Meet Desiree T. Castro
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Name: Desiree T. Castro
Hometown: La Villita, Chicago
College/University Attended: DePaul University B.A-Public Policy/ working on my Masters in MPA.
Profession/Career: Cubicle hostage by day: handcraftin & creating by night (dreaming included).
Web site: MI TIENDA: www.manoymetal.com
Where were you born and where did you grow up for the most part of your life?
I was born and raised in Little Village (La Villita) Chicago. An inner city neighborhood that taught me to appreciate vibrant colors, homemade tamales, the hotter the salsa the better, survival and the importance of family and community.
What (if any) adversaries or discouragements did you face growing up?
It was disheartening at times to live in poverty and see my mother struggle to keep us afloat. At my age she was a single mother of three children and I think of how exhausted I am with one child. I don't know how she managed to raise three on her own and do a fabulous job with us. Nonetheless, growing up poor and without a father keeps me extremnely modest and humble and I appreciate the vast blessings I have, and if I had to choose, I would relive the exact same circumstances over because the life lessons I learned and character traits I developed are absolutely priceless and valuable to me. I am able to love, live, create and be who I am today because of my upbringing. I carry the belief that obstacles: be them emotional, financial or physical; can be overcome and will bring you wisdom that you cannot attain any other way.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you "grew up?"
I wanted to be: In charge! when I grew up. :) No, really, I did, my mom called me a "strong-willed child" which meant stubborn and well, she is right. Aside from wanting to be in charge, my aspirations ranged from Ballet dancer, artist, actress and writer... basically, I knew I need my feet to be wet in the arts to be happy.
What has been the "proudest" moment in your life?
Surviving labor. Seriously, why doesn't anyone tell you having a baby is the equivalent of being hit by a truck? & I survived labor & emerged with my best creation ever: my beautiful son. That was indeed the proudest moment of my life that I can credit myself with.
What does being a Latina woman mean to you?
It means balancing the need to repel stereotypes while embracing the beauty of my culture... understanding that my love for dance, vibrant colors and delicious food doused in limon y chile stems from generations of mexican women before me. Yet, knowing I am a new breed; born and raised in Chicago, one who can appreciate homemade tortillas, but prefers to have them made for her, than make them herself at the crack of dawn. One that speaks in a Spanglish tongue and is guilty of making my in-laws shudder when I stumble over my Spanish words because I can't translate my english thoughts fast enough, yet gracing teh irony of that same Spanglish ability impressing monolingual eves-droppers. And so to me, being a Latina woman means carrying a duality in language, mixing the past generations with my present one, and celebrating my cultural identity, dualisms and all.
What advice do you have for today's young Latinas?
Resist the boxes people will place you in. Fight to be an individual even though being a mass-produced citizen is easier. The path to success will never be easy, in fact it is very difficult, but it is made that way so that when you reach it: you have earned it, and you will appreciate it. Oh, and when you do make it, make sure to help the people out who were just like you a few years ago. Everyone needs a role-model and everyone can be one to someone else. Most importantly, do not lose yourself: your unique way of thinking, expressing yourself and essence is what makes you shine... don't let anyone take your shine from you. Ever.
What Latina in your life has been a major inspiration and role model?
Without hestitation: Mi mama. My mother has been instrumental in constructing the foundation of my character, teaching me to speak up for myself, dream big and swim against the tide at all costs. She has faced the ugliness of life and still calls is beautiful. She instilled in me, my faith in God, and always reminded me that regardless of how hard we may have it, there are women around the world who wish they could be in my circumstances. So when I feel like pouting, complaining or giving up, all I have to do is speak to my mom & am reminded that 1. I can handle this and 2. women around the world are being mutilated, tortured and oppressed in degrees I can't even fathom. So at that point, I quit my pouting and push forward. That is the extraordinary characteristic of my mother, no matter how difficult her circumstances have been, she continues to move forward in such a graceful way, counting her blessings instead of swelling on her obstacles. And so, she is at the core of my inspiration, that drives me to accomplish what I do in life.
What is your favorite quote or saying that you live by in life?
"Yo, la peor de todas." I first learned of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz in high school and her works and the way she redefined the role of Mexican women shook my core. I stand in alliance with her in the passion+sarcasm+irony+love+strength+defiance and beyond that the quote "Yo, la peor de todas." And it is women of the past like Sor Juana that remind me how fortunate I am to be able to pursue my degrees, explore my creativity and challenge authority, when she lived in a day and age where that was unforgivable and severely punished leaving her to brand herself as the worst of all, when she was really the first of all to challenge the oppression for women.
If there was one experience in your life that you could do over, what is it and what would it be?
This is difficult for me to answer because everything in my life, the decisions I made, the paths I took, the (many) mistakes I made, the people I have met along the way... all have led me to this very moment I am living right now... and I like who I am and look forward to who I will become... so I wouldn't want to change a thing-- not even the "bad/difficult/negative" experiences where I faced a fork in the road because everything plays a role in your life... so the good+bad+ugly are essential in the design of your idenity. So I'd keep it all, for now, at this point in my life: I wouldn't change a thing.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Traveling, creating, inspiring and motivating others to follow their artistic dreams. I want to start a non-profit that promotes the arts in inner city neighborhoods... and is targeted at youth... it is not completely clear yet, but I have big dreams in mind.
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Latinas Inspired by Monique Frausto is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.LatinasInspire.com.