Fiorella Diaz, our Director of Housing and Supportive Services, became a social worker because of an interaction she had with her grandfather at the hospital.
He had come to the United States from Peru and was experiencing some health issues. Since he didn’t speak English, he was unable to communicate with the doctors by himself and relied upon Fiorella to translate critical information about his mental and physical health.
“I looked at my grandfather in the hospital and recognized the privilege of having a family translate this information,” explains Fiorella. “Then I thought about all the people who don’t have a granddaughter to translate for them and that’s when I decided to become a social worker.”
While it took Fiorella a bit of time to settle on a career path, she always knew she wanted to dedicate her life to social justice. She thought about becoming a police officer to provide an image of Latinos on the force, an immigration attorney to help her people, or even a nurse.
Regardless of the career, Fiorella recognized that representation mattered. Born in Lima, Peru, Fiorella was exposed to a wide spectrum of different characteristics and attributes among her people.
“In my family alone, we have every shade, every hair texture, and every dialect because my grandmother was Afro-Latina,” explains Fiorella. “We don’t know too much about her background, but she was taken in by this family as a type of servant/daughter. However, because of the hue of her skin and texture of her hair, she was never afforded the opportunities given to her host family.”
There was a persistent sense of shame that Fiorella’s grandmother felt due to the color of her skin. Because of this, she advocated for her granddaughters to avoid the sun, wear their hair straight, and keep their figures thin.
“It wasn’t until my grandmother passed away that my cousins and I started to think about what this culture meant to our parents and ourselves,” says Fiorella. “We looked at each other, appreciating our uniqueness and our culture, but knowing that our grandmother died without knowing hers.”
That is why Fiorella felt it was imperative to acknowledge the experiences of Afro-Latinos during Black History Month.
“African slaves weren’t just brought to North America, they were also taken to South America,” says Fiorella. “We have this shared trauma and a common thread between us that is important to recognize.”
It is Fiorella’s belief that we should take every single opportunity to celebrate what makes us, us.
“Africans, African Americans, Afro-Latinos, and so many more populations have this beauty, history, and experience that we will never get to know unless we learn about it,” says Fiorella. “Every single day of Black History Month gives us an opportunity to have a conversation we would not be having otherwise.”