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Because Of Mami: Latinas Share How Their Mothers Have Influenced Their Cultural Identity

By: Wandy Felicita Ortiz

Hey, chicas! In honor of Mother’s Day, let’s explore the heartwarming tales of Latina moms shaping cultural identity! Get ready to be inspired by these stories of love, strength, and heritage!

On Mother’s Day, it’s hard not to think about how our maternal figures have influenced our lives. Abuelas, tias, primas, madrinas, suegras, and amigas, too—no matter who the maternal figures have been in your life, each woman has brought a unique perspective that influences the person you are today. And in Latinx family dynamics, that’s especially true. Whether our familias are close-knit or dynamically different, they impact us more than we realize.

Many of us in Brilla Latina grew up with or are currently experiencing what it means to be bicultural, first or second-generation Latinas and Americans. While navigating and understanding that identity is something we can and sometimes must do alone, having another woman alongside you who can offer perspective where and when you need it (and sometimes even when you don’t) can make all the difference.

Navigating and embracing one’s womanhood, latinidad, and cultural identities can sometimes feel like a whirlwind. Yet, within our community, members are opening up to Brilla Latina about how the maternal figures in their lives have played pivotal roles in shaping their cultural and personal identities. Here are their fondest memories and most significant moments:

“Growing up, my mother was the embodiment of unwavering strength and compassion. As a Latina working in the emergency department of a public hospital, she encountered people in unimaginable conditions daily. Yet, despite the chaos surrounding her, she always acted with patience and poured her whole heart into every task. I never heard her complain.

One of the most vivid memories I have is of a day I accompanied her to work. My mother didn’t have someone to take care of me at that specific moment, so I stayed close by.

During an intense emergency, a man arrived with a machete lodged in his stomach. Amid the frantic energy, my mother turned, wrapped her arms around me, and whispered for me to close my eyes and stay down. She ensured I was safe before rushing to the man’s aid. That protective embrace, coupled with her rapid response to help, showed me the true meaning of love and devotion.

Witnessing this moment taught me a profound lesson: no matter how unexpected or challenging life becomes, you can always be compassionate and look after others. My mother made sure I was safe and nurtured a deep sense of empathy in me while offering aid to those in need.

While I didn’t follow in her footsteps as a social worker or nurse, I strive to carry her spirit of service and emotional intelligence in all that I do. She instilled in me the importance of helping others and giving the best of myself. For this, I will forever be grateful.

She taught me the superpower of love in action; love is not only nice words; it is movement in the right direction.

‘Mucho love del bueno.’

Thank you forever, Mom.”

Tania Karam, Practical Spiritualist and Public Speaker

Ana Maria Gaona, CEO and Co- Founder of Two Peacocks Travel with her mother, María Madrid

“Being from a background that comes from two different cultures and growing up in an environment that was predominantly one more than the other, our moms had their work cut out for them.

My mother is from Spain and my father was from Mexico. My business partner’s mother is from El Salvador, and her father was from Puerto Rico.

Both of our moms have passed on cultural traditions and values to us through their stories, traditions, and experiences.

We realize that, as moms ourselves, we are the driving force behind society’s cultural fabric. From language and customs to ethics and social norms, our goal is to continue to leave a mark on the next generation, passing along what was shared with us.”

Ana Maria Gaona, CEO/Founder, Two Peacocks Travel

“Growing up, my mom, Maria Madrid, was my guide to embracing our heritage. She didn’t just teach me to cook; she handed down the secret recipes she cherished since her childhood in Mexico.

As a first-generation Latina, my mother’s journey from Mexico to our home was the foundation of our cultural bond. In our house, Spanish was the melody of our daily lives. Thanks to my mom, I’ve remained extremely close to my Mexican roots.”

Raquel Filmanowicz, General Partner, VC 414

“Growing up, some of my strongest memories about my culture happened in my mom’s kitchen. On Saturday mornings, the whole house would be filled with the aroma of fresh Colombian coffee—the good stuff, of course! Mom would always have her favorite José José songs on repeat while she cooked, and in the center of it all, she’d be making arepas from scratch.

But it wasn’t just about the food -although let me tell you, it was delicious! It was about the music, the warmth of family, and the excitement bubbling over as Mom prepared a meal she knew everyone would enjoy. That’s how she communicated her love, and that’s what defines my Latinidad for me–the joy of creating and sharing with those you love.

Those Saturday mornings shaped who I am today. That’s why celebrating our culture and using food to share that passion is such a big part of what I do.”

Olga Muñoz, Founder, Cocina Republic

From work to food and the lessons in love, our mamis have been our guiding lights since day one—their wisdom, passion, and resilience embody the spirit of Dia De Las Madres! As we honor, remember, and reflect on our maternal experiences, let’s cherish our special stories and hold our heads high in gratitude and pride!

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About the author: Wandy Felicita Ortiz

Cathy-Nuestro-Stories-Writer-Image-200x275

I am a trilingual writer and content analyst with a passion for creating and sharing engaging stories across platforms and audiences. I have over ten years of experience as a freelance digital media content creator and copyeditor, working with clients and outlets such as Fortune Magazine, Oprah Magazine, Penguin Random House, Reader's Digest, Button Poetry Publishing, and Grammy-nominated artist Mike Posner. I have also contributed to various online publications, including Fierce by Mítu, Huffington Post, Refinery29 and Yahoo, covering topics such as culture, education, entertainment, politics, science and socioeconomics.

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