Coming from Peru as a single mother, how were you inspired to get involved politically?
Single mothers make a lot of sacrifices while we raise our children and make ends meet. Once I started volunteering for the Democratic Party and reflected on my own experience of having three jobs to make ends meet, it was an awakening for me. I didn’t see any legislation that was working on minimum wage. I was working three minimum wage jobs just to pay [for] a one-bedroom apartment. I think $7.25 to live in the Northern Virginia area is nothing and I knew my old reality was still the reality for many people.
How was living in Prince William County?
Living in Prince William was not easy for people who look like me. Because of your last name and the way you look, you’ll look like you’re not American from their perspective. Many people left the county due to fear, even though they were documented citizens. I want Prince William, which is a majority-minority county, to remain the same. I want the local officials who represent this majority-minority county to look like the people who reside there. Why? Our struggles are different.
What did it feel like to become one of the first Latina elected to the Virginia House of Delegates?
It has been an honor to be the first Latina, but at the same time, the first Latina immigrant, to come to this position. It’s a lot of responsibility because it will be put on us, the first, not to be the last ones. We have to change the mindset of legislatures that Latinos and immigrants don’t come to harm this country. We are hardworking people and we contribute to drive the economy of Virginia in different ways. … It’s on me to inspire people who look like me to run for office. I have to do a good job so they are welcomed when they get here. Immigrants come to help the country and we can do all types of jobs, including legislation, and be good at it.
What message do you have for young minority girls who would like to follow in your footsteps?
Anything in life requires sacrifices. Nothing is easy. It will be the best accomplishment when you work hard to get something. It is our responsibility to fight to make Virginia a more inclusive and welcoming place. That will require you to stand up and talk about what you believe and how proud you are of where you came from. Speaking two languages is a skill that will help you down the road. Never forget that.