From medical professionals to police officers, these brave moms are working hard to keep their communities safe, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

By Damarys Ocaña Perez
August 14, 2020
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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.

Sgt. Graham, Jamaal 107th MP Company

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.

Courtesy of Celsa Ortega

The Farmer

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.

Courtesy of Maria Angelica Botero

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.

Courtesy of Yanci Acosta

The EMT

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.

Courtesy of Denisse Nolasco

The Nurse

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.

Courtesy of Wendy Ruggeri

The Physician

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.

Courtesy of Annette Astaiza

The Firefighter

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.

Amber Schnakenberg

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.”

Parents Latina

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