I am the daughter of Latino immigrants from Paraguay and was born and raised in Philly. I have spent over 20 years defending the rights of workers, students, women, immigrants and the poor and leading them to fight for our rights.
I am the eldest of four in my family and know intimately well what it means to be the student and the translator in a family when a school district is not prepared to support the parents of their students. I know what it means to have to be the first in your family to go to college and how there are very little opportunities and support for first generation young people to get to higher education.
In college, I worked as a waitress. One day the manager handed out paychecks without our hourly pay. Guided by the values of my family, I organized everyone. We walked off the job and the next day, we all got paid. I found my voice as a community organizer for social and economic justice.
After college I worked at Planned Parenthood as a counselor and translator, helping women access healthcare and services and then worked with the American Friends Service Committee supporting women organizing in the factories at the US/Mexico border.
When I was the assistant director at the Philadelphia Student Union, I supported and mentored dozens of brilliant young people who were organizing to make their schools safer without relying on suspensions and arrests. I saw the difference a teacher or a principal can make, someone in power who understands you and is willing to work with you and support you.
For almost nine years, as the Executive Director of Juntos, I worked alongside some of the most courageous Latino families in Philly, many of whom remind me of my very own family. Together these families and I worked to build a movement of leaders poised to fight back against the criminalization of Latinos and immigrants, and one that fights to keep our families together. It was through that work that I saw how a mayor, a governor, a president, or a city council can keep a family together or rip them apart, can help free women and their children from detention centers or leave them to suffer, can force people into the shadows or welcome them into the light.
Why did you decide to run for City Council At – Large Philadelphia, and which part of your career do you think is the most useful for this position you are looking for?
I have been fighting for social justice issues and for the Latino/a communities I love for over 20 years. I have done advocacy, organizing and youth mentorship for all of that time from women’s rights issues, education reform and for nine years led the immigrant rights fight in Philadelphia as the Executive Director of Juntos. All of this experience has prepared me in my leadership to fight as a city councilperson. I have learned how to build strong coalitions, write policies and pass policies. Under my leadership at Juntos we pushed to pass the most progressive sanctuary city policies in the country in 2014 and in 2018 pushed to pass those policies to stop criminalizing our community. If I were to win I would be the first Latina to ever win a seat as an at-large council person in the history of Philadelphia. Our city now is almost 20% Latino and we have only historically had one seat at the table for city council ever. That seems like an injustice to me in fair representation. We need leaders in our city who understand what our families are going through, who understand the need for things like language access and addressing issues like poverty and public safety.
What are your priorities and what are your concrete proposals to deliver results?
If elected to office I would prioritize public safety given the rise in gun violence since the pandemic, this would include focusing on policing reforms that work and investing in violence prevention programs that have shown success and are tailored to each community’s needs. I would also work under the umbrella of public safety and services in improving our crisis response in the city. In particular, our emergency response department needs support to expand their staff, improve their salary and expand our crisis response to be diverse to the needs of the people. In particular I would like to improve response times and work to expand crisis response for mental health issues.
I will fight for policies that bring more funding to our schools and will hold the school board and superintendent accountable during the budget approval process and throughout the year and to push for more support for our children and youth, like counselors, nurses, bilingual education, culturally competent curriculum, and social workers instead of school police. I will use city council’s influence as half the school district’s funder to stop future school closings, and to hold our schools accountable to the needs of our families.
Why should Philadelphians vote for you?
I believe that a chance to have me in office means that many families who do not feel seen in the political process would know there is an office in city hall that would welcome them with open arms. I want my office to be experts on the issues that matter to Latino families and that is bilingual to be able to advocate for the issues that matter; education, housing, immigration, public safety, etc. We also need policies to strengthen small businesses owned by Latino/as like my parents needed, and I would want my office to be a place of support for them. And lastly, I have worked the last couple of years to improve voter engagement within the Latinx community through work to support bilingual canvasses, Latinx voter registration and have built up voter engagement programs that have expanded the electorate in Philadelphia so our communities can have a voice.
Me winning a city council seat will, one, allow people to see themselves reflected inside the halls of power and two, will allow us to fight for our families harder for what we need when they know their opinions and visions are valued inside. These policy changes they help me to push will create the opportunities we all desperately need. And when I win I will be the first Latina to ever win city council at-large in the history of this city. This campaign will be making history!
Anything else you want to say?
My parents worked non-stop since their arrival in the U.S. until they recently retired. Many times they worked for little pay in exploitative conditions until they started their own business, first they opened a shoe repair and then they started their own cleaning business. They taught me the value of putting in hard work and dedication to achieve your goals. My father started out as a dishwasher in a NY restaurant and my mother has been a domestic worker most of her life. They have taught me that all work and labor is valuable and in order to survive, you must be willing to do the hard work and do it with integrity. I bring that energy and love to work with me every day. I bring that passion and dedication to my fights for the people every day. And when I fight for our communities, they, my parents, are always at the forefront of my mind. I fight for families just like mine because when I was younger, we deserved people to be fighting for us too.