train window

Five Pointz once smiled at us

Colorful and unique art decorated its façade

Rain and snow come into the train

Wetting riders

JFK and Laguardia airport

At Queensboro Plaza you can see the skyline

The twin towers were once visible in the distance

At 82nd street you can buy the latest fashions

Cheapest jewelry

Colorful communion dresses

And quincinera outfits

Some elotes, samosas and roti

Or devour a bistec ensebollado at Quisqueya

On 103rd you can buy tacos

Real tacos

De carinitas o al pastor

There are no taco bells here no chipotles

There used to be a movie theater here

For a cheap price you and your family could watch two films

It’s a CVS now

Helado de coco and mudanzas papi

Dozens of immigrant screenings, attorneys and organizations have come together down the 7 train

Mets-Willets point was once Shea Stadium

Asados

Parrilladas

Tortas de milanesa

¡GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!

Sunday soccer games

The Unisphere

The Andean Food Festival

The Colombian Festival

Men in Black

San Simon dance practice

The Queens Zoo always open but always empty where are the animals?

The Hall of Science

Rowing competitions

Family gatherings

Musica playing in the background

This is Flushing Meadows Park

Blocks of auto repair shops

Tinting, cracked glass, new lights, oil change, new paint job, affordable prices

Willets Point

 

Last stop last stop

Stand clear of the closing doors

Two blocks up from the last stop you can buy four dollar sushi roles

Hot pot dinners

Fried and steamed dumplings

Buy 1 get 1 free taro, coconut, apple, chocolate, mango bubble teas milk tea, and green tea

Busy mall

Chinese New Year

Dim sum

Moon festivals

Red decorations

Admiring the dragon racing up and down the streets

It’s a tradition

There are no strangers here

This is community

 

How will Doña MarÍa sell her tamales, arepas, café y chocolate

When the streets become businesses she cannot pronounce

Will her café con leche compete with Starbucks?

These signs of a cleaner and safer Queens erase the resiliency already here

We weren’t dirty to begin with

Will her house stand untouched during gentrification?

 

My childhood is splattered across the windows of houses and buildings in Queens

Woodside, Corona, Elmhurst, Roosevelt and Flushing

Home away from home

The only communities that have nurtured my growth

Where I met Mexican and Dominican food

Where I learned to play dominoes and heard Bachata playing from the neighbor’s window

Home away from home

Where I was welcomed since I was 4

Español spoken on my block I never felt alone or scared

Community not condominiums   

There are no strangers here

Doña MarÍa packs up her truck

Her casita awaits

Tomorrow will be a new day

Filled with hopes that these streets will always stay the same

Why I refuse to forgive the man who sexually abused me

When I started walking on this path of healing I thought forgiveness was part of the adventure. I thought about forgiving past friends, ex-partners, and the man who sexually abused me. Time and time again I am asked if I have forgiven him.
“It’ll bring you peace” they say to me.
I also heard the infamous, “if you don’t forgive him you are at risk of repeating cycles of abuse.”
“You’re just as bad as he is.”
“Forgiveness helps you move forward.”
“It is part of surviving a crime.”
“Forgive Angy, forgive.”

I. Am. Sick. And. Tired. Of. This.

The only person I have to forgive and make peace with is MYSELF me yo Angy. Hello! Did we forget I was the one who has had to deal with the consequences of all this?

I need to forgive myself for all the times I said I should’ve done more, better, different. I need to forgive me for all the blaming I placed on myself. I need to forgive myself for all the times I replayed it in my mind wondering if I said “no” loud enough. If I indeed pushed him off. If I said something to start the abuse. I need to forgive myself for all the sleepless nights and lack of food. I need to forgive myself because I did do enough and I am worth more.

I exist and I am breathing for myself and me only. I am not here for you. I am not here for him. I am not here to forgive him. I am not here to let him know that what he did is okay now. It is not my job to make him feel better. It was not okay. It never will be okay. I am not here to prioritize him. Forgiveness has become a tool to control survivors. Tying our peace and comfort into his existence.

Does anyone ever speak to him about forgiveness? About apologies?

I will never be at peace and that is something I’ve come to terms with. No, I am not like him and never will be. That dark silhouette in the distance on my walk home will always make me squeeze my keys harder. Dating will always feel unsafe. I will always flashback. Those nightmares will always pop up. The paranoia I feel in bathrooms and during solo cab rides won’t disappear. This is the reality of my healing.

Forgiving myself and learning to cope with the cards I’ve been dealt is part of my survival. Learning to manage, reduce, and maybe even eliminate triggers and flashbacks are my reality. Forgiving myself is my priority.
Safety
Love
Appreciation
Laughter and happiness are all on my path to betterment. It is up to me to take care of myself. I will not sacrifice my soul and well being for his sanity. I refuse to forgive you, because I am too busy forgiving myself.

Triggers and Sexual Assault

It’s amazing how the mind works
how one smell
one sound
one touch can bring back so many memories and make you travel back in time
put you back to the exact day you felt that, saw that, smelled that

Triggers are also a curse
He sexually assaulted me many months ago

I remember it like it was yesterday and no matter how often i write about it and how often i cry about it i still have those memories buried inside of me.

I’m starting to think they’ll always be there.
His cologne was really strong
It burned my nose and stayed on my skin even after I got home

I’m sitting here listening to music randomly and Dandole comes on
That song was playing that day
and I immediately go back to that moment
the fear the fighting the adrenaline in my blood the need to escape
It’s crazy how the mind works

what to say to a survivor of sexual violence

I’ve heard it all from, “God wanted it this way” “are you sure that really happened” “but it happened a long time ago” to “you are being dramatic” and “just move on”. Everytime it hurts the same. It’s like being stabbed in the face. I wish we were more compassionate, understanding, empathetic.

When interacting with a survivor, keep in mind that while it is difficult for you to hear what they’re saying or think of a response, it’s more difficult for them. Not just surviving the violence but living with it every day and deciding to share with someone else. 

Remind yourself that it’s not about you.

So I came up with this list. Please add anything I’ve missed. 

When someone tells you they’re a survivor

(Many people read too much into this. They may be sharing with you because they need to get this off their chest. How you react to this information will determine further interactions.)

-Thank you for sharing this with me

-Wow, I don’t know what to say your bravery has left me speechless. How can I be of support?

-I’m here to listen to everything you want and need to share

-I believe you

-Things like this shouldn’t happen, thank you for sharing, you are courageous

-I am here for you, you’re not alone

-How can I be of support?

-I don’t know what to say but I can listen

Someone tells you they need support in ____________ area

-Do you want me to come with you while you make a report?

-Would you feel more comfortable if I went with you to the clinic?

-Yes, I can be here when you make that call

-Yes, I can be here with you and we can search for support groups or counseling services together

-What would be best for you? I’m here to support your decision

-I don’t think I’ll be able to go with you to the police station/clinic/support group/healing circle/[insert activity here] but I can be of support after, maybe have something to eat and talk it through?

-I’ve heard about this club/group/center/organization that provides really great support and services, maybe you’d be interested in checking it out?

Statements that include God/religion in a positive way

(Please don’t tell anyone that “God wanted it this way”)

Instead

-God made you strong and brave to overcome many obstacles

-People do bad things and sometimes it doesn’t make sense, but we have each other and God to walk on a path of healing

-Sometimes people do things that we don’t understand, we don’t have all the answers but in prayer we can find relief

-It’s hard to make sense of all this and try to understand why bad things happen to people, but we can walk on a path to healing because God made you a fighter.

I Thought #Immigration Papers Would Make it all Better

When I was younger I had this wild idea that whenever I adjusted my immigration status, everything would be okay.

I used to think that papers, that is, a social security number, work authorization, a state ID, citizenship, was the answer.

On November 22, 2013 I received my U nonimmigrant Visa approval letter. I applied for this visa in January of the same year. To be eligible for a U-Visa, one must have been a victim of a crime in the United States, be impacted emotionally and/or physically, and have helped the police/government in the investigation of said crime.

I was sexually abused by my step father for four years. Starting at the age of four and ending at the age of eight. And while the abuse happened such a long time ago, it is so present today that sometimes it feels like it happened yesterday.

I became involved with the immigrant rights movement in 2009 after realizing I wasn’t eligible for financial aid and seeing no way out. Hopeless, confused and afraid the New York State Youth Leadership Council found me when I was a high school senior. I became a member and stayed involved ever since.

I got used to the idea of being undocumented. I learned how to work with it. I learned how to apply for work without a social security number. I opened a bank account without a social security number. I traveled within the United States without a state ID. I received several private scholarships without proper documentation. I was accepted into college. I started college. I overcame many of the things some told me I wouldn’t be able to do. I became unafraid.

More than being unafraid on paper, I was living fearlessness. I attended rallies and helped coordinate some of the coming out events in New York. Was featured in several media outlets. Started the country’s first undocumented youth advice column. In other words, I didn’t let my undocumented reality stop me from doing something. From resisting. From speaking out for myself. And I learned. I learned immigration history, I learned deportation and detention practices. I learned about state laws and programs that keep funding those centers. I learned about international laws that force people to leave. I learned why Colombia was so under resourced and violent when my mother got up and left. I learned why she wasn’t able to obtain a visa and why we became undocumented. I learned about the long history of border militarization and poverty wages. And I also learned that getting these immigration papers wouldn’t solve any of this.

I found out I was eligible for this U-Visa while being screened for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals eligibility. It came as a surprise to my mother and I. We had been screened years before, and found nothing. All of a sudden, I was eligible for a U-visa and the thought of adjusting my status became a real one. One I never had before.

None of my contributions and hard work mattered. This U-Visa strictly looked at the sexual violence I had survived. It defined me. It shaped me. It made me eligible for a U-Visa but all the violence and discrimination I faced as an undocumented immigrant in the United States for 20 years didn’t. It hurt. It continues to hurt. Everything about me had been summarized to four years of my childhood. The United States’ way of apologizing was giving me a visa. A visa that I can’t leave the country with. I can’t apply for financial aid. I can’t get health services. I can still be deported. A visa that has undermined everything I’ve pushed for and gave back without being welcomed. The simple fact of wanting to be with my family, or of attending college, or of living here for 20 years isn’t enough. I needed to be hurt. Hurt so bad beyond repair to even get on a line.

And so I sit here, thinking about this approval. About the work authorization card that came in the mail. About the social security number that followed. About the fact that in 2016, if all goes well, I’ll be able to apply for a green card….and I still feel the same emptiness.

Go ahead and call me spoiled. A brat. Dramatic. Whatever.

We deserve better than this. We deserve way better.

It was never about papers, citizenship, a social, or a state ID. It was about the ways in which we treat immigrants in this country, and around the world. About the systems we have in place that drives people to migrate. About the circumstances back home and US backing of that. About the cookie cutter requirements and categories we allow immigrants to enter under. About who gets to work, live and love here. About who doesn’t. And having papers won’t change any of this. It won’t change or make up for the 20 years we lived without them. And it won’t change the fact that the rest of my community still lives under constant threat and fear.

Being Labeled Unwelcoming In Organizing Spaces

There’s something real heartbreaking of being labeled “unwelcoming” and “cold” in organizing spaces all because your trauma has made it difficult for you to be intimate/loving.

I sit through conferences, meetings and gatherings. Expected to be warm and loving towards everyone. But that’s really difficult sometimes. There’s no exception, it’s hard for me to be that way towards anyone.

Ice Breakers that involve touching and grabbing each other is also difficult. And time and time again I let others know that respecting each other’s space should be a space agreement. And each time, side eyes and rolling of the eyes follows. I bet they think I’m conceited. Why wouldn’t she want to hug others? Why wouldn’t she want to be touched by the people she organizes with?

 It’s also difficult as an organizer.

Gender roles and expectations dictate how women should express themselves in spaces. And we many times carry that with us. I thought we were supposed to be deconstructing that? And it isn’t just about not telling women to smile, it’s also about letting women not hug if they don’t want to. Why is it that men aren’t labeled unwelcoming for not hugging and kissing everyone? But women are. But I am.

Why, instead of teaching each other to be conscious of each other’s space, trauma and body language, we condemn those who are dealing with these issues? Or who just don’t want the closeness?

It’s especially hard when your body language is read as disgust towards others. People assume I think I am above others, when in reality, I often feel uncomfortable in my own skin.

And yes, at fundraisers I sometimes don’t want to dance with all of you. Stop taking advantage of the fact that I’m one of the “organizers at this event” “leaders of the organization” etc etc etc.

And yes, at meetings I sometimes just want to wave from afar and not hug all of you. And there are days that I rather hug.

And there’s something about our bodies touching that makes me uncomfortable sometimes. And I force myself to do it because I don’t want to come off as rude or turned off by this whole thing. And it shouldn’t be that way.

And I should be able to enjoy your company in the way that best fits me and I’m comfortable and okay with. I shouldn’t have to alter my defense mechanisms and instinctive behavior to appease you.

A Letter To You

You’re the bravest
the fiercest
smartest
the most hardcore person ever
for being who you are

Here’s to many more years by your side

when you came out to me I never thought it would turn into this joint journey. I never thought I’d watch you grow and become who you are.

Thank you for trusting me

I know things are scary now 
with rejection lingering every corner of your home

But i’m here. I’ll always be here.
We are like family now.
I’ll be here while they continue to think it’s a phase
A lie
A sin that’ll be cured with some religion
A subject they can avoid and it’ll eventually go away

we know it wont

I’m sorry they think that
I’m sorry they don’t listen
We know it’s not their fault
I’m so proud of you for speaking out
For standing up for yourself
so proud
because silence is no longer okay

We know love isn’t black or white
maybe someday they’ll understand too

Here’s to the power you have inside you
to the light that shines so brightly in your eyes
and in your soul

Here’s to them one day accepting your glow
To all the nights up fighting and crying
to all the pride you store away in your cabinets, drawers and closets
to the kisses in the dark
and handholding in private spaces hoping no one notices
no one judges
for all the times you asked your partner to drop you off at the corner

Here’s to one day walking in together through the front door

Here’s to one day walking down the aisle together

with your parents by your side

You are brave
for speaking out
because it’s easier to be silent
but you decided to fight

<3 Love,

Me