5 Questions with Marian Mendez-Cera

1) Who is your greatest inspiration?

My parents are my greatest inspiration. Ever since I was small, it was impossible not to pay attention to how hard my parents worked everyday to ensure that their children were educated, fed, and clothed. My parents taught us the importance of values and principles, taught us that family was always first, and taught us that living a rich life goes beyond our correlation to wealth. Rather, it focuses on unforgettable moments of happiness surrounded by your loved ones. However, the greatest life teaching my brother and I received from our parents was when we decided to migrate to the USA. We said goodbye to the rest of our family, to our friends, and to our land. The idea of starting from zero and the danger of a foreign land didn’t stop them. The thought of leaving everything they knew didn’t outweigh their vision of a better life for their children. The very existence of my parents has taught me what an act of resistance is, the struggles they have experienced in their life path is a constant reminder of resilience, and their capacity to fight back makes it unthinkable not to do the same.

2) What has led you to the work you’re doing today?

My interest in creating social change in my community was inspired by my mother when I was in my junior year in HS back in 2011. She was desperately seeking information regarding undocumented youth having access to higher education after being told that her children could never attend college. The tenacity she demonstrated back then encouraged us to get involved in fighting for the rights and dignity of our undocumented immigrant community and people of color. Since then, I have had the opportunity to work to educate, mobilize, engage, and organize my community in various issues to create powerful and conscious individuals dedicated to promoting human rights.

3) What issue gets you out of bed in the morning, and how do you make a difference?

What gets me out of bed every morning is the potential for change; not only in regards to systemic and institutional change, but also the change in one’s mindset, once we allow room to self-examine and question internalized beliefs. What gets me out of bed every morning is the unshakable resistance of marginalized communities and our strength to fight back when we are being targeted, persecuted and criminalized by the current political climate. What gets me out of bed every morning is remembering my roots and grounding myself in the teachings of those before me. As a person that is directly impacted and as a Civil and Labor rights organizer, I make a difference by working hand-in-hand with my community to learn, share and grow with the beautiful wisdom and empowerment that lies in community organizing. We raise our voices and share our stories, while fighting back collectively to strengthen local policies that protect immigrants, refugees, muslims and workers in New Mexico. Let us not forget that our fight for freedom/liberation is intersectional and that we ALL are worth fighting for; if one’s sense of freedom/liberation is not inclusive, is not freedom/liberation, but self-interest.

4) How do stay brave in the work you do and in your day-to-day life?

What keeps me brave is witnessing justice bloom in a space full of resilience and resistance, witnessing families fighting back and being vocal, witnessing the development of leadership and our communities demanding to be treated with dignity and respect. At the same time, it is recognizing the importance of my own mental health and emotional stability, recognizing the importance of creating spaces for self-care and self-love, and recognizing that I am also human.

5) What advice or inspiration would you give to yourself 10 years ago?

Rather than an advice, this is a message of love to my 13 years old self (7th grader)… I understand our desire to prove to the world that our parents’ sacrifices have not been in vain, and how this desire has entered the space of how we see our own self-worth. I understand we are currently in a developing process; we are desperately seeking to find a place to belong in a land with euro-centric views, while struggling with identity. I understand we will face many obstacles in our journey, and the impact that it has on our emotional and mental stability. There are many things that we will grow to understand and identify, but I will leave you with the following…

  • 1. You are not alone, you will soon find chingonx role models that will introduce you to social justice. You will find your passion.
  • 2. You will overcome, you are stronger than what you think possible. Nothing in this life is permanent, change is inevitable.
  • 3. You are worth it. It’s okay to feel vulnerable, seeking help is a sign of wisdom. Take care of your mental health.
  • Last, I want you to know that our path as an undocumented womxn of color will be a beautiful journey of resistance; every breath we take will be proof of that. I see you, I value you, I love you.

Marian is a Community Organizer with El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos. She graduated from the University of New Mexico with a Degree in Psychology and Philosophy with a concentration in Pre-Law.

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