I have always been positive. That was my attitude when at 17 I left Puerto Barros, my hometown, for Guatemala City. Because of the color of my skin and my gender, I suffered from hunger, discrimination, and harassment; but I also met people who helped me in good faith and enabled me to get ahead.
In 2006, shortly after becoming the first Afro-descendant to be crowned Miss Guatemala, I was bed-bound for a year after a traffic accident. I found myself thinking I would never walk again, that I would never be the woman I was meant to be, and forced myself to see life from different perspectives.
Being positive helped me realize that I could not be childish or superficial if I wanted to understand myself and fulfill my potential. I needed to work out what I wanted in case I got another chance. In due course, I was able to walk again and enter public service. This experience prepared me to cope with COVID-19 and its restrictions.
Once I overcame the initial stress and anxiety, I focused on using my time productively, understanding the situation as an opportunity to prepare myself for the future. Apart from continuing my work with the Network of Afro-Latin, Afro-Caribbean, and Diaspora Women, I have started an online store, undertaken training on the use of social networks and new technologies, participated in a virtual theater play, and collaborate with an initiative that supports women who have suffered gender-based violence through urban gardening.
All this has enriched my days and deepened my understanding of key development issues such as the use of new technologies in education. Many teachers and students in public schools in Guatemala, Honduras, and other countries across Latin America do not have access to distance education tools. An example to address this is the use of broadcast radio to teach Spanish and mathematics lessons – a great initiative, but one that does not allow the individual follow-up that most students need.
We must ensure that vulnerable communities in Guatemala, especially the 1.2% who are Afro-descendants and Garífunas (an ethnic group descended from Africans and indigenous communities), have access to new technologies for distance learning and that these technologies are fully embraced by those who work in the public sector. This way our communities will be able to shape their futures and thrive. This way we can prosper and build a better Guatemala. I truly believe we can. #optimism #mindset #education
“The Anti-Racism Policy Journal is happy to partner with Collateral Benefits and Manos Visibles to bring you “Voices of the African Diaspora”, a series of perspectives from Afro-descendants across the world on surviving, overcoming, and transcending COVID-19. Collateral Benefits is a platform that through perspective papers aims to lift up the voices of African and Afro-descendant people from all walks of life so that their intellect, wisdom, and experiences can contribute to and shape the global conversations on the critical issues of our time.”
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