Category: Response 4

Photo response to Lightning by Mirtha N. Quintanales

I really enjoyed reading this testomonio because I related to her story as a child. Starting from age seven, Mirtha didn’t really have a connection with God and this surprised me because a lot of Latinas do have some sort of religious connection to him. And this is where I personally felt connected to her because as I was growing up, my family was Catholic but I did not identify with this religion because I didn’t feel God’s presence. Because of that I always questioned his existence even though my whole family truly believed there was one. Like in her testomonio, how she said her father was an altar boy and grew up having to live his life with the intention of God watching over him- my mother had a similar experience. Her parents raised her to be Catholic and she was baptized, got her communion, went through all the traditions and ceremonies in the Catholic religion. So this was a big part of her life and she was expected to raise me under these traditions but when she had me, she shied away from it so I was left questioning my beliefs like Mirtha did as a child.

Photo from:


“I Was Born A Teacher”

Dear Norma,

I, too, was born a teacher. Maybe you of all people could understand the fulfillment and pleasure I get when I see the glimmer of understanding and comfort in a friend’s, student’s or relative’s eyes when they finally can communicate something once difficult to comprehend. Not just that, but the internal valor we feel when we can pave paths once unseen that will help someone realize their potential and find validity in their experiences.

I was always the maestrica. When my cousin Yamel came to the U.S from Santiago knowing nothing of English, I was her self-assigned English teacher. I was her supplemental tutoring in the mornings before Kindergarten and 1st Grade, and in the afternoons when my mother was still running her in-house (technically apartment) daycare. I became her math teacher, but I was still her English teacher and translator when needed.

When my abuelita wanted to learn some English to be able to greet and chat with her new neighbors in her co-op apartment after she moved out of our apartment, I resurrected the maestrica long forgotten in her focus on other elementary student things, especially after changing schools. I sat with her in her new apartment and repeated phrases and meanings until she could pronounce it easily. “Good Morn-ing”, I would say slowly. “Goot Mo-ning? Y eso e buenos dia?”, she would ask. “Thank you. Gracias.” “Denkyu?” I giggled, and so would she. But she was never self-conscious about her pronunciation, and I never judged. My grandmother never made the time to learn English because her neighborhood never required it of her. Her family never required that of her. My grandmother was the first person to teach me, never in the academic sense, but always of wisdom, of practical use and of life in general. She never learned to read and write in Spanish, but she picked up things for herself. She can slowly sound out words and put together meanings, and she can write very slowly and usually only words, never sentences. But she has beautiful scripted handwriting.

My passion for teaching comes from my abuelita. I don’t think I’ve ever thought about that reasoning until writing those words down just now. When I think about it, she was always the one to tell me to do well, always the first one to say not to give up on myself or my opportunities. Sure, we always hear those words from countless people in our lifetimes, but now I know why she said that to me, and still does. Over the phone, “Dayi, yo voy a tu graduacion, verdad?” Of course, my life has culminated from your very strength and persistence as translated through my own actions — sometimes I like to think my grandmother lives vicariously through me when I come home and tell her what I’ve learned. I do this to make you proud, to fulfill what you have told me was never yours. For an interview in my Women in the Caribbean course, I interviewed my grandma and she told me how she has always had this hyper awareness of her own ignorance and the gaps in her knowledge. She told me that her sisters and her were always left in the dark by their own realities as women, their own bodies, and their relationships with men. She has always had this grave desire to never see me or my mom suffer at the hands of ignorance and social resolutions to keep women in their place. I have fulfilled that by making sure my purpose is to make sure that I can be a figurehead for those that are disenfranchised in the educational sphere.

For the past 15 years or so, I’ve always mindlessly said that I want to be a teacher. I never thought about anything else besides teaching. I can’t tell you who, or where or what I want to teach anymore (anyone, everyone). My passion is writing, I guess I became an English major for that reason. I, too, am a writer who teaches. Although I have not succinctly found my voice as a writer, I’m trying. I am teaching myself every day. I take every opportunity to teach, to write, to put myself out there and help others put themselves out there. Their voices, silenced, muted, or not so loud, will be heard.

Norma, I tend to ramble and lose my place when I write like this, but that’s the beauty of reflection and writing isn’t it? I’ve discovered my own potential through the support of my memories, experiences, and the people in my lives. You are now part of my collective. I’ve regained a confidence I’ve lost in school when it comes to teaching. I’ve been wandering doing small projects here and there (academic and not), without thinking about why I am doing what I do. But here I am, once again finding faith in what I know will be a difficult terrain for the educational perspectives of this country. I will dedicate myself to those that have lost faith in themselves and in a system (and officials) that deem it correct to disenfranchise opportunities and potential. These victories may be small, but every action counts.


To whom it might concern

I once said, I will stop my academics for a year. That was only going to be after I finish college. My plan was to work and finally get out from under my parent’s wing. Then, I would go back to school in the city. However, my father did not agree with this plan. He made me an offer. He said, “Go get your Masters right after college and I will take care of all your expenses. I will also buy you a car. I said yes, not because I wanted a car or him still breaking his back at work to give me money. I said yes because the look on his face told me that that’s what he wanted to hear. I can’t really back down now, even though I am drained of long days of classes and nights of homework for the past four year in college, plus the other 13 years of the same routine (Kindergarten-High school). But I have to keep pushing because that is something that he wants for me and I can’t let him down.

If I had said no to his offer, he would have been “okay”. To explain better, it is like an exercise where we get partial credit for the effort but not the full credit because that was not their vision of what we should have done. This is because even if they support our decisions at the end, deep down they feel some type of way.

Sometimes we are pushed by our parents because they know better than to let us do things on our own, and they want what’s best for us. However, parents like my parents do not know the struggle of being a college student. That is unfortunate of course, but that it is a pressure that they put and we carry on our shoulders. Therefore, I wonder if they actually think about how we must feel with their constant intervention in our decisions as young adults.

I relate to the fact that we are our parents bridge. My mom does not really have much to say. She wants what’s best for me, but also whatever I want to do is okay with her. Disagreements come and go because the man of the house wants his wife to support his decisions. They fight and the fustration always lead me to ask them, “If ya can’t be together without fighting, why don’t ya get divorced already?” Sometimes is “we still love each other” other times, “it’s just a regular fight, not a big deal” but there is always that “it is also because we do not want our children to grow up without both parents”. We all know that their intentions are good, and I do not want to sound as an ungrateful child but I would like to know when is it that we will get to make our own decisions without worrying about the way our parents are going to feel.

I believe its never!

Att: A Tired College Student.





Antonia Pantoja

Reading about Antonia Pantoja was so interesting to me because I feel as there were so many parallels between the both of us. She was very much so in-between New York City, San Diego and Puerto Rico throughout her life, only realizing in her old age that NYC was her true home (despite being born on the island). I was born in San Diego, spent many summers of my life with mis abuelos in Mexico, and grew up around NYC and really got involved in the different (and often intersecting) realms of activism, academia and the arts that the city had to offer. So I understand first-hand this search for “home”, which might just be where one in the most productive and finds the most connections in (for both me and Pantoja, NYC is definitely this place). I also really commend how Pantoja was able to blend these different sects into her everyday life and self-expression, for it’s something that I’m still struggling with. I often find myself getting too comfortable sitting in the “ivory tower”, only writing and theorizing about oppression and liberation and not doing nearly enough to combat inequality. But Pantoja was able to organize Puerto Rican students through many community-based programs in NYC, most notably ASPIRA, as well as reforming the realm of social work to incorporate direct community action when she accepted a teaching position in the field. She really was able to blend together her ethnic identity, academic accomplishments and activist goals together almost seamlessly, which is something I think many latinas should also aim to accomplish.

The Power of Being Free

Puerto Rico


Win or Win



When you put these words and thoughts together I think of the Power Pantoja had! I will fight for not only myself but my community …


Coming together








Young and old


When you put these words together the fight, freedom, and passion that Pantoja had speaks through them. I am my community I will fight for what is right.







Free at last; reading about YOU Pantoja has showed me I am strong, I am free, I am my community. I miss you this poem is for you …

Response 4

Solidarity is an essential part of achievement;

What one wants, others must aid in;

Ideas and concepts all intertwined into one;

Finding commonalities and common ground;

For what is important and achievable;

But also for what the oppressors have made unachievable.


Allies and adversaries;

Tweed out the bad ones;

The ones you know will bring you down;

The ones you know don’t want you to achieve great things;

Invest in the good ones;

The heroes of our future;

The ones who believe in humanitarianism.


Liberate yourself, self-advocate;

Unionize and celebrate;

What one wishes for, others need to help grant it;

For when we all work together, we can have it all.



he said
You are not welcome here
You are not wanted here
This land is my land
and my land only
since the day I stole it
from your people
The mass murdering and cultural dismantling of your people
Your people
are not welcome here
he said
You are not wanted here

I have tried to explain to him
I am from here
Es la tierra donde nací
I am more American than he’ll ever be
despite the ethnicity of my family.
This land is mine
The origin of where my people derived
And still he shouts
in the name of God

I’m tired
Y que pobre es mi historia
I search for a fire
but the torch has been extinguished
he says
You are not welcome here
You are not wanted here


My kids

Reading about Pura Belpre was like making a revision of what I am doing for my society to be better and I remember the kids who I teach  back in Ecuador. We find diversity in my country, but sometimes, our kids don’t respect each other because they never learn about that, they had the idea that white is more powerful than black and mestizo. When I was teaching I change the way they see black kids, I always started the class with “We are equals, we all need to be respected, we all need to be loved”, all the kids in my classroom treat each other with love and the division based on color of the skin, stop.

I want to keep doing this, keep teaching the kids that we are equals, but now I will work not only with kids but with their parents. All of us need to chance or improve the way we treat each other, we need to leave the racial stereotypes and cliches behind.

Adelina Otero and Pura Belpre, were strong figures in their own different fields. The first one as a suffragist and as the first Hispanic woman to run for Congress and the second one, as the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City. However, both of them share a particular idea about the language and the culture after the Spanish colonization, the importance of education and knowledge of their roots. Thanks to her time as being a superintendent, Otero tried to strike a balance between curricular requirements on the one hand and Spanish cultural values on the other. Meanwhile, Belpre focused in the education of  Spanish-speaking children, all her writings were mainly directed to help them to identify themselves, to learn more about their heritage and to guide them through this adjustment in what they considered a new environment.  Both of them supported a bilingual education, but also they emphasized the importance of maintaining and celebrating the Hispanic culture and crafts.