Proud Disabled Latina on Wheels. It’s How I Roll.

In Columns, Just My Bellybutton, Opinion by Nathasha Alvarez

two wine glasses to symbolize the importance of celebrating life as a disabled latina

Being a disabled Latina woman in this country is no easy feat. The odds are stacked against us from the get-go. We face discrimination, limited access to resources, and a lack of representation in many areas of society. But I refuse to let any of that bring me down. I am here, I am proud, and I am a thriving disabled Latina diva.

As a Colombian American, I embrace my heritage and everything that comes with it. I am proud of my roots, my traditions, and my family. Who doesn’t love a bowl of Colombian Ajiaco? Growing up in New York, I was surrounded by people from all walks of life, and I quickly learned to appreciate the beauty in diversity. Now, living in Miami as a Latina, I’m a minority that makes up the majority of the South Florida population. But I never forget that as soon as I drive past West Palm Beach, I’m back to being the triple threat in America.

Latina, disabled, and female. Apparently, this is a deadly combination since there are hate groups out there targeting Latinas, disabled people and females. Who knew we were that powerful?

I Knew!

As a disabled Latina, I have faced my fair share of challenges. From navigating inaccessible spaces to dealing with ableist attitudes, I have had to fight for my right to exist in this world the way I want to exist, not the way society wants.

When you’re a triple threat like me, it’s difficult to pinpoint which aspect of your life threatens the existence of others. For example, in the workplace, educators, administrators, and downtown “bosses” have unsuccessfully silenced me when I’ve spoken against injustice in the classrooms and the school system. Which of the three threatens their existence the most? Hmmm…

No need to wonder. I’ve been told several times by teachers in my inner circle that it can’t be because I’m a female. The educational workforce is mostly comprised of females. So that’s not it.

It can’t be because I’m Latina. I live in Miami, Florida where almost everyone is of Latin descent. So that leaves…yup! You guessed it. My disability.

Do they ask themselves how someone three foot tall, using a manual wheelchair, can have the audacity to speak up against the status quo? I think they do. They believe I should be grateful for my career and honored to be in their presence, expect me to be silent, and want me to be a failure.

Surprise! Not going to happen.

But Why? It’s Always the Why.

As a disabled Latina, I have a unique perspective on life. If I’m true to myself, then I can see various viewpoints on any one subject. If I honor those unique qualities, I can offer solutions that might not be obvious to those who don’t share my unique make up. Or maybe my solutions will expose the harmful status quo.

Maybe people feel threatened for our ability to be bilingual. Everyone should be bilingual. It doesn’t have to be in a beautiful language like Spanish. I didn’t stop there. I can read and write in Italian and French as well.

Could it be our music? Does that bother people? While the crossover song, Despacito broke world records, it wasn’t the first Spanish song to crossover into America and other countries around the world. It’s difficult to not be a proud Latina when people are shaking their bums to Luis Fonsi, Shakira, and Selena.

Be Sassy. Be Classy. It’s the Disabled Latina Way.

One of my biggest passions in life is writing and speaking about living an audacious life. As a freelance writer and speaker, I have had the opportunity to share my voice and tell my story in a way that is authentic and empowering. I have written and spoken to audiences about everything from disability rights to Latino representation in the media, in government, and in the workplace.

When Hispanicize invited me to be on their panel for inclusion, I was proud and humble to share the stage with other audacious people. If you are ever given the opportunity to speak about your unique perspective, do it. You won’t regret it. The world needs you!

group selfie. Five Latinos. Nathasha is on one side, Billy, a male with a well trimmed beard, his arm is extended. It appears he's the one holding the camera phone. Next to him farther back is a darker Latina with a sun hat on. Behind her, a Latina with curly hair. Behind her, is another darker complexion latina. All are smiling.

This Disabled Latina isn’t All Work, No Play

But it’s not just about the work. As a disabled Latina woman, I also prioritize self-care and taking time for myself. Whether it’s indulging in my favorite hobby (binge-watching mysteries) or spending time with loved ones, I know that taking care of my mental health is just as important as my physical health.

As a disabled Latina, I get to experience a culturally enriching lifestyle. Being disabled has its own culture, being a female has its own awesomeness, and being Latina has a spicy side to life. Put it all together, you have my life. That’s why I’m proud to be your Latina Diva on Wheels.

So to all my fellow disabled Latinas out there, I say this: be proud of who you are. Embrace your disability and your ethnicity with open arms. Use your unique experiences and perspectives to make a difference in the world. And never let anyone tell you that you can’t achieve your dreams. Because trust me, you can and you will.

As for me, I will continue to live my life with pride, sass, and audacity. I will continue to break down barriers and show the world what a disabled Latina can do. And I will never stop fighting for a future where all disabled people are treated with dignity and respect.

Because that, my friends, is what it truly means to be proud.

I’d love to know how you take pride in your ethnicity. Comment below.

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