Where are you from, and why there?
Born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens, New York, in one of the most diverse counties I think in the world, over 100 languages spoken in one square mile or something. My parents are Colombian immigrants and my dad chose New York City because, in his words, “It’s the greatest city on the earth,” and he still says this 50 years later. I’ve been lucky enough to travel and see some of the other great cities and places, yet New York City remains a first, true love. It’s still my favorite place and still home in many, many ways. It was the perfect place for the child of monolingual, Spanish speaking immigrants with minimal education to get ahead in life through education, both in school and on the street. I was exposed to so much, some good and some bad, that I grew up smart, savvy, and quick-thinking, and that helped me much later in life as a litigator.
Which issue(s) do you work on/care about, and why?
Gender-based violence has been the thread running throughout my life and my work. The inequality that feeds it and the failure of human rights principles and rule of law to adequately address it motivates me daily. The imbalance and unfairness of life’s burdens and work on women always seemed unjust, even as a child. The disparate treatment was glaring and especially in how it impacted more marginalized or vulnerable communities. In my work, I have offered direct aid, support, and representation to survivors, and now work at a systemic level in providing training and advocating for policy change.
How did you get involved?
Really, as a translator for my parents as a kid. Were they my first ‘clients’? Maybe. I read their mail, took phone calls and advocated on their behalf when necessary, so serving my clients later on came quite naturally.
What’s the biggest challenge for the issue(s) today?
Embedded, unacknowledged misogyny. It’s why, despite advances in law, we still do not provide an adequate measure of protection for survivors.
Who are your most frequent allies? Any surprises?
My work is rooted in law, but frequent and reliable allies are often in the health field. Look at gun violence, for example. Some (negative) surprises have come from those identified as progressive or even feminist, and that has been challenging and disappointing.
What drives you?
To rid the world of gender-based violence and misogyny, but I’ll take leaving it a better place than I found it for others, especially my children.
What do you want your career/advocacy to stand for?
Elevating the voices of some of the most marginalized and silenced.