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Filtering by Tag: Latina

Women in Politics II: Cultivating Men as Allies

STQ Admin

Si Tú Quieres continues to highlight incredible every day Latinas.  Meet Patricia Campos-Medina. 

Patricia Campos-Medina serves as the President of Latinas United for Political Empowerment (LUPE PAC) in NJ and she is a founding Board Member for PODER PAC, a national political action committee by Latinas for Latinas. She has been active in international, national, and local politics for 20 years and has led and contributed to a number of political and issue based campaigns, including Senator Cory Booker and US Rep. Bill Pascrell. Patricia also directs the Union Leadership Institute at Cornell University and brings her labor union roots, Salvadoran culture and youth migration experience to her leadership. You can follow her on Twitter at @pcamposmedina or e-mail: patriciaLUPEPACpres@gmail.com 


The biggest challenge for women in politics is the fact that there are too few of us at the highest levels of elected office and as leaders or staffers with the two major political parties.

In order to be successful in politics, we need to be intentional about building key relationships with men that turns some of them into our allies to help us move our agendas and to get the votes that we need to be elected to office.

The Reality

The U.S. population is 51 percent female, yet our representation in U.S. Congress is only 16.6 percent.  The trend for Latina women is even worse. A report by Latinas Represent, shows that Latinas comprise just 1% of elected leaders nationwide:

  • There are 435 seats in Congress; 9 are held by Latinas (2 percent)
  • Out of the 7,383 state senators and representatives, 78 are Latina (1.1 percent)
  • 5 out of the 320 statewide executives across the country are Latina (1.5 percent)
  • Only one Latina has ever been elected governor, and
  • No Latina has ever been elected to the U.S. Senate

These numbers are sobering and as the Latino population grows, we must focus our attention on making sure that more Latinas are elected so that we can translate our experiences into policy that impacts our neighborhoods and families. 

Lack of Representation & Impact

Recent newspaper articles have brought attention to the fact that both parties, but especially the Democratic Party, count on the minority vote to win key elections. Yet, their outreach programs don’t necessarily translate into top jobs or contracts for minority consultants.  This lack of diversity translates into campaigns that lack the cultural nuance to reach ethnic communities simultaneously failing to build a bench of political operatives that are diverse and can successfully guide ethnic candidates to win elected office.  Lack of diversity in political campaigns translates into lack of diversity in policy representation at the highest ranks of government.

As a labor political operative who spent time as political consultant, I know first hand how hard it is to compete for those positions. In both roles, my biggest challenge was always navigating the gender bias, the machismo; to stand out and be recognized for what I brought to the table. I survived and thrived by being clear about my purpose for being in the game, but also by learning to build relationships with powerful men that helped me navigate the political process, men who recognized my abilities and empowered me to make decisions on my own terms.

Speaking Truthfully

In my previous blog, I wrote that a key component of learning to play the game of politics was to build alliances to help you accomplish your personal and organizational goals.  In order to expand your circle of influence, you must learn to cultivate some key relationships with powerful men that can help you advocate for your personal goals and accomplish your professional objectives.

My first assignment in politics was given to me by my boss Oscar, who at that time was a top leader with organized labor in Washington DC. He recruited me to join the AFL-CIO’s efforts to mobilize Latino voters in the late 1990s.  I really didn’t know anything about party politics back then, but I was a good organizer. 

During my first assignment somewhere in TX, he got a call telling him I was too problematic and needed to be re-assigned.  When he called me to ask my version of the story, I was specific with him on telling him the problem and offering him a solution. 

He said, “You got it. Stay doing your work and keep making trouble.  As long as you tell me what you need to get the work done, I got your back.”  And with that, Oscar and I began a real partnership.  Even though I was very young and he knew I would make some mistakes, he trusted my instincts and my abilities to complete my assignment and be successful.

As I moved up in the ranks of organized labor, I emulated that same relationship with all my future bosses. I focused my time on building relationships with my superiors that were based on mutual trust, clear understanding of the organizational goals, and on accomplishing key victories that would solidify my record as an effective political operative.

How to Cultivate Men as Allies

Here are some tips on how to cultivate relationships with men so they will invest in your success and see you as a key partner in helping them meet their organizational goals,

Focus on Your Sphere of Influence: An effective leadership practice demands that you focus your energy on what you can control, what you can influence.  There are too many leaders who spend time worrying on all that is wrong around them and lose focus of their ultimate objective.  You cannot fix what is outside of your control, but as you accomplish small goals, your sphere of control and power increases and eventually your circle of influence will expand. If you are new to a campaign, fully understand your assignment, the power dynamics of the campaign and w here you fall in the pecking order of the decision- making process.  Do a power analysis and identify where you are positioned on the power map. Identify who are the individuals that have influence and build relationships with them.

Be a Problem Solver: If you identify a problem, find the reasons for it and what needs to get done to overcome it.  Offer your leader specific solutions and volunteer to lead the efforts to solve it. Set a timeline, with specific deadlines, and stick to it.  And if you make a mistake, or something doesn’t get done on time, own your responsibility for it. Making excuses for why a task wasn’t completed on time, or blaming someone else for your failure to meet your deadline, is not a good leadership practice.

Be Clear About Your Boundaries: Being a young, aggressive and smart woman in politics is hard. You attract all kinds of attention from men.  You then must carefully balance being friendly with keeping your boundaries.  Know exactly what your boundaries are, and if someone steps over them, stop them right away.  I once was negotiating with an elected official, and afterwards one of his top staffers suggested I needed to be friendlier.  I knew exactly what he meant.  I politely told him: “If you stop right now, I’ll forget this conversation ever happened.  If you continue, there will be consequences.”  Needless to say, he knew what I meant.  He never made a sexual advance at me again and I continued to engage with him as an equal until we got the work done. 

Know How to Handle Passive Aggressive Behavior: My greatest challenge as a political operative has been handling passive aggressive behavior from men. You know what that behavior looks like and it is hard to call it out and stop it:  male colleagues ignore your ideas, talk over you and never give you credit for the work you have done. They exclude you from meetings or give you the run around on your budget needs. And if you have the nerve to call them out on it, you become a troublemaker and therefore unworthy of their trust. 

The most effective strategy to handle this behavior is to leave a trail of your work performance. Make sure you understand your assignment and you spell out to the team leaders exactly what you need to accomplish the task. In every meeting speak up and make sure the team knows your progress is commensurate with your resource allocation. And if you see someone not getting credit for his/her contributions to the team, find a way to elevate their work.  Look out for other women in the group and build real relationships with them so that eventually you have others in the group who see you as their ally as well.

Build an Inner Circle of Male Advisors: And finally, build an inner circle with people who care about your success and support you. Some of them should be men who know and appreciate your work performance.  My former boss became my mentor in navigating the politics of Labor and gave me plenty of advice on how to handle the rough and tumble world of politics.  I also became close friends with several candidates and campaigners whom I could reach out for advice or guidance.

Cultivating men as mentors and allies is key because they have insights into their fellow men “groupthink” that we do not. Getting their opinions, or their advice on how to tackle a difficult situation helped me navigate key relationships.  I might not always have followed their exact recommendations, but I learned that just by listening to them, I was able to think through my own strategy. And if one male leader wanted to block me from being inside a circle of influence, I always triangulated another relationship to figure out how to get to the circle.

Once I met my husband Bob, he became my sounding board, breaking down situations and offering less confrontational ways to respond.  I learned from him to think as a chess player, and to envision the ultimate outcome I am trying to construe before I react to triggering behavior.

Nurture Female Relationships: But as important as male allies are to help you be successful in politics, you must also cultivate a cadre of women, a tribe, who lift you up.  Just remember this anonymous saying,  “Behind every successful woman, there is a tribe of other successful women who have her back.”

My tribe is diverse -- high school and college friends, sorority sisters, women work colleagues, other women activists and my ultimate rock, my mother.

Build your tribe and it will keep you grounded and strong.

Your turn: How have male allies supported you in your own leadership development?

P.S. Enjoyed this post? Help us spread the love by sharing it, liking it, tweeting it, or forwarding it to your network.

Women in Politics: What Does Success Mean to You?

Librada Estrada

Si Tu Quieres is excited to highlight an incredible Latina that has been very active in the world of politics for 20 years and is doing great work to develop others who desire to impact and transform their communities and organizations—Patricia Campos-Medina.

Patricia Campos-Medina is a leadership development professional with the Union Leadership Institute at Cornell University. She is currently the President of Latinas United for Political Empowerment (LUPE PAC) in NJ, and a founding Board Member for PODER PAC, a national political action committee by Latinas for Latinas.  She served as political and legislative director for several unions including UNITE, UNITEHERE and SEIU.  She also worked as a campaign consultant in many local, state and federal political campaigns including US Rep. Bill Pascrell, Mayor Cory Booker and Senator Cory Booker. In 2008, she served as part of the Transition Team for President Barack Obama.  She was born in El Salvador and immigrated to the USA at the age of 14 years old and now resides in NJ. You can follow her on Twitter at @pcamposmedina or e-mail her at patriciaLUPEPACpres@gmail.com


It has been quite a year of presidential politics already.  And as the attacks on Hillary’s record continues, I cannot help but think about the challenges that women who work in politics face daily as they attempt to be engaged and win on their own terms.  Not all women might like Hillary, or might connect with her like some of us do, but what her experiences reveal is that in politics, acting like a man can be an “asset and a curse.”  How we learn to navigate this duality is what helps us stay in the game and succeed on our own terms.

I have been immersed in Democratic and labor politics for the majority of 20 years of my professional life.  I have run labor political programs and have been part of teams that run national presidential campaigns, local mayoral and city council campaigns.  I worked at the highest levels of policy making in Congress, and developed sharp elbows getting resolutions passed at the local city councils in cities across the United States.  I have also been in the backroom cutting deals, and I have been in the streets protesting those who are behind closed doors making those deals.  Through all of these experiences, I accomplished a lot but I have also gotten burned and deflated, been excluded and vilified, and I have been told at times that if only I knew how the game is played, I could have more power and influence.

Learning the Game

So, what is the game?  And what does success in politics looks like for women?  I don’t think there is one easy answer for either question, but let’s start by stating the fact that being successful in politics is not necessarily a measure of your level of financial success or your access to power.  There are some women in politics that have both and yet they still feel as outsiders, constantly fighting for recognition for their contributions.  

Learning to negotiate for your interest and for your agenda is a crucial component of learning the game, but the most important one is your ability to build alliances and make those alliances help you build a record of accomplishments.  You also need thick skin to survive the ride and to accept that the qualities that help men be recognized as leaders, do not automatically work for women.  

Why? Because there is a double standard in politics. Qualities that are seen as positive in men, such as confidence and aggressiveness, are seen as negative in women.  Hence, in order to use those qualities to our advantage, we must master the complex art of duality; you must be self-assured and at the same time intentionally learn to transform your confidence into determination and purpose.

So what is the first step in achieving success in politics?  It starts with having a clear purpose.

Your Purpose for Politics

If your goal is to have a future in politics then you must have a plan and a strategy, and be clear about why you are here, in the game.  Why do you want to get into politics?  Is it to build power for yourself?  For your community?  Or is it to accomplish a policy change you care deeply about? 

There is nothing wrong with wanting influence and power.  Men want that all the time and no one vilifies them for it.  But you must know that the stakes are higher for you. If you are a woman, more often than not, you don’t have a “Godfather” to show you the ropes.  You must negotiate the rules on your own and along the way you must learn to develop men and women as allies who will take an interest in your success. (Look for my next piece on cultivating male allies.)

Politics is a Male-Dominated Field

Once you have defined your purpose, you must understand that politics is a male dominated field with access to the inner circle granted more easily to those who are close to money and power.  For Latina women, those two access points are limited given that most of the time we have neither.  We come to politics from the outside, as activists trying to break down the walls and demanding power by mobilizing our community. 

I came to politics as a union/community organizer, someone with a demand.  I believed, and still do, that politics is a tool in our arsenal to fight economic inequality and to have a voice in the future of our country.  Because I was a good organizer, I was recruited to lead union members political activities and to convince them to contribute their hard earned money to politics.  I had people power and that could not be ignored.

But even with people power, I still had to battle the sexism of politics.  I am after all, an immigrant woman with a thick accent. Even with two Ivy League degrees, I had to prove constantly that I didn’t get the job because someone did me a favor.  In my 20s and 30s, I sometimes chose to brush off sexual advances, ignore sexist jokes, and hold my feelings close to my chest so I wouldn’t be labeled too sensitive and or irrational. 

My constant battle was always to be able to cultivate professional relationships with powerful men that were based on my union’s agenda, my campaign skills and my intellect.  I played the game and while I survived and thrived, I always felt a sense that maybe if I had been a man, I would have gotten more done.  Despite this feeling, though, deep in my soul I always knew I had made the best of every situation.

When I entered my late 30’s and 40s, I decided to take a leap of faith and try something new.  I stepped aside from my union political career to have a family, build my own consulting practice and to focus on helping union members become effective leaders.  Politics is a passion for me so I am still engaged in it as an advisor to campaigns and to other Latina women trying to make a mark in politics.

So, if you are a Latina who loves politics, a Latina who wants to run for office or just a political activist who wants to shake up the status quo, I offer the following tips based on what I have learned in the last 20 years of political and campaign work:

  1. Be clear about why you are in the game and be proud of it: You want to run for office? Awesome. Own it.  Learn from the best political candidates and develop a strategy for yourself so that you can run your own campaign. 
  2. Raise your own money: But if you want to run for office, then learn how to raise your own money so that you can be independent and drive your own agenda.  My grandfather, Papita Chema always said, “el que te da el dinero, te controla,” or “whoever gives you the money, controls you.” So, raise your own money. 
  3. Identify your tribe: You want to change the world?  Fix the educational system in your district?  Great causes.  Organize your tios and tias and all your cousins, high school, college friends and your fellow church parishioners. They have to be your first round of volunteers and supporters who help you both with money and by getting others to join your cause.  Than, map out your next round of supporters based on your agenda and your interest.  You grow as a leader when your base of supporters keeps expanding.
  4. Be prepared and always be willing to learn something new: Learn everything you need to know about your issue(s) and be twice as prepared than the men in the room.  And if you don’t know something, listen to what people are saying. Show empathy but don’t fake it.  Be honest that you are not an expert and that you will research the issue and come back with answers.  Faking it or lying about knowing something doesn’t work for women.  We must find the balance between being knowledgeable and not acting like “know it all’s.” 
  5. Be aggressive on defining your expectations to others: You want to learn a new skill in a campaign?  Ask for the job.  Be confident that you will learn it and be clear that you will not get stuck doing the same thing over and over again.  Even if you start at the bottom, by the end of a campaign, you should be in charge of something.  Don’t just hang around waiting to be recognized for your hard work.  If you are a political consultant, find out what other consultants are getting paid for the same type of work.  You have a skill they need so don’t allow them to undervalue your work.   
  6. Open doors for others: If you are a Latina candidate or a campaign consultant, identify young Latina/o operatives and put them to work on your campaign.  Build a cadre of young activist so you can tap their skills later and build your own network.  Have you ever noticed most campaigns always look like 20s something young male college kids? Well, eventually those young male kids become the top earning campaign consultants.  We must build our own pipeline of campaign operatives who are women. 
  7. Empower other women:  Be intentional about having other women voices and experiences around you.  Make them part of your inner circle and assign them key roles on your campaign that will build their skills set.  And if you are a staffer or consultant, use the “shine theory” to build other women allies; if a woman has a great idea in a meeting, support it and make a point to give her credit for it.  This practice denies men the opportunity to ignore it and later claim it as their own.  Don’t be afraid to let other women shine. By building others up, we also build ourselves up as authentic leaders.
  8. Trust your instincts: Oprah talks about how women most valuable asset is our “gut feeling,” our instinct.  There is something innate that makes us feel when something is not good for us. We feel it in our gut or that place right above the top of your stomach that tingles when you are not sure about something. When that happens, don’t ignore it.  If you are being pushed to make a decision that doesn’t feel right, to hire someone you know won’t work out, or you are being triggered by aggressive behavior, walk away.

I have failed some times to listen to my gut instinct and it has gotten me into some bad situations.  But if you make a mistake, don’t be so hard on yourself.  My biggest learning moments have come from situations that went south—either because I lost my composure or because I made the wrong decision.  My test for surviving such moments has always been staying true to myself, living up to my values, and knowing that my integrity was never compromised.

At the end of the day, politics is like any other career. If you love it, you will figure out a way to be good at it.  And like any other job, in order to be successful, you must have a purpose and a strategy to get to the finish line.  Give yourself benchmarks to meet and goals to reach. 

Today I am still in the game cultivating leaders as a trainer and adviser, helping other women and labor leaders discover their own power so they can become authentic leaders with the courage to transform our society.  I have accomplished more than I ever imagined I would as a girl growing up in El Salvador.  And as I continue in my path to build a better world for my children, I keep Winston Churchill’s words as a mantra; 

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal.  It is the courage to continue that counts.”

So as you find your path, I urge you to have the courage to be authentic, to challenge the status quo, to build other women up and to keep pushing until you get to your final destination.

Your turn: How do you try to affect change in your community?  How do you define success in your life?

P.S. Enjoyed this post? Help us spread the love by sharing it, liking it, tweeting it, or forwarding it to your network. 

 

Cultivating Healthy Life Habits to Improve Work Performance

Ana Polanco

We often equal being healthy with losing weight. We get messages from society that to be accepted and successful we need to be of a certain size, have certain types of hair, dress a certain way and the list goes on and on. Growing up in a mostly Latino and Caribbean neighborhood, I remember hearing from women in our community that being thinner was better as more people would be attracted to you, hire you for jobs and generally life would be easier.

I internalized these ideas even though it seemed out of sync to me and worked hard early on to keep fit, including yo-yo or unsafe dieting, bench pressing without guidance, over extending my body and sometimes starving myself to be fit. It was a lot of work and all it yielded was bad eating and fitness habits.

In the last ten years, I have spent a lot of time resetting my mindset around health and wellness. A large reason for that reset has to do with two invisible illnesses that haunt many women: severe anemia and fibroids. These two illnesses would make me feel exhausted, putting a strain on my energy levels and my capacity to perform at higher levels.  As a result, my body weight shuffled up and down the scale and with it all my emotions about my worthiness and capacity to succeed. At times I was deeply depressed or anxious about my body’s ability to be well. Doctors always gave me the same answers—workout and eat healthy. Since my diet and workout habits were fairly good this only increased a feeling of being broken.

In the wake of that break, these illnesses became a blessing and forced me to rethink how I thought about my body and what benefits being well could bring me. After visiting lots of doctors who couldn’t help me, I decided to take things in my own hands.

I experimented with a variety of whole food, organic dietary changes, changed up my exercise plans, engaged in more relaxation techniques, indigenous massages, herbal remedies. You name it and I have probably tried it. While every experiment was not successful, many of them did work. Most importantly they taught me to notice what kinds of foods my body can digest well, what kinds of activities my body responds to and what changes in mindset I needed to make to help my body along.

To date, changing mindset has had the biggest impact. I decided that my worthiness could no longer be tied to my fitness success. Instead I started associating being fit with being strong and happy. As I made changes in my mindset, I began craving exercise and eating foods that made my body feel good. I stopped trying to eat my emotions, but resetting how I thought about alcohol, discovered I didn’t really care for junk food and that it was mostly a crutch left over from emotional eating in my 20s.  The more I reset my mindset and fulfilled my needs, the more success I had in caring for myself, reducing stress or anxiety and increasing my personal and professional performance.

So what have skills have I learned from all these experiments? Here are a few tips I picked up along the way that helped shift my mindset and take action:

  • Diverse physical activity can teach you about fun and perseverance.  I really like doing activities in groups. Group activities make me feel like I am part of a team and we’re all learning to go the extra mile. Some of this comes from my early childhood. As a young girl I participated in ballet, tap-jazz, salsa, gymnastics, running and volleyball. Having that diversity allowed me to meet lots of people and to figure out my best method for learning. Later in life, I picked up yoga, kickboxing and running. These activities let me feel free, release aggression, get out of my head and focus on the mechanics of the body. I choose teachers who are fun and laugh because it builds my enthusiasm and pushes me to persevere when the classes get hard. Learning to play and how to persevere through a difficult challenge is one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. The more I can incorporate a playful mindset in my work, the more creative I am at solving problems or managing dilemmas in my business.  Doing a variety of physical activities outside of work, helps me perform better at work.   

 

  • Consistent eating schedules teach you about setting work boundaries. My mom always told me to eat on a schedule because it was good for digestion. I thought it was some old cultural myth. It is an old cultural tradition and its also science.  The truth is that the body is a mechanical system and it runs best when we feed it whole nutritious food for fuel and when we eat on a schedule. The body requires approximately 8 hours to digest and clean the food in your intestines and stomach. It does like clockwork at the same time every night. While the stomach is working and cleaning, the rest of your body can rest. When we follow the schedule it runs like brand new Porsche – smooth and fast. When we don’t, the body runs like a beat up old 1980 Chevy – puttering down the lane.  Setting work boundaries can help us do the same. Our minds can only process so much information. The most creative people I know are people who respect time for rest, for inspiration and rejuvenation. The mind like the body also needs to rest from its work and recover. If you don’t recover you lose sight of your company values and how those values are manifested in everyday life.

 

  • Eating whole, nutritious foods improves mental acuity and reduces afternoon fog. When you eat food that your body simply doesn’t respond to, a mental blurriness rolls in reducing your ability to concentrate or focus. Most people attempt to counter that with coffee. Unfortunately, the effects of caffeine only last a short time when your body is truly trying to digest bad food. One cause of that fog is what you eat and how you eat it. One way to discover how different foods affect your body is to keep a food journal. Write down everything you eat will help identify the foods that don’t sit well with your body. Noticing how quickly you eat will do the same. If you swallow whole pieces of food without properly chewing them, it will be difficult for the body to digest them. Instead eat your lunch away from your desk and eat it slowly (25 chews per bite of food). Notice how it tastes and how it makes your body feel. Each step in this process will help eliminate afternoon fog, allowing you to focus on the important matters at hand.

So next time, you're thinking about losing weight to please others, instead think of all the benefits it will bring to your work life, your personal well being and inner happiness. 

Dance To Your Own Beat: Putting Your Life’s Passion into Practice

Librada Estrada

We continue our commitment of highlighting Latinas who are transforming their lives by living in choice. 

Dance is at the heart of Amanda Cardona’s life. With over 20 years of professional experience, Amanda combines dance with teaching, travel, and digital marketing to share her calling with others. When she isn't leading or taking a class, putting on a show or recording videos to share her globetrotting adventures, you can find her working on some fancy footwork. To see some of her performances or to get in touch with her, check out her YouTube Channel at Amanda Cardona Dance or follow her on Twitter @AmandaCDance.


A fan whirs in the distance, a bell whistles “toot toot”, sneakers crunch across gravel… in an instant, my foot is tapping, my head is bopping and I spin a little twirl, when I realize that the store employee is smirking at me.  Instantaneous blush, a shrug of the shoulders, a quick thank you and out the door I go as I think to myself, yep, I’m a dancer people.  I hear music in everything and that in turn, inspires me to move, to create, to dance….

A Dancer is Born

Dance is simply my life force.  It’s like the air I breathe, constant and steady.  It’s my happiness when I’m down, my inspiration when I’m unmotivated, and my jolt of energy when there is no caffeine around.  

I’ve been lucky enough to have dance in my life since the age of 3 when I was a bratty kid refusing to actually participate in the dance classes my mom dragged me to.  Little did she know then that I was quietly refusing to try it until I knew I could do it well.  Week by week I would sit there and WATCH the class for an hour; until the fateful day when, without any prodding or threats, I mean gentle supplications, I stood up and executed the entire month’s routine perfectly.  And so, a dancer was born.

A Rude Awakening

Now, on the flip side, I grew up during a time when “dance” wasn’t seen as a viable career path, there weren’t as many options available as there are these days and quite simply, I didn’t have the “dancer” body type that was necessary to pursue dance in any form other than a hobby.  For example, in my 20s, when I wanted to get into Latin dance on a more professional level, I thought, “I’m Latin, I’ve got flavor, this should be a shoo-in!” Uh no, I was a served a plate of rude awakening.  

I am a relatively tall and pretty curvaceous Latina that is often not accepted by certain groups, not given the opportunity to perform on a stage, regardless of my two decades of training and experience. These experiences have at times shaken my confidence.  But I keep getting up and putting myself out there.

A Physical Art Form

Those situations haven’t completely disappeared. Dance is a physical art form, which by design places your body under the magnifying lens for inspection, evaluation and judgment (especially at its highest levels). The minute I step on a dance floor for a warm up dance, especially where I don’t know anyone and vice versa, I can feel them making a judgment that about me. It usually goes something like this… “Hmmm, new person.  Don’t know what level she is.  She’s a bit tall, she’s “thick”, and I don’t know if she’s heavy on her feet.” This then translates to a dance where you’re “tested” or “evaluated” on your skill level.  One turn, good she kept her balance.  She reacts quickly and moves quickly and hence the door is opened to a more “advanced” dance. 

I actually advocate this type of “warm up” dance.  You should begin slowly because you don’t know the other person’s skill level, not because of their size or shape. Many people equate size and skill. It can be a bit disheartening when you take those first steps, especially to a song that you just want to JAM out to!

Making It Work For Me

But even in those dark moments, when the negative voices are chirping incessantly, needling in the back of my mind, I also had another voice that I thankfully pay more attention to that reminds me, “Yeah, yeah, so what.  You love to dance, so make it work for you.” And that’s just what I’ve done, made it work for me. If you have ever even had even the slightest thought of giving dance a try, do it and most importantly make it work for you. 

Easier said than done?  True but the work and overcoming those nagging voices is what makes it worth it. Here are some examples from my personal experience and how I have made it work:

  • I go see a dance show.  I’m inspired and melancholic at the same time.  Inspired by the sheer skill of the performers, melancholic as I compare my own skill level.  Solution:  Change my thinking. Reflect on what I have done and what I can do. Translate the positive thoughts into action- what kinds of dance can I do, what exercises can I do to get stronger, more agile, and more flexible and get moving! 
  • I would go out to dance, but wasn’t being asked to dance.  Solution: I ask others to dance.
  • I went out with girlfriends to dance, amazing songs would come on and perhaps everyone was already dancing.  Solution: I learned how to do the leaders role (and damn well if I say so myself).  I know I was doing something right when my dance card filled up, except I was leading!
  • I wanted to perform, but couldn’t find a partner. Solution: I joined forces with other women and created an all-female dance company.
  • I wanted to travel the world teaching & dancing but wasn’t “well-known”.  Solution: Start out with cold-calls.  Offer to be part of an event without pay or for barter, then show & prove what I can do. 

Does it require work? Absolutely! Is it worth the time & investment? Undoubtedly! With each obstacle and the resolution that follows, I changed my attitude and my reality. I make it work for me and in return I fall deeply in love with dance over and over again.

Promoting Dance

Why am I such a cheerleader for the art of dance?  Let’s take a look from the outside in.  

Physically speaking, dance can do wonders for your coordination, mobility, endurance and stamina, muscle tone and fitness.  Who doesn’t want to look and feel better in their own skin!  The physical exertion also produces endorphins, which in turn leaves you feeling happy.  

Dance can be mentally and emotionally stimulating as well.  It allows you the freedom to move, occupy your space and be comfortable with yourself and the movement you can create.  It allows you to leave all the nonsense, obligations and minutiae of daily life at the door- just check it at the door- and move.  You’d be amazed at where your mind can go when you allow yourself that freedom.  When you combine all these elements together; physical, emotional, mental health- it’s a recipe for overall well being.  

Dance has a special added bonus.  Many dance styles are social, meaning they create the opportunity for a person to socialize, to get to know people who share a similar interest.  Stick with it long enough, and before you know it, you’ll find you have a new “family”.

Your dance family looks for you when you’ve missed class, is ready to give suggestions and recommendations when you’re taking the plunge into buying dance shoes, and welcomes you with a smile when you walk through the door.  

For me, dance has given me so many individual benefits and a feeling of home no matter where in the world I go.

Dance To Your Own Beat

Everything begins and ends with… YOU.  We live in a world full of structure and even confinement.  There will always be some obstacle trying to block you from your passion, interest or goal.  Sometimes those external factors will play a role in what you are able to achieve or accomplish and the key that will always influence how far you get is YOU and YOUR attitude. 

You can let others dictate your worth or value or you can MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU.  We have to be our own cheerleaders, because only you hold the key to unlocking your potential.  Instead of focusing on the limitations, exercise your brain and your body and discover how you can work with what you have been given.  Challenge the boundaries and perhaps stretch them a bit.  Soon enough, you just may find yourself “dancing” to a masterpiece of your own design.

Your turn: How are you honoring your passion?

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Eat Your Way to a Healthier You

Ana Polanco

At the end of last year, Librada and I felt strongly about promoting everyday Latinas on the blog who are making transformations in their own lives. As part of our effort to meet that promotion we are collaborating with every day Latinas who have developed some knowledge or expertise in a specific area.

Our first post is from Stephanie and Jennifer Madrid, the Authors of CasiClean, a blog about two Brooklyn based sisters “who aspire to live clean although they've historically been a little sucias…” – so cute! 

Part of living a fuller life is really taking care of our bodies. Check out the conversation with Jennifer and Stephanie about what it takes to transition to clean eating.


STQ:   So who are the CasiClean Sisters?

Madrid Sisters:   We’re two sisters living together in Brooklyn, New York. Jennifer works in the digital financial industry and Stephanie works as a digital designer in the city full time. With demanding schedules and modest budgets, we hadn’t ever adopted a consistent kind of diet or regimen in years. Our intention with CasiClean was to share our goals, successes and challenges when it came to adopting an alternative lifestyle mostly aligned with “clean eating”.

STQ:   What inspired you to change your lifestyles when it came to health?

Madrid Sisters:   Our inspiration primarily came from the serious red flags that our bodies started to throw down signaling us to slow down and listen. We felt richly overweight, lethargic and unstable. As we listened, we realized that being in our early 30's and mid 20’s should be an energy rich period and we wanted that.

STQ:   That makes sense. So how did you get started?

Madrid Sisters: We started changing gears after reading Dr. Alejandro Junger’s Clean Program. He promotes a cleansing regimen that resets your gut by eliminating food that is naturally difficult for your body to process (e.g., coffee, alcohol, processed meat, processed milk, processed sugar, etc.). Dr. Junger argues that our bodies were built to naturally heal themselves and essentially, to be its own hero! Unfortunately modern food & lifestyle norms keep our bodies and mind at full capacity or overloaded, causing us to be in a constant physical state of emergency.

STQ: I’m curious. What’s the first thing you noticed when you began changing your eating habits?

Madrid Sisters: Three days into Junger’s program we distinctly noticed higher energy levels, immaculate skin, and a physical and mental lightness. Even the whites of our eyes glimmered!  Experiencing mental clarity at work was a big win for us. It fueled focus, ideas, creativity and shifted our perception on what it means to be truly productive at work. Suddenly, we didn’t have Monday woes and felt a complete change of attitude towards work. When your mind and body feel nourished, those healthy brain neurons are happy and want to work with you instead of against you.

STQ: You mentioned your body being in a state of emergency when you’re eating poorly. What are some warning signs that we should listen to when our body and mind are demanding a lifestyle change?

Madrid Sisters: The signs vary from person to person. Before CasiClean, we weren’t facing any life-threatening illnesses but our main issue was not feeling like we were at our full potential. The first sign for us was jealousy. We found ourselves wondering how some people accomplished everything on their do list before 2 p.m. or how they found the stamina to run in 25 degree weather at night. I mean are they drinking some magical elixir we don’t know about! There is definitely not an elixir but our bodies are pretty magical. Our body is constantly throwing out red flags signaling us to a problem. We cover up those signals with over-the-counter drugs and alcohol.  Lethargy, bloating, headaches, acne, depression, dry skin, and constantly falling in and out of being sick were our warning signs. Some of these might sound like every day problems anyone can experience but they actually shouldn’t be symptoms you experience on a daily basis.

STQ: There are several alternative food lifestyles out there. What alternative lifestyles have you both tried and stuck with?

Madrid Sisters: We actually began trying out Paleo. When we started justifying eating bacon-wrapped mini meatloaf regularly because it was considered a “protein” we instantly knew it was going to be a diet where we would have a hard time keeping our boundaries in check. Then, we fell into the Clean Program which motivated us because it became a project and it was supported by an educational manual with facts that made sense to us. It required us to change our entire pantry and we found we learned the most about our bodies and delicious recipes! I mean, have you seen our Instagram account?!  Experimenting with Clean allowed us to experiment with multiple lifestyles: veganism, pescatarian-ism, and vegetarianism. We were mostly Vegan for 6 months and can’t tell you how many times people still ask us “so are you still Vegan?” with complete bewilderment - like we visited Mars or something. Now, we are the true definition of CasiClean. Being stringent on one “dietary label” of eating is unnatural to your body unless you’re accustomed to a specific lifestyle for more than a few years. Our focus now is balance and eating real food. We keep it organic (when necessary), local (if possible), and minimal processing. We’ve recently become Ayurveda nerds as well and you can see the influence of that in our posts. It is a perpetual state of learning, trying new things and we find it fun.  

STQ: For some people adopting a new lifestyle can be challenging. What are some challenges? How can you overcome them?

Madrid Sisters:  Any change is a challenge. Especially when it completely uproots your norms. However, before embarking on a dietary or physical alternative lifestyle, it is important to schedule a doctor's visit to ensure that you won’t get hurt during the process. Research will knock out a lot of fear and anxiety around lifestyle challenges.  Once you learn more about your chosen alternative through blog/vlogs, Instagram personalities, recipes and books - you become aware of what it takes. Informed visibility is important because of the abundance of misinformation in the interwebs. You almost have to do research on top of your original research. It may sound time-consuming but don’t let that discourage your efforts. Learning leads to inspiration. Nothing beats being inspired and why miss the opportunity to get to know a better version of you? 

  • Find a “Travel Buddy.” Part of our success, is having each other through the process. You definitely need a person who is on the journey with you.
  • Save your pennies. Being healthy can be expensive. We should be pushing food industries every day to provide real wholesome food at affordable prices. Having a partner helps with this challenge because you can share the expenses. Shopping at farmer’s markets, joining a local CSA and learning which produce to buy organic or not are some ways we cut costs.
  • We promise that when you decide to invest in your mind and body through good food and healthy practices, your body pays you back three-fold. That is the benefit of investing in your body. The return on your investment makes you feel like you struck gold.

STQ: What books or articles do you recommend on specific alternative living or getting your mind, body and gut to inspire our readers?

Madrid Sisters: You can follow us on twitter @casiclean where we share interesting articles and recipes.  Here are a few of our favorite resources:

  • To learn about detoxing your body and get slammin recipes check out the books for the Clean Program by Alejandro Junger. We have yet to be disappointed! You can also buy his books on Amazon.
  • The nonprofit Environmental Working Group keeps a Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.
  • Our go to bloggers for yummy recipes are Detoxinista and Against All Grain  
  • Check out the Oh She Glows Cookbook which has educational articles and recipes on the body and recipes.
  • If you think you want to do Dr. Junger’s Clean Program and you are on a real budget, then you should read Shelly In Real Life. She explains how she did it without having to spend half as much as you would with the program.  

For more information about CasiClean, go to http://casiclean.com or you can follow them on Twitter @casiclean and IG: casiclean

Your turn: How do you celebrate your culture and the culture of others at work?

P.S. Enjoyed this post? Help us spread the love by sharing it, liking it, tweeting it, or forwarding it to your network.