Inside the Life of a Factory Worker

Everyone has a story. Being able to give a voice to an untold story is what inspired me to become a writer in the first place. I was lucky enough to pitch and write this investigative piece titled “Behind the Label and Inside Maquiladoras” for Urban Latino, which highlights the experiences of several factory workers in Mexico and Nicaragua. For those of you who don’t know, a maquiladora is a sweatshop that offers low pay and poor working conditions for its workers. As a first generation born American, the piece was personal since my mother and aunt also worked as factory workers when they first came to this country from Cuba. Of course, their experiences are different, but I think the common thread is the struggle strong women face to provide a better life for their families.

I remember interviewing Zulema Mena Garay and instantly feeling connected to my deceased grandmother who also shares her last name. As she explained her daily routine of working in a sweatshop and having a production quota of 5,000 shorts per day, I kept imagining myself in the same position. I didn’t get very far. I was so inspired by her strength and determination to fight for her rights as a factory worker. She later joined a non-profit organization named Nueva Vida, which allows women to become business partners and earn rightful assets for their work. In essence, she was a part of a revolution dismantling the oppressive cycle clothing corporations currently have on Latin America and other countries.

I hope you enjoy the piece and share your thoughts on the topic. Do you make it a point to support sweatshop-free apparel? I’m not sure if shopping at Forever 21 counts.



Inspiration: 11 Things I’m Grateful For On 1-11-11!

I got this idea to write this post after reading my friend’s blog Self Feast. Since today is 1/11/11, she decided to make a list of 11 things that she is grateful for. I took the challenge and drafted my own list. I hope this year will open up new opportunities for us to continue experiencing more treasures that inspire and humble us everyday.

Here is my list, not meant to follow any particular order in less or more significance:

1 – Living the freelance life – I do appreciate the small things about being where I am in the present. I love having the flexibility to wander the city, go to the library for hours, and hit up my favorite cafes throughout the day. Ready and open for new professional opportunities!

2 – Bikram – I just started up my monthly membership yesterday and it made me so happy! I feel like it helped me hit a mind and body reset button.

3 – My body – Number two sort of encouraged this one. I’m so grateful for my health! My body always finds the grace it needs to keep it moving!

4 – My boyfriend – I hate to sound cheesy, but he is my number one fan. He encourages me and challenges me to keep pushing forward. Very grateful for him.

5 – My painting classes – I start my first class on Saturday and I’ve been super excited ever since I joined! Look forward to hanging all of my pieces up in the apartment.

6 – My apartment – It may be a temporary space, but it’s our space. I love the location, the staff, and the peaceful space! Very thankful for it.

7 – Sex and the City on E! – Do I have to explain?

8 – A good book – Right now I am reading Oprah’s Happiness book. It’s a great resource for inspirational stories and just adding a little bit of O in my life.

9 – My niece and nephew – They make me smile so much! Hearing Tia Sugey never gets old.

10 – My blog – I’m so glad I finally went live! I feel such a great release whenever I publish something. It sort of feels like the first time I saw my article published in a magazine. That too, never gets old.

11 – My friends and family – I love you guys, you know who you are. Plain and simple.

Thanks Mercedes and Vic!

Image: Google Images


Why Latinas Should Be Pissed About The Dirty Girls Social Club  Adaptation

I remember being introduced to “The Dirty Girls Social Club” by my sister-in-law when I was an undergrad. Being an English major, I was obsessed with reading books in general, but especially novels written by Latin-American authors. Once I started reading Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez‘s novel, I was hooked. The colorful narrative features six Latina women who form close friendships after attending Boston University. Now in their late twenties, they are faced with their own personal hurdles and critical moments that test their resilience and perseverance. The strong themes of sisterhood, strength, acceptance, and inner growth inspired me to recommend the book to all of my close girlfriends from high school. For the first time, I felt like I was reading a fiction novel that mirrored my own cultural identity.

I personally admired the character who was a writer for a Boston newspaper as much as I looked up to Alisa’s brilliant career. The Mexican-American author began as a freelance writer at The Boston Globe and interned at the Village Voice. She would later publish cover stories for mainstream magazines including RedBook and Glamour. The huge success of “The Dirty Girls Social Club” led to Alisa selling the film rights in 2003. The story is now being adapted into a television series for NBC spearheaded by Ann Lopez, George Lopez’s ex-wife.

One would think that one of our own would try to develop an authentic pilot honoring the creativity and cultural context of the piece, but that just hasn’t been the case. The educated and successful characters I previously mentioned have been transformed into (in Alisa’s words),

“a story about four Latina whores in San Francisco, their white friend who is being abused by her ‘hot blooded Cuban’ husband, and their black friend who is fat-n-sassy.”

The truth is Latinas have always been stereotyped in Hollywood. From Rosie Perez’s performance in “White Men Can’t Jump” to Carmen Miranda’s fruity headpiece and “tropical” dance. These pop culture trends have continued to manifest despite a growth in Latina actresses. Why are these stereotypical messages still being reproduced in 2011? Penelope Cruz may have won an Oscar, but that doesn’t mean that Hollywood’s perception of Latinos has completely changed. It appears to be a formula that works for the masses. Popular culture has become the arena in which we struggle to know ourselves and to make ourselves known, but creating more Sofia Vergara characters leads to a one dimensional script lacking the substance that even one of Alisa’s characters carries on page.

Alisa has decided to write her own pilot, just in case Lopez’s falls through the cracks. Let’s hope that a more honest and authentic version of “The Dirty Girls Social Club” gets picked up. In honor of Alisa’s voice and our story.

Source: Jezebel


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