The untold stories of Latina women: A tribute to the sacrifices of Latina moms

By Elizabeth Morales

Guerrillera

According to popular depictions of Latina women perpetuated by conservative politicians, news media pundits and Hollywood producers, Latina women are often the epitome of depravity, immorality, and indolence. The media also depicts Latinas as submissive, uneducated, and weak. As a daughter of a Latina mother who exemplifies diligence, strength, and optimism, I am appalled at these inaccurate representations. My mother’s hands exemplify her efforts and sacrifice. Manchas dot her hands, which she explains by saying, “Por que me estoy poniendo viejita, por eso ya tengo mis manos llenas de manchas.”
Hoy en este dia quiero darle las gracias a esas mujeres guereras Latinas que han hecho tanto por sus familias y que aun no an recibido el credential que merecen. Por eso hoy les quiero dar voz para que exlpicen su historia. Here are four stories of women whose sacrifices for thier children show fortitude and resilience.

Teresa
Teresa Lopez de Morales raised her four children for over 11 years as a single mother, until she was reunited with her husband again when coming to the U.S. The wisdom and values she has passed down to her children have been etched in her hands. Here is her story:
I was born in a small ranch outside of Moroleon Gunajuato Mexico, with my 9 brothers and sisters. I can honestly say that I had an amazing childhood, all of our siblings got a long really well even if we had to share two beds at night. Anything our mother needed we were there to help, cooking, cleaning, feeding the animals, we did it all! It wasn’t until my teenage years that I saw the role in being a woman very hard. Education wasn’t an option for me, I didn’t even make it into the 4th grade. One day on my walks to work I met my husband the father of my 4 kids. We fell in love. We got married very young at the age of 18, and because times were hard and his family didn’t accept our marriage early on. We became homeless right before my due date of my first child, we lived with my husband’s brother but knew we needed to save up and find a way out because soon after the second child was on his way. The idea started to form in our heads that my husband would join my father, brothers and a couple of my sisters husbands to cross the border and look for a job. While I stay at home raising the kids. It was the hardest thing I had ever had to do. I would receive a call every week, letters when they would come, I was with my husband for 6 months and for the rest he was in the U.S. working sending money, we did this for almost 11 years I was not the only wife doing this, many friends and a couple of my sisters were in the same position. The outcome for many wives were different then mine, some wives never heard back from their husbands when they left. Some died on the journey but many were just left behind because the husband had started a new life in the U.S. I was one of the luckier ones, my husband always found his way back to me and my children.
I worked at home on a sewing machine while he was gone, I was mom, dad, friend, everything for my children. I did it all on my own. “Me falleje los pantalones y lo hice por mi familia.” I came to the U.S. right after my third child. The first couple of days I cried every night saying I wanted to go home everything was so new, foreign, unwelcoming. I hated it. I missed my parents, my sisters my friends and just everything in general. It took years for me to be able love Utah the way I do now, years! My life has never been easy, but that’s what a mothers job is. Working como una loca. I would have never changed anything. I am a grandma of four grandchildren and one on the way, todos mis hijos han o estan estududiando. Y me siento muy orgullosa de ellos, todo lo que hemos hecho es para ellos.
The wise words that a mother can give will always stay with their child throughout their life and remind them of the importance that each child has within themselves and the family. Teresa’s oldest daughter had this to say to her mother.
Me siento muy orgullosa de ti Mamá por que as sido una mujer muy valiente y con gran fortaleza, por mucho tiempo tu estuviste que estar sola con tus hijos porque mi Papa inmigraba a USA. En todos esos años estuviste al pendiente de nuestra educación y nos exigas buenas calificaciones. Siempre nos has ensenado el valor de la responsabilidad, honradez, generosidad y lo importante que es trabajar duro para tener un mejor futuro.

Dalia
Dalia raised 4 children single handedly and lived in the U.S. for over 19 years. All her children learned the importance of education and contributing to their community through the model she embodied as their sole caregiver. Here is her story:
Very excited to come to the U.S for the first time. I had become a mother of four children before taking my first steps into new soil, and with the news around Peru of America being the promise land I knew I wanted that for my children. I wanted the absolute best for them. We came to Utah and to my surprise it wasn’t exactly what I had imagined, and it didn’t sit well with my husband either. We started in a small apartment, working small jobs that of course paid better than even a good job over there, but the only jobs that me and my husband could take were cleaning jobs. I had a big idea for my four children’s future. A life that I wanted them to have so badly. My husband spoke of going back, saying stuff like “Dalia ya no puedo con esto, me quiero regresar. Nos vamos a regresar.” These arguments got worse and worse with time. My marriage soon ended and the decision that we had made was I would keep my two oldest and David (my ex-husband) would leave with the youngest. My heart was torn. I wanted the best and I knew Peru wouldn’t provide that for my family. Time went and I decided to fight for what I believed was right. I prayed to God to be on my side. To not abandon me. I made the decision at the end to fight for all of my children. I thought David would stay if I did that, you know make him see that his family was here. That we needed this, that if we stuck around things would get better. God didn’t have that plan. Soon after David bought his ticket and left. I became a single mother of four and my oldest was only 7 years old. I felt powerless even if I had all the power now. I started to work 2-3 jobs to be able to pay the bills. The only man in my life was God, and I became determined to believe that was all I needed.
With time my children grew up I was able to send them all to school, and they have I am a very proud woman, who has dedicated her life to serve God, and he has blessed me in numerous ways. I now teach Sunday school in St. Francis and enjoy every moment with my grandchildren.
The sacrifices Dahlia made through her life for her children to succeed here in the U.S. did not go unnoticed. She raised her children to know the importance of never giving up. Her daughter Vanessa had this to share:
God sends angels to this world to care, protect, sacrifice their lives for the ones they love. Mami linda you have been that angel for us. You have sacrificed your life to give us a better future, a better education, a better way of life. Every single one of our accomplishment are thanks to you. Gracias por ser el mejor ejemplo en nuestras vidas.

Linda* (psuedonym)
Linda endured great hardships in order to provide a family for her children, but now is able to live a life full of happiness:
I met my husband at a very young age and soon after got married. My husband was very rough around the edges but it didn’t become clear to me until much later. He became an alcoholic early into our marriage. Very abusive physically and emotionally. He wasn’t able to hold on to any job because of this, and the money that he did make was spent on alcohol. It wasn’t long until he would leave come back as he pleased At that point my oldest child was in elementary and my small part time job was not making enough for all the bills. My husband’s older brother feeling obligated to help me and my son came to the rescue and paved a bright future. Soon after he became my best friend and we fell in love. We both knew the terrible outcome that would happen if my husband had found out about us. I found out I was pregnant a month later, joy and worry came. Both of our families knew about this and instead of happiness secrets and gossip were forming. Word got out to my husband that I was pregnant. When I gave birth to my second child, the first visitor to arrive was my husband, the man who had left me almost a year now. He asked, “Como esta nuestro bebe?” He had received the news that the baby was pre mature by his family. Tears rolled down my face because what I answered back changed my life, my children’s life, and the secret I have been carrying my whole life. “Tu hijo esta bien.” I knew the consequences and the outcome if I told him the truth. I loved his brother and his family, but with the way that they had handled things I knew my fantasy was over. I signed the birth certificate with his name, knowing that it wasn’t his child. His brother soon cut things off with me. I went back to living with my husband, until he saw I would never forgive him for what he did.
I have silenced my voice for so long. This is the first time since the incident that I have told someone my story. Let alone know it will be published. I am not bitter with my life anymore. I remarried and love my current husband very much. My ex-husband till this day does not know, it is a secret that everyone in our family holds, for the protection of everyone involved. The sacrifice that I had made that day in the hospital was for my family, but mostly my children. I do think about how my life would have been, but seeing the accomplishments that my sons have achieved with school and with their careers, goals and dreams. I soon forget about my needs. I am a mother first, I always remember that. My happiness comes second.
Many woman’s stories go untold, obscuring both courage and obstacles. One of Linda’s son’s acknowledges all his mom gave up:
God has a plan for all of us, and I couldn’t have been blessed more to have you as mi mamita. Nothing can replace a mother’s love. You put your mind, heart and soul into everyday life to make my future the best. Sacrifice just comes with it. You’re the perfect example of hard working. I owe my success and many blessing to you. What I’m trying to say is that I love you thank you.