Millas En Mis Zapatos

“Our family has been here for centuries. And yet they treat us as if we just swam across the Rio Grande.” — Selena [Motion Picture]

I’m out on my weekly long run with my husband. Eight miles. As we run we talk about various events. We have no shortage of topics. Jokes, work, our child, COVID-19. A few miles in we crest a hill. Ahead we spot a sign. On it, various sayings appear to convey the beliefs of the household it sits in front of, certain groups and thoughts are prominent. Of note: no human is illegal.

Also, I most certainly support ending police brutality against the Black community. It’s a fight that we all need to stand in solidarity with. Still, I can’t help but see something is missing.

Ending racism across the board is noticeably absent.

I wonder if these well meaning people know our history, our struggle. My husband quips we don’t matter unless it’s tied to undocumented immigration. He’s not wrong. If it’s not about immigration, we are silenced. I wonder what that sign would say if the purveyor had to run the miles of life in my shoes.

When I played softball in eastern Iowa I heard whispers there would be nothing at concessions for me. They had no rice and beans. My mom sitting there reliving the same hate she and her family faced in their youth.

When I cheered for wrestling, slurs like beaner and spic whistled through the stands. Identified as “taco town” on competitors’ wrestling shirts. This summer, Storm Lake softball players were called wetbacks. It seems nothing has changed. I wonder if those people from my youth still feel the way they did when we were kids. What did we do to them? Why did they hate children?

In college they told me I didn’t belong.

I was taking a spot I didn’t deserve. Why was this allowed to be said with impunity? Why didn’t I belong?

My mom, born in Texas like myself. My dad, a proud naturalized citizen. 79% of Latinos are U.S. citizens. Why do they think we are illegal? Latinos are not the majority of undocumented immigrants. Why do they think we are? Why don’t they think Latinos are “ideal immigrants.”

My father is an immigrant steelworker. 78% of farm workers in the United States are Latino. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they keep us fed and services running at risk to themselves, often afraid to speak out against conditions for fear of job loss. Over 90% of DACA recipients are estimated to be employed.

Why can’t they see the value immigrants bring?

I remember receiving a phone call calling me a spic. In 2018, hate crimes against Latinos increased by 21%. Twenty-three people were killed in El Paso, a hate crime targeted towards Latinos. Why didn’t they rally behind us? A Latina U.S. soldier went missing and her absence wasn’t treated with urgency. Why don’t they say Vanessa’s name?

I experienced depression as a teenager and college student. Latino teens face some of the highest depression rates. Is it because of the hate levied against them? Are our communities and schools really doing an adequate job including them and their parents in discussions to end systemic racism?

I have no race in a world fractured by race.

Mexican was a race one time in the 1930 census and subsequently removed. Fear of data being used for racism. Desire to show we can assimilate. The Latino ethnicity is vast, and encompasses so many. I write in Mexican. It was at least one time accurate, so why not?

My mother was never able to break into the workforce as a Latina accounting graduate. I have seen tough times in achieving higher employment throughout my life. 18% of the nation is Latino. 8% of educators are Latino despite the continued growth of Latinos in the United States. Less than 7% compose STEM workers. 6% of physicians.

Why is it so hard to break through? Why can’t they see our value? Do they understand diversity?

I see mock Spanish often used as an icebreaker. Latino accents as a joke. Why do they mock my language? Why is my ethnicity a joke?

Ill-defined descriptors used that put me in the same category as my Filipina friend, despite our ethnic/racial issues being vastly distinct. Why do you think Latinos haven’t suffered enough? Why do they marginalize us?  I am not an “Other.”  Why can’t you call me a Latina?

How lucky I was to buy a home. Why was Iowa City the worst area for Latino home loan bias in 2016?

Followed in the store. Accused of buying “all the good items” as I search for Lego deals to give my daughter a bit of joy in an uncertain world. Crowded and pushed aside in the aisles. Would this happen if I wasn’t brown?

I was never taught my cultural history in school. Mexican Mondays. Segregation. Sylvia Mendez winning a precursor to Brown v. Board. One million Latino United States citizens deported during the Great Depression. Texas Rangers executing Tejanos. Anglo settlers taking their land through ownership court challenges or false criminal accusations. When will a Smithsonian institute bear testimony to our history? When will our history be deemed valuable enough for their classrooms? How many schools have or are pursuing improved Latino-American history curriculum?

When will I be able to stop correcting people and municipalities who incorrectly reference Cinco de Mayo? (please continue to celebrate Latino culture, but do it tastefully and consider supporting a Latino rights organization or support efforts towards establishing the Latino Smithsonian Museum).

I love to share our culture.

Latino heritage month is Sept 15th-October 15th. Why does it not receive a wide level of attention in all of our schools? Do all our local communities have proclamations for its celebration? Why does it seem less important?

Like my daughter was able to see Rey in Star Wars, I’d love for her to see a Latina superhero on the big screen.

Less than 4.5 % of speaking roles in the last top 100 films went to Latinos, while Latinos are the highest per capita film goers. When will we be represented in the arts? Why are we portrayed as criminals in a majority of roles? Why are shows with Latino casts given less of a chance? Why is there not a single Latino superhero in the big screen Marvel cinematic universe?

Some say my daughter is less Latina because her skin is lighter.

Will she be stripped of her culture by the ignorant? The struggle of those who came before lessened? Why is skin tone prevalent to her heritage?

I have to carry my passport on every vacation.

Why can’t I be looked at as an American? I have to carry my daughter’s as well. Why do they think I am her childcare provider? Why can’t my daughter be mine?

I am grateful for Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of Hamilton and In the Heights. The justice Pixar did with Coco. The Dia de los Muertos car at Disneyland. Elena of Avalor. Minnie Concha ears. The Gran Fiesta Tour at Disney World. A bright spot to see Latinos and Latino culture represented. Why can’t there be more?

We wrap up our run, over in what seems like an instant.

I sit on our porch with my husband and our yellow lab. I think about the hills climbed to just get to this point. I defied the odds: A homeowner. A marathoner. An educator. A wife. A mom.

I am equally Latina.

I do my best to share little details of my culture. Dia de los Muertos and sugar skulls, the joy (and absolute competitiveness) of Loteria that brings my diverse family together at Navidad, pan dulce, tres leches, Quinceañeras, passing on the Spanish language, dance, and, music. I think what these details mean, a line from the In the Heights trailer materializing in my thoughts: “Little details that tell the world we are not invisible.”

In 2023 1 in 3 U.S. preschoolers will be Latino. By 2050, 400,000 plus Iowans will be Latino. By 2060, Latinos will represent 28% of the United States population. All of our futures are intertwined. What will it take to give the same opportunity? To invest in their success?

As a Mom, I want my daughter to have an equal chance at education. For her school, future workplace, and community, to recognize and address the challenges Latinos face. The chance for myself to have an equal shot at a career and advancement. The chance to support my family.

The chance to be an equal member of the community.

I wonder what it will take for them to finally acknowledge “nosotros pertenecemos.”

Maybe if they had to run the miles in my shoes.

Angelica was raised in West Liberty just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the Iowa City. After getting married to her high school sweetheart and living in the D.C. metro area, they decided it was not where they wanted to raise a family, and moved back to Iowa in 2012. They welcomed their daughter nine months after moving back. Then in 2018 added a yellow lab to their family. Angelica enjoys running, reading, and binge watching shows with her husband. She loves Disney, Reese's, and being a mom.


  1. I wish I knew what it would take for people to hear your message. You’re totally right. We lived in Phoenix for 19 years. My daughters’s best friends are Hispanic. I’ve seen the difference in treatment between them and heard the comments. It’s sickening and on-going. I’m sorry.


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