8 Latina Moms Share How They Protect Their Communities As Essential Workers
Latinos make up 34 percent of essential workers, and among them are moms on the front lines leading the way with courage and compassion as they strive to keep their communities safe. Meet these eight Latina moms making a difference.
The Military Officer
Yanil Barragan; Maspeth, New York
I’m a single mom and I joined the National Guard to show my son, 12, that stepping up to help those in need is important. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I distributed masks, hand sanitizer, and food all over New York, including my old neighborhood in Queens, where my Mexican community still lives. Taking care of my neighborhood made me feel like I was tending to my family.
Celsa Ortega; Salinas, California
I come from a long line of farmers in Oaxaca, Mexico, and when I moved to the U.S. 14 years ago, I wanted to continue that tradition. Now I’m an organic farmer. I love teaching my four kids, ages 5 to 12, that you can be your own boss and do what you love. My job is even more fulfilling these days, knowing that the produce I grow—from radishes and lettuce to cilantro and onions—is feeding this country in our great time of need.
The Hospital Cleaner
Maria Angelica Botero; Hollywood, Florida
This wasn’t my dream job. I initially took the position to support my daughters, 15 and 12, one of whom has severe epilepsy. Now I see it as a beautiful career. You get to know patients. Sometimes they just need to chat. I tell them to have faith or give them a pep talk, like my mother, a strong Colombian woman, always did for me. So many have become dear friends, and I’m honored to play a role in their healing.
Yanci Acosta; Union City, New Jersey
As an emergency medical technician, you never know what you’ll face. At the height of the coronavirus, my crew was getting over 100 calls a day for emergency services. It’s definitely stressful. Two things keep me going through the highs and lows: my four kids, ages 9 to 24, whose smiles can erase even the worst of shifts, and my team. I’m Salvadoran and most of them are Latino. We’re family. We always have one another’s back.
Denisse Nolasco; Oakland Park, Florida
Years ago, my mom, who is Guatemalan, was sick with an autoimmune disease, and I saw how nurses, more than anyone, changed her outlook and gave her hope. That’s why I became an ER nurse. My shifts are long, sometimes 12 hours. But nothing is better than watching my patients persevere. And showing my daughters, ages 9 and 7, that women are powerful, resourceful human beings who can change the world.
Wendy Ruggeri, M.D.; Los Angeles, California
Ever since I moved to the U.S. from Argentina, I wanted to be a doctor. My work became much more personal after I became a mom of three, ages 3 to 10, and survived breast cancer in 2012. I know how scary it can be to sit in the hospital, awaiting a diagnosis. So I try to treat everyone who walks into the ER with the warmth that is so much a part of Latino culture. I put a hand on their shoulder, speak to my Latino patients in Spanish, and let them know that I’m there.
Annette Astaiza; Garden City, New York
I take such pride in being one of the few female Boricuas in a mostly white, male field. And so do my four children, ages 12 to 26. Whenever I rush into a burning building, I think of them. I’m not rescuing a stranger, but someone else’s child, sibling, father, or mother.
The Police Officer
Justine Hasting; Wilton Manors, Florida
When I was growing up in Florida, my mother had a civilian job at a police station, and the incredible female cops she worked with became my mentors. I wanted to follow in their footsteps. Of course, I’ve faced many obstacles as a woman and a Puerto Rican in a male-dominated career. But I do it for my 15-month-old son, who affects all my decisions. I want him to know he can do anything he puts his mind to, and that you can’t give up on a dream just because it’s difficult.
This article originally appeared in Parents Latina's August/September 2020 issue as “Mamis to the Rescue.” Read the full issue free here.