Representation Matters

July 15, 2022

Left: group of students; Right: U.S. Capitol building

Written by: Mireya Macias, Caminos al Futuro 2022

We filed into the Capitol. Our shoes clanked on the tile as we marveled at the ornate interior that transitioned from intricately painted walls to pristine Doric columns. A few of us had just slipped off our sneakers and were adjusting to our new shoes and the professionality they were deemed to usher. 

As a young Latina from New Mexico, I am used to our adobe structures and hacienda-style homes, not the Neoclassical architecture that is exhibited in the elaborate facade of the Capitol or the temple-like structure that is the Lincoln Memorial.

It has taken me a while to acclimate to a new climate, a new city, and a new culture, but the Caminos al Futuro program has pushed me to grow as both a changemaker and a Latina. It has allowed me the opportunity to meet legislators, visit museums, and appreciate the diversity of thought, culture, and people that exist in our nation’s capital.

On most days we engage in lectures and discussions about Latines in the U.S. and the issues affecting our communities or embark on college exploration and application programming. The notion of being in a room, especially one in academia where everyone is Latine, is unfamiliar to many of us. I live in a state that is nearly 50% Latine, but my school has less than 25% of that demographic. Representation, even on this small level, shows us that it is possible.

So, today when we were greeted by Latine staffers, they showed us that politics or other careers with non-linear or unconventional paths are possible for us. They stressed the importance of creating and nurturing their Latine community on Capitol Hill, a community that is more important than partisanship. It is the small intricacies that we notice about each other that are the building blocks of our communities. Like the New Mexican staffer who noticed my Zia symbol necklace or the Representative that decorated her office with odes to her Mexican heritage from paintings to a small nutcracker with a piñata.

We are the ones that know our culture, understand the issues, and understand that our Latine community is not a monolith. Armed with the knowledge I will gain from this program; I hope that one day I can walk the very halls we did today.

Mireya Macias is a Caminos al Futuro 2022 scholar. Mireya’s views are her own and not necessarily reflective of the Cisneros Institute.