What is your country of origin or family heritage? If you were born outside of this country, please share with us how old you were when you arrived to this country. Please feel free to share immigration/migration stories.
I was born in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico and was brought to this country by my parents in 1984. We settled in Denver, Colorado because we already had family there. I don’t remember much except for our first little apartment. I am eternally grateful for all the sacrifices my parents made so that I could have the opportunities and the life I lead. I never forget our struggle and it is what pushed me to be a community activist and to go to law school. I love my roots and it is something that I carry with me with great pride.
Education: Please list any academic degrees and colleges/ universities attended.
I graduated Magna Cum Laude from the beautiful University of Colorado Boulder. I always wanted to be a Colorado Buffalo! My third grade teacher, Mrs. Lorenz, was a die hard CU Buffalo fan and that is where I wanted to go to school, simply because she loved that team so much and I LOVED her. I received my Bachelor of Arts in Ethnic Studies and History, and a leadership certificate from the Presidents Leadership Class. I decided to become an attorney so that I could be a better advocate for my community. I marched, organized and support the immigrant community in Denver, only to watch politicians ignore our demands and their constituents. I wanted to help people directly and decided that a law degree would be the best route. After college, I attended the University of Denver Sturm College of Law where I focused on immigration law, public interest law and humanitarian relief.
Profession/ Career: What is your current profession/ position and responsibilities at work?
Currently, I serve as the Communications and New Media Coordinator for LatinoJustice PRLDEF, one of the nations oldest Latino civil rights organizations. Using the power of the law together with education and advocacy, LatinoJustice PRLDEF protects opportunities for all Latinos to succeed in work and school, fulfill their dreams, and sustain their families and communities. I work with our attorneys and staff to create advocacy campaigns that utilize new media to convey, or control a message and to engage and empower our community. I also manage the Youth Civic Engagement network, which will be launching a new media leadership academy that will focus on teaching high school students 21st century movement strategies through new media so that they can become movement entrepreneurs and effect change in their communities on issues that affect them.
I am also the co-founder of a social media boutique-consulting firm, along with my husband, Armando Somoza of J+A Creative. We help small businesses, artists, non-profits and individuals with their social media, design and web efforts.
Lastly, we are the co-founders of Pinxe Cards, an online Spanglish greeting card company that is meant to be fun, creative, slightly offensive and bilingual. It is meant to appeal to the modern American Latino who needs that card that conveys a bilingual and humorous sentiment.
What has been your most important professional or social accomplishment, thus far?
My biggest accomplishment up until now is that I get to work in my dream job. I graduated law school in 2010 and I wasn’t sure about being a “traditional” lawyer. I knew that I wanted to be more than just a lawyer, but I wasn’t sure how my passion for advocacy, social media and my legal degree were going to mesh. I talked to friends and told them that I believed in the power of social media to create a story and control a message so that we didn’t have to litigate, or so that we could maintain the rights that we fight for in our community. I had utilized social media to organize voter registration drives in 2008 and had the honor of working with the Presidential Commission on the creation of the National Museum of the American Latino and worked on social media efforts to gain support. I loved social media and I loved my law degree but to fuse those two ideas together seemed a bit crazy, but I knew it could happen. I never gave up, and I created JusticaHoy.org. The site was meant to cover policies, news, stories and legislation that impacted the Latino community, especially the immigrant community. Today, I get to do exactly what I set out to do with an amazing civil rights organization and I love every moment of it. That is truly a remarkable feeling and I am very proud of the work that we do everyday. I am especially proud to be able to teach new media to high school and college students, because they are the change makers who will be impacting the world!
You started your career in law, what inspired your transition into social media? How did you get started?
My law degree prepared me for the career that I have now as a social media strategist. We have to be able to respond quickly, analyze policies and legislation and create an attack strategy. I started a blog my first year of law school and started blogging about my experiences as a Latina in the legal field. (Diapordia.com) It quickly became an outlet for the everyday absurdities and events in my life. I graduated in 2010 with my law degree and in that same year, my husband and I moved from Denver, Colorado to New York City. While I was in NYC, due to budget cuts, my position was terminated with the Department of the Interior and I spent the rest of the year preparing for the NY State bar exam. Prior to that, I had worked on social media efforts for the National Museum of the American Latino, as well as other cultural projects for the Department of the Interior and I loved it. Additionally, I had used social media to organize voter registration drives and census outreach events from 2008 until 2010. I knew the power of social media to organize and engage a community and I knew it was a powerful tool for movement making.
I was unemployed for almost eight months and I took that time to really gauge what I was passionate about and I decided to start my own consulting firm and also look for an organization that wanted to utilize new media to create movements and change in our communities. I started out with non-profits and then moved on to artists and other small businesses. I had the pleasure of being the social media strategist for Being Latino as well as East Willy B. Each project excited me and I loved the work that I was doing and knew there was no turning back.
What motivates the work that you do?
I am motivated by my family and community. As an immigrant to this country, I know this struggle personally and I have seen and felt the injustices in my community. I had scholarships taken away from me when I was younger, simply because I was undocumented; I worked alongside my parents cleaning office buildings and delivering tortillas, just so I could be with them. I am motivated by a great desire to stand up and protect the rights of immigrants and disenfranchised communities in the United States but also around the world. My passion and love for my community is what kept me through law school when I wanted to quit and they are in my mind when we have to think of strategies to empower them.
In what way(s) have you seen your work impact others?
My work allows me to disseminate information in a quick and concise manner. I’ve seen my work impact and inspire young people to act and to care. I had the opportunity to speak to young students all around New York and now they are helping lead our Youth Civic Engagement network utilizing new media. I’ve seen students care about issues like Stop and Frisk and create a documentary about it so that they can better understand an issue. I’ve also shown others that you don’t just have to be a lawyer if you have a law degree, you could do whatever you want with any degree. My work allows me to connect people to resources and to an organization that is fighting for them on a daily basis. I make sure that we are transparent and available to our community, and being available is one of the greatest impacts we can have.
What has been your biggest personal challenge, and what has been your biggest professional challenge?
My greatest personal challenge was removing fear from my life. I justified my unemployment by thinking that I wasn’t good enough or that I was a failure. It was a very difficult time for me and I struggled daily to find my path. I had closed a business in 2008 and I was afraid to launch a new venture. I was scared of what people would think of me if I failed again and I was afraid to fail in general. I let the fear over run my emotions and I couldn’t find the motivation to care about anything. Couple that with my greatest professional challenge of failing the New York State bar exam (TWICE) and I just felt like the greatest loser that ever lived!
It wasn’t until earlier this year that I removed the fear of failing from my life and moved forward with my dreams. At the end of the day I realized that if my dreams didn’t scare me then they weren’t big enough and that if I wasn’t failing every now and again, then I wasn’t doing anything worthwhile. Failure is a necessary part of our success and our life and it’s really not that big of a deal. Some of the greatest entrepreneurs and innovators have failed at many things, but it was in those failures where they found their resilience.
What is your next big dream?
My next big dream is to become a KIVA fellow and create a transnational non-profit in Mexico, focused on rebuilding the economies of small towns through youth programs and initiatives. We hope to partner with non-governmental organizations in Mexico and the United States to create socially, economically and environmentally sustainable economies for Mexican communities ravaged by NAFTA and the current drug war.
I hope to eventually enter the Nathan’s hotdog eating competition, (I love hotdogs) and start a family. One thing at a time.
What is your advice to Latina students and professionals?
Follow your passion and find your bliss and fail every now and then. No matter how crazy you think your idea is, it’s not. Don’t give up and keep trying. Your dreams and goals are not going to be handed to you, but if you work hard and go confidently into the direction of that dream then the universe will transpire to make it happen for you. If you don’t know how to get there, then reach out to someone who is headed in that direction or works in that field. Be social and connect with them in person or online via Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin. Now, more than ever, we have access to an incredible people and resources, so use them. I have met an incredible group of people by being social online and I am grateful for the guidance, support and friendship. I will make myself readily available here to anyone who wants to connect with me. I’d love to connect with you because I did not get here on my own, I had a fantastic support system in family and friends and I want to pay it forward to you.
Connect with me via: