By Karelys Beltran
International Women’s Day is the perfect date to launch our Powerful Latinas in the Valley series.
Instagram is doing a killer job of letting us access wonderful representation of people of color doing amazing things. Yet, in our Valley, when people talk about Latinos, the immediate image that pops up is migrant workers. It is a pretty reductive picture. With self identity being so important to our decision making and life choices, such a lack of representation of high achieving Latinos can cause a dissonance in young people looking to chart a different path for themselves.
As a young immigrant student in high school, I had one single big dream. Every time I shared my professional goals with people around me there was no echo coming back. Crickets. Or if they did say something back they would say “uff! You are a dreamer!”
It was not a compliment.
The underlying message was “be realistic. Focus on something that can be done.”
The professionals I knew did not share my skin color, culture, and heritage. The brown people that made me feel at home, spoke my language, and called me mija with all the carino in the world, worked in the fields, or the fruit warehouses, or lowly paid jobs.
I had a lot of question and I had an avalanche of societal pressures to wade through.
Would I be forever alone and never marry if I was an independent strong women?
What if I was more educated than all the men around me?
Why do Latino men do not like me?
Do white men like me because of me or because of this idea of what a Mexican girlfriend is supposed to mean in their lives?
I liked feeling special but I hated being called exotic. It was meant to be a compliment but it only highlighted my otherness in the very white church and very white high school I was attending.
Am I going to die without ever being serenaded with a guitar like in those Pedro Infante black and white movies I used to watch with my prima in the hottest days of the Sonoran desert?
I have achieved, through focused work and constant effort, to fully embody who I am in all facets of my life. I am so grateful to social media for providing the beautiful representation of different bodies, women bucking the system, Latinxs thriving. It is important. And modeling always inspires. Because if other humans are doing what we want to do, and if they have overcome the barriers and insecurities that plague us too, then we feel less alone and like the path ahead has been walked before.
This is why I decided to launch this series where I want to feature beautiful Latinas in the Yakima Valley kicking ass and taking names. The focus of this series is professional women and their experiences in motherhood, political stance, education, societal norms, heartbreaks, joy, and self-realization.
I want every every young person struggling with insecurities to know that our gorgeous Valley is populated by beautiful people willing to be a mentor.
I thank all these women for generously sharing their experiences in great vulnerability and openness. They have all been given the same list of questions and they will answer as their heart guides them to share. Who are you and what kind of work do you do? Where is your heart leading you? Share ways in which you play a part in bringing life to people around you.
To kick off the series I’ve chosen one of the most admirable women I’ve met in recent years. Her Instagram bio reads “Mother and Nurse, looking to spend the rest of my life healing people.”
My name is Amanda Gutierrez and I am a nurse. It has taken me many sleepless nights, much heartache, painful moments away from my children, self revelation and about 30 lbs to be able to say that; I am a nurse.
The journey was brutal, but also more than worth it. Some of my friends and coworkers often joke “Amanda would do this for free,” but, to be honest, that’s no joke at all. I love my work with all of my being, it is who I am, it’s how I express myself and it’s how I find fulfillment in a world that can sometimes be less than fulfilling. I spend my work days seeking out moments of calm within the storm that is one of the busiest emergency departments in the Northwest. Moments where I can lessen someone’s pain, listen wholeheartedly to their concerns and fears, hold their hand when they are scared and have no one else by their side, teach them how to heal themselves and be there to care for them after it is all said and done, before their families come and kiss them goodbye for the last time. Then, I go home and kiss my children, having a fresh sense of gratitude each day the universe keeps allowing me to be their mommy, because I know, all too well, that so many aren’t as fortunate.
I didn’t spend my childhood playing doctor or nurse. When I was in high school I thought maybe I wanted to be a pathologist or a scientist, a lawyer or maybe even a police officer? I truly didn’t know. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with knowing what you want to “do” at that age but- the pressures of society to have it all figured out and choose your college major at age 18 are a huge load of horse shit...in my opinion.
At 18 I was living on my own, working full-time and had no one to co-sign for any student loans so, it didn’t bother me too much not knowing as I couldn’t attend college right after high school anyhow. It was many years later before I discovered what it was that I wanted to focus my energy and my life doing.
After the delivery of my second daughter, I was 24, I found myself alone, scared, delirious from lack of sleep, labor and blood loss. There was a nurse, she changed my entire experience. She showed me the very raw, human side of nursing, a side that got me through a hurricane of awful feelings. It was during that time I realized the incredibly rare opportunity that nurses have to impact people in their most vulnerable states and literally change their lives; to heal them, to save them. That’s what I wanted, all of that and only that, nothing else would do. So, shortly after that I enrolled in classes at YVCC to complete my associates degree.
Once in the trenches of academia I realized two things:
1) I was now old enough to apply for my own student loans,
2) I had no idea what I was doing or how to even apply for a loan.
The thought of embarking on this uphill battle was both exhilarating and terrifying. I was a first generation college student whose father only made it to the 8th grade in Mexico before having to give up his education to work in the fields to support his family. I didn’t have the first clue how to navigate through the world of undergraduate school, and neither did my family. In the years it took me to complete my degree I must have felt like quitting dozens of times. But, I couldn’t, I wouldn’t.
I’m sure my dad felt like quitting all the time, he went through hell and back to get where he is today; he literally walked from the state of Sonora, Mexico to Yakima, WA over a period of nearly 4 months with a backpack full of water and tortillas. Now he owns an orchard in Selah, WA. My mother, working full time and raising two children, one of whom being my half brother who was inflicted with both mental illness disorders and a wicked addiction disease; I can guarantee she wanted to quit. It got so bad she was hospitalized a couple of times for acute stress reactions that ravaged her body. Neither one of them quit. They kept working to put a roof over my head, clothes on my body and food in my belly that allowed me to gain the skills I would need to do this damn thing. So, I did it. I got rejected from the program initially, then wait-listed, then offered a spot at the very last minute. I took it. I worked my ass off over the course of two years. I graduated, Magna Cum Laude, with honor chords and a bachelor's degree in nursing.
To this day, the only two people I remember being in that auditorium at the commencement ceremony were my two daughters, watching their mom walk across that stage and not having a clue what was going on. That’s probably because they were; the rest of my family, including my parents, were not present. But, that didn’t really bother me because my girls are the future, they are the ones who I want to follow their hearts to whatever makes them happy. Being a parent is incredibly arduous, so I have no interest in dwelling on the mistakes of my own. However, my upbringing has taught me a lot about the type of parent and person i want to be and the kind of energy I want to give to the world.
For every little boy and girl in this world, I wish for them that someone would come along in their lives and empower them! Give them the space to be themselves and make that powerful! To teach them it doesn’t matter what your parents have done or what they believe because as humans we each have the ability to think for ourselves, to believe in what we see fit and to follow our own hearts, to make our own dreams become reality. For me, it wasn’t until much later in life I realized that I could empower my damn self and I could truly do, whatever I wanted to do. I try everyday to be empowering with my children, my friends, my co workers and my patients. I fail more than I succeed but, I am finding growth in each failure. I’m learning that if I want to effect positive change within my community, or even within my family or myself, I cannot be afraid to try, and to fail. Everyday I fail as a mom, as a nurse, as a partner, as a daughter and as a friend but, that only makes me realize that I have succeeded in being human.
“Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly.” John F. Kennedy
Thank you to all the women who have raised their hands and so generously participated in this series giving us of their time, their soul, and their words.
Denizen extends help and mentorship to any young adults grappling with transitioning from high school to next next stage. Feel free to reach out in the "contact us" section.