Vida Plena para Tod@s, or A Full Life for Everybody, was the name of this year’s National Latin@ Institute where our Latina Program Manager, Paola Souto, facilitated a workshop at the beginning of June in Chicago, IL.
This conference, organized by the National Latin@ Network every two years, welcomed over 150 people working in the anti-domestic violence field from across the nation: from advocates, volunteers, and immigration lawyers offering direct service, to therapists, policy experts, board members, and survivors, they all came together to discuss best practices and how to end gender-based and domestic violence in the Latin@ communities.
For three days, they discussed challenging issues and innovative practices, exchanged advocacy tools, ideas for community engagement culturally specific to the Latin@ communities, and shared resources and expertise on different topics. The Institute aimed to bring light to the intersections of gender-based violence and domestic violence in the Latin@ communities in a collaborative environment, acknowledging the vast diversity in these communities. Some of the topics of the Institute sessions included advocating for survivors who stay in contact with abusive partners, advocating for LGBTQ Latin@ Survivors, working with Latin@ youth, elder abuse, human trafficking, using culture and art as healing tools, and engaging men to end violence against women.
Presenters and panelists were intentional in their choice of words, using inclusive vocabulary (considering gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, immigration status, etc.) and switching back and forth between English and Spanish depending on what they felt more comfortable with and what they thought was more appropriate to the discussion. Interpreters kept busy supporting monolingual participants with English and Spanish translations. In this way, language was used to bring visibility to the diversity in our Latin@ communities.
Paola’s Echando Pa’lante presentation included its origins and the agency motivation behind its creation, how it has developed over the years, the members’ feedback and how their participation has evolved, and the challenges the Latina Program has encountered with the group. It was an interactive presentation, as many of the advocates in the audience had experience with survivor empowerment groups at their own agencies. Following the spirit of the Institute, Paola established a critical dialogue among the people in the workshop and hopefully everybody left with new ideas and practical tools, and inspired to move their programs and groups forward.
Una vida plena para tod@s. What else can we ask for than a full life for everybody? After attending this Institute, Paola came back with a renewed commitment to promoting social justice for all communities of survivors, aiming for una vida plena para tod@s.
In the Spanish language most nouns are assigned a gender – masculine or feminine. The word Latino is the masculine noun and is often used to refer to men; the word Latina is the feminine noun and always used to refer to women. Spanish nouns that are plural are almost always assigned the male gender. So even though the word Latinos may refer to both Latinas and Latinos, this is a sexist approach. The @ in Latin@ is then used as an alternative to reject the gendering of the word and attempt gender neutrality.
In addition, there are people who don’t identify with either male or female nouns. The term Latin@, and the usage of @ in many nouns that refer to their identities, is a way of using inclusive language as an alternative to the traditional and outdated gender binary.