Maria Martinez: Hi. My name is Maria Martinez and I am here with Emma Winn andSpencer Cox and we're interviewing--
Sarah Núñez: Sarah Núñez.
MM: So, we're at the Ekstrom Library and it is March 9th, 2018.
MM: We can just start with a simple question, I guess, maybe. Where were you born?
SN: I was born in Bogota, Colombia in 1978.
MM: Were your parents born there, too?
SN: My dad was born in Bogota. My mom was born in Florida.
MM: Okay. How did your family come to [the] United States? Specifically, your dad?
SN: My dad came to the United States in-- I want to say-- it might have beenaround '67 or '68. His brother, Max, was studying at NC (North Carolina) State, 1:00I believe, in Raleigh, NC, and so he came to live with his brother. And he finished high school at Broughton High School in Raleigh. So, he was kinda like a foreign exchange student, like came as [an] international student, if you will, to finish out his high school. And then he ending up going to college--at Campbell College-- in NC. But he met my mom in high school.
MM: Did they go to the same high school?
SN: No, she went to Sanderson. They had a friend in common who had introducedthem and that's how they met. In NC in the late 60s, you know, there weren't a 2:00lot of Colombian men going to college--going to high school. So, he was real different. English was his second language. So, I knew my mom had just always shared stories of how different he was and how intrigued she was with how [different he was]. She was raised in Syracuse, New York and moved down to the South to NC. I can't remember if it was late middle school or the beginning of high school, and she remembers that being a really kind of traumatic experience for her--having come from a little bit more of a progressive place in the North to the South, where they wouldn't allow you to wear skirts to school that were 3:00shorter than when you put your hands down to your legs and if the skirt was shorter than your fingers--you couldn't wear it. So, she remembers being sent home from school to change because of rules like that--that she was not used to. But they did not go to the same high school.
MM: How would you define your community as a child?
SN: (pause) I think there were probably a lot of different communities. I mean,there was our family community, which was made up of cousins, my mom's side of the family who lived in Raleigh, my dad's side of the family who was Colombian and mixed with Caucasian, white, European ancestry and they lived in Charlotte, 4:00NC. And then my family from Colombia who would come and visit every few years and every time they would come to town we would do big things like go to Disneyland or go to the beach or do [where] all the cousins would come together and the aunts and uncles. So, I think there was family community, (pause) which was not super centralized. It was really just me, my mom, my dad and my brother and we would have family get togethers, so it wasn't as if it was an everyday community, right? We had a church community. I was raised Baptist and we went to church every Sunday, we had bible studies at our house on Saturdays and we would 5:00even sometimes go on Wednesday nights. I acted as a child and so I would be in plays a lot, like the church plays. During Christmas time I remember once I played the angel and I got to ride this cloud that went from the top of where they play the music and they kinda conduct the sound and stuff for the church-- from the top there all the way to the stage. I got to ride this pull-y thing--kinda like a zipline--through the church for this play and that was a really cute memory. So, there was the church community. We had a neighborhood community, too, so I played a lot with people and my kids in the neighborhood. We did--you know, played kickball. I rode my bike a lot. In the summertime, I would go to the 6:00pool every summer. My brother recently reminded me that we would be left at home alone at pretty young ages. So, he's 2 years older than me, so I might have been 8 and he might have been 10. So, like, after school, we would be home alone while my parents worked. Until my mom would come home at maybe 5 or 6 and my dad would come home at 8 or 9 cause he was a car salesman. So, we had the neighborhood community and we would play outside in the summertime and go to the pool and I think that's probably about--I mean, okay school, right? There was school community. I don't remember a lot about having consistent friends throughout childhood up until I was 14. I had friends that had been consistently 7:00in my life, but previous to that I don't have memories of having really, really close friends. And that might have been a function of just moving. We moved--I think--when I was 5 and then again when I was 7 or 8 and then again when I was--I think--13. So, because we moved neighborhoods I changed schools. But the school community, I guess, was also a community, but I never quite felt--(pauses) I don't know. I never quite felt accepted at school or part of a community at school. I mean, I loved school and I loved learning, but I don't feel like I really related to my peers. I don't remember having deep 8:00relationships built with people or teachers that I really connected with. So, I don't know if that was just more of a function of me being a bit more of a loner and just kinda doing my own thing. Is that why? I don't really know why and like, where the memories are there around whether or not school felt like community for me. But now in my sense of knowing what community feels like--I mean it just wasn't--maybe just because it wasn't a nurturing environment. And I remember at such a young age being asked why I looked the way I looked, and I don't think young people back then had a lot of experience with mixed kids--people that came from two different cultures. 9:00
MM: Was the school environment more binary? Like, there were a lot of Latinos?
SN: Oh, there were none. I didn't meet people who had similar backgrounds asme--who were raised in the United States--until my 20s.
MM: Did you grow up speaking Spanish?
SN: No. If my mom had spoken Spanish--or more fluently--she did speak Spanish.They moved to Colombia in '77. My grandfather got really sick. He had a stroke. My father was really close with him and they moved to help take care of my grandfather. And so, I was conceived and born there. My mom lived in Colombia for I think at least 5 years. So, she spoke Spanish. But because it wasn't her 10:00first language her primary language in the household we didn't do it. And I think back in the 80s it was more about assimilation and acculturation than it was about let's have this blended family have an experience that felt an honor to both cultures. I think that the times I was around Spanish was always when my cousins or my mom or my dad would talk to his brothers over the phone. My dad would talk to his mother over the phone. And then when the family came. So, no we did not speak Spanish at all. But I did take Spanish. So, all through elementary school and I believe in middle school. I know in elementary school I got Spanish. And I don't know if it was one of those experiences kind of like what people are faced with today where their counselors tell them not to take 11:00Spanish because oh, why would you take it--you have a Spanish surname or a Latino surname--you shouldn't necessarily need to take Spanish. But I remember actually going back to that memory I can remember the trailer that it was in. Schools had trailers--you'd have your main building and then the trailer and I remember the Spanish room. And I really loved that space. Seeing all the (pauses) pictures of Latin America on the wall and having a teacher that spoke--I don't remember the teacher very well. But I definitely remember the trailer and what it looked like. We used to play kickball and basketball and stuff on a ramp or an asphalt area really close to that trailer and I can remember just having an admiration for that. But, no, we did not speak Spanish 12:00growing up. It wasn't in the home on the regular. But it was there in pieces. And we didn't have Spanish language tv. It wasn't like Spanish radio was even really big. So, had we had Univision or shows and channels like that or we had lived in Miami or L.A. (Los Angeles) or Chicago or a different place--the exposure might have been a little bit different. But being in Raleigh, NC in the mid-80s--well throughout the 80s and 90s--it wasn't around. Not the part of town we lived in. Looking back, now that I know that area, we were definitely Latinos living there. We were in kinda a middle-class neighborhood--predominantly white. 13:00I mean times have changed a lot now in NC. There are Latinos. It's a very big population and it grew by 100 percent from between 2000 and 2010. It's a very big population, especially in the Raleigh area. Man, no Spanish growing up. I wish. By the time I turned 20 I went home, and I spent time in Colombia. And I went home to Colombia. It always felt like--growing up--there was something missing. There was a part of me that wasn't quite connected. And I don't know if that was because I was born there that I needed to be connected to the land and the people and the customs and the culture. Cause my cousins who weren't born there--I don't know if they felt the same. I mean I know have once cousin, Paul, who wanted to learn Spanish, he married a Costa Rican, they have a child 14:00together, he went to Colombia, spent time there. He is one cousin I think felt really connected. But when I went back is when I learned Spanish. And that was in the year 2000, so close to 18 years ago.
MM: What made you choose the career you have now? What was the process? Any obstacles?
SN: Going back to the story of going to Colombia--so I always thought I wantedto be a botanist and I wanted to study plants. They just intrigued me, and I love the process of how they grow, and I want to say their anatomy, but that might not be the right word. Does anyone know? Yeah, the anatomy of the plant. 15:00Especially flowers and identification of trees and flowers. So, I thought that was where I was going to go, and I had dropped out of high school, partially because of family problems. I got into the wrong--not necessarily the wrong crowd--I was just hanging out with folks that were really interested and into jam bands and sort of the counterculture of The Grateful Dead and Phish-- P-h-i-s-h, Phish and this culture of going to concerts and I started making handmade jewelry and handmade clothes and just really enjoyed that life. Because my home life wasn't as stable, finding community and finding family outside of 16:00my family through these concerts and through these experiences and like, drum circles and finding spiritual space and getting turned onto different philosophical, like, mysticism, and kind of self-help type stuff, like the Celestine prophecy and getting into who are we as humans and why are we here and what's going to make us be the best people we can be and understand our realities and our impact on the world. And having dropped out of high school at the age of 16-- so, I finished my sophomore year of high school and I did not go back. And it was probably the best--not at the time looking back--I should have finished high school. There were other things I probably could have done to propel myself and have a different kind of future. But in the end, it actually 17:00turned out to be a really good decision. Partially because there were people and situations that I was involved with that could have gotten me into a lot of trouble. And not sort of being in that community--and moving from Raleigh to Cary--all the transitions that happened after dropping out of high school. My mom has bipolar disorder and was put into a mental health hospital for several months during that time as well. So, my mom and dad's relationship was fairly rocky growing up. They got back together and divorced or separated--they never got divorced--but separated and got back together--probably a total of 8 times throughout my childhood. And so, this time when mom was in the mental hospital, 18:00we were living with my father, of course because mom was in the hospital. And they were still together, but the transition of kind of dropping out, the family issues, moving to a new town 30 minutes away--it wasn't, like, that far away--was really a pivotal time. So, back to the question of career, it's not like this point A to point B or this linear path. It's this big, huge, spiral, spinning journey of all these experiences that were tough to go through, but also led me to where I am today. So, the dropping out of high school and then 19:00the big transition at 16 and then the big transition to a new town with all of the familial problems that we had going on while I'm working at pizza shops and saving money so that I can get to the next concert--the next round of concerts. Because I would go for a week or two at a time and they would play every night. They might skip a night, but every night in different towns. So, Charlottesville, Virginia, Charlotte, NC... they'd play all over NC, Atlanta... and one summer I actually went on tour. So, I started with them in Colorado and went all the way to Vermont and then back over to Chicago. So that was the 20:00summer of '95. So, all of those experiences land me at about the age of 18--again in a big transition--and decided in '97 I came out of that lifestyle. It's a fun lifestyle--it's not like I didn't go see shows anymore but it wasn't the central part of my life anymore. Because I knew that I wanted to do more, and I wanted to take a different route. So, I moved to Asheville, NC with my brother and 2 friends. We left my dad in Raleigh. Mom was already in the mountains with her sister and her brother-in-law. For some reason, the family kind of always sort of followed each other, so my aunt and uncle that lived in Raleigh--and had cousins in Raleigh on my mom's side of the family--everyone moved to the mountains of NC--in the late 90s. And so, we followed. We went, too. It's a beautiful place, a healing place, a spiritual place and mountains. 21:00It was in Asheville, NC where I really found myself and I think did a really deep, deep work on myself in an emotional and spiritual way. Because it's kind of the mecca of spirituality. You can find acupuncturists, healers, herbalists, beautiful land, farmland and people that have been doing that work in that part of the country for a really long time. So, it was really a healing place for me and a place that I still call home. So, back to the career, in that transition of moving to Asheville, I went back to college. And it was in college where I took botany classes and I was like, I really want to botany as a major--or 22:00environmental science, like focused on the environment. I can save the environment. We can save the environment. This environment can be a better place with the work that we do--or I could do in it. However, in 2000, at the age of 20, I took a semester off of school. I was working in bars at this place called Jack of the Woods, which was a local brewery. And they also played bluegrass music and old-time music and it was a very good job. I bar backed, but I made really good money. Because my family couldn't provide for me, I had to work and pay my own bills and all of it. And luckily, because of my citizenship privilege, I was able to get FAFSA and scholarships and different things like that to fund my education. But my education took a really long time because of a 23:00high school dropout I had to do all these remedial classes to catch up to the level of English and mathematics that I didn't have because I didn't finish high school. So, I had to work really hard to catch back up and so it was taking me a while. I think I was in the community college system for about 3 years before I actually got my associate degree. And I took off a semester to go back to Colombia. And it was in Colombia when I started seeing everything. Those moments where you're like oh my God, everything has just come to a culmination and I understand even more about myself because I had done that healing work and been in Asheville and really moved out of being in this sort of counterculture of seeing concerts and living that kind of life to learning and getting back into my head and into what it felt like to be an academia. And I think that the trip 24:00to Colombia coupled with humanities classes--I can remember a professor of mine named Gigi Germala who I took humanities with who taught us about the Harlem Renaissance and Gauguin and these amazing artists who impacted the world so much through their art and I just started to see life in a different way and I think it was education that inspired me not only to have this deep desire for the environment and for the earth, but also this deep desire for humanity and what makes us who we are. And why are we these living beings on this earth taking up all this space and doing all this harm to ourselves, but also to the environment. And so, in my trip to Colombia and I saw kids on the street selling 25:00roses at every corner and being in Bogota and experiencing everything. So not only was I learning about myself and my culture--I spent a month and I stayed with my aunt and I got to know all my family. I remember one of my cousins, Diego, he was like Sarah, you know more family than I've ever met. But that was my journey. I was there to find that part of me--my identity--that I had always been missing, like always been missing. I remember the bocadillos, the Arequipa and the coffee and the smell. The smell of my grandmother's suitcase when she used to come visit. The whole place smelled like that. The whole Colombia smelled like my grandmother's suitcase. Even as a kid, I think I would just sit by her suitcase and just smell it because I loved what it did. And then the 26:00taste of all of these amazing foods, like they're so good. I could sense it with my senses, but I couldn't feel it with my body, with my soul. So, being in Colombia and going there was just transformative on every single level. So not only could I taste the bocadillos and taste the Arequipa, but I also started being able to taste things that I'd be like, I know this so well and I would--avena. Avena. And even the alpina avena that you can buy at the stores-- a los mercados--I remember trying it for the first time and it might have been in a bag. This, like, liquid oatmeal in a bag. That was like heaven. And I drank it and I was like why do I know this so well. And I think I called my mom and I 27:00was like, I don't even know what's happening to me right now but I'm drinking this avena thing--avena Alpina--and I'm having this super amazing experience. It's reminding me of all these things. And she was like, Sarah, I used to feed that to you all the time as a child. Granted, I came to the states at 3. What kinds of memories do you have as a 3-year-old? Right? Not a lot. But the taste, the senses, were the things that ignited me. And the same time as I'm having this huge transformative experience and I'm seeing all this poverty, I'm seeing all this divisiveness between color--the colorism inside of our communities--the Afro-Colombians that are being displaced--experiencing what it's like to live 28:00and see military men with big guns--big guns. I'd never seen any like that on the side of a road just walking down the street and here's someone in a green--you know, like the army, I guess--or the police. I guess it's really the police. But they're armed. And my grandmother lived really close to the training ground for the army in Bogota off of 93rd street. So, I spent a lot of time in that month with my grandmother and my aunt. And seeing all of these issues I was like, man, I don't know if I need to save the environment. I probably need to work on saving myself and saving people. And when I say saving myself--not like I'm in danger. But, how can I be the best person that I can be and give back to the world in a way through a deeper understanding of who I actually am. And I 29:00want to do humanitarian work. I want to be like a social worker, I guess. I didn't know what to call it back then 'cause I was kinda like, what is this? How can I make a career out of not so much studying people like an anthropological way, but more like sociological? And so, I got back to the states, and I loved it so much I went back. And I went back for 3 months and I took my brother and so, between the year of 2000 and 2001, I went back to Colombia 3 times. The third time I stayed for 6 months and I taught English and I really entrenched myself. I ended up taking off in total I think a year of college. So, I ended up going back to college in 2001 and I graduated with my undergraduate, so I got my associate degree, went straight to college, and then in 2 years I got my undergraduate degree in 2004. And in between that time I was able to actually go 30:00and spend time-- a total of 9 months--almost a year in Bogota, living and learning and being entrenched and taking Spanish classes-higher upper-level Spanish classes--working, living on my own, I took some pottery, I met friends, I traveled--went to Cali, went to Cartagena, Islas del Rosario, all that beautiful stuff, and got to really experience my family and kinda create a community in Bogota. So that's how I chose, I would say, the work of, you know, accompanying our Latino community here in the United States around the issues that are most pressing for them. I think higher education, I chose, is a little bit of a longer story but decided to choose education, I think I've spent 31:00time in non-profits, in government, and in education and I find education to just be more of a nurturing environment and the kind of place I thrive, and I think when choosing the career, it's best to find the type of environment that you want to be in. Also, plus the work and so higher education just is the right match for me and whereas I enjoy working with non-profits, but it's not the most--hasn't been for me the most nurturing environment because there's so many different moving parts that have to be--like you have to raise money to even have staff and fund yourself and it's a constant stress and sort of a constant 32:00thinking 3 years ahead of yourself and as good of work as that is it just it's not the environment that I thrive the most in. So yeah, I think finding education, finding higher ed. My first position was at Western Carolina University, I was based on a community college campus working with student who were transferring into the four-year process, right and since I had the GED, I had gone to AV Tech, I had done that work already, I had been on that campus for four years, knew all the professors, was really a part of that community. School at that point felt like community to me. The people in my classes, the teachers, the connections I made, like I just--maybe I didn't have it as a young person but when I turned eighteen, and that big transitional time of moving out of Raleigh and into--you know having dropped out and everything-- you know, really, 33:00I just decided to take a different kind of path and a different perspective on life and so I had done so much internal growth as well it was like I need to make the best out of the situation. So really made a community for myself on that campus and so going back to work there, I stayed for almost five years and helped transition students from the community college into the four-year school, so making sure they took all the right classes to make the process super smooth and so they wouldn't waste time, you know, in the two years, taking stuff that wasn't gonna help them to get to the four year and I loved that work. Absolutely loved it, and I did a lot of--that's when I started expanding my work out to Latino students, because I was bilingual, I'd spent so much time, you know, working with some local non-profits on boards of directors and things and working around immigrant justice stuff, I thought it's a population that 34:00needs our help so I started doing presentations to churches and doing a lot of college access work- access to college--and how to apply and do the FAFSA, and get scholarships and all of those things and so my work allowed me to do some of that work as part of my job, knowing that that was a growing population. So-- so yeah and I still to this day work with Western Carolina University. I'm on their board of visitors, which is like a step down from their Board of Trustees and I meet with them and we--we convene in the Asheville or the Western North Carolina area once a semester and I get time to sort of help think about the vision and the future of the university, through the eyes of someone who--not only as a graduate but used to work there and still remains, you know, in the field of higher education, so--so I love that work and I did take a second--I took two years off from higher ed. and I went and I ran a non-profit. I was the executive 35:00director for the Asheville Buncombe community relations council which is similar to the human relations commission. It's--but we were 501(c)(3), so we were not a governmental organization; we were quasi-governmental. A lot of our funding came from city and county and the housing authority and we worked to do a lot of mediation for cases of discrimination. We worked a lot around EEO and fair housing and police-community relations and that was right around the time when Trayvon Martin was killed and so there was a lot that started to like--a lot of community issues started to--I mean there've always been community issues, you know, when the KKK came to town or when crosses would be burned in people's home or when--outside on people's yards, you know, and acts of violence against people of color and so the community relations council was always that place where people would go to get--to get help, you know, for, for themselves, for 36:00their families and then from the community at large. So, I did that work for two years and then launched a national search for a position back in higher education. I was ready to move from Asheville and I applied for about fifty positions across the nation and interviewed at about twelve and UofL was the first place to offer me a job and I took it. Had never heard of Louisville, Kentucky. I think I might have heard of it, but I wasn't quite sure what was happening here. It wasn't on my radar. I was looking in places like California, Colorado, Washington, Nevada, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, and so--but I knew I wanted to go into working with Latino students on a college campus doing intentional programs because previous to this I--you know--was working more of a broader population.
MM: Were there obstacles you faced based on your race, ethnicity, or gender37:00identity, specifically in your career search?
SN: Oh, uh. Hm--I think in our field and the field of education and the fieldof non-profit management and even government relation stuff and community engagement, there's not a lot of people that have the body of work that I've built in my lifetime so I'm not sure that--I think like, I wonder if it wasn't more of a hindrance or if it was actually more of an opportunity because--because being bilingual and having lived in the South most of my life and having gained all this experience, you know, starting from a very young age, but, work experience, I guess, uh--you know--gave me a lot of opportunity 38:00because in the South I just don't--I don't feel like there's a lot of folks. You know and I think and in the field that I work in too it's so important to know the community and to either come from the community or be willing to build relationship, deep relationship, across sectors and so you know, even though I didn't come from Louisville--I mean I hit the ground running pretty quickly, but--I mean maybe age because I think sometimes I was younger and trying to get positions that, like, you might not have been old enough for yet. So, I think it was a big stretch for, you know, when I went to go work at the Asheville Buncombe community relations council, I think I was thirty-two. I was young to be an executive director. I mean that's, you know, but having gone from high school dropout to executive director in whatever time that was, sixteen to thirty-two, I mean I worked a lot between those years. So I guess there--I 39:00mean I don't remember there being like an outright like--most of the positions I've gone out for since I was twenty-one and ,been in professional fields, have been ones that required bilingual or preferred bilingual and because I think I have that, I don't think it ever gave me a--like I think it always propelled me further into being able to do, you know, the work in the area that I was interested in doing it in versus it being like a bad--like a discriminatory thing. Gender--I think the field that we're in too is very--it's very women heavy. There's a lot of women in education, lot of women in non-profits--yeah.
MM: How has your work in the community like Mijente, LLEO and your other40:00projects influenced the work you do here at the university and the cultural center?
SN: I think the work of the Louisville Latino Education Outreach project wasreally, started here at UofL. I just came in and kind of infused it with energy and coordination and time to help it to be more successful but it's a great project because it connects us back to community partners and to leaders in the community who are on the ground working with students who are probably gonna end up coming to UofL. So, in essence I'm able to have a connection with them and have us come together on a monthly basis so that we can share resources to network and to build relationships so that we can have a stronger core of people working for Latino students in the Louisville area. That's huge, right, 41:00because here at UofL if I'm able to have contact and access to students before they get here that impact is gonna be stronger because they're gonna already know us and they're gonna already feel comfortable and feel like the cultural center is a place for them and so I think that's one way that it's influenced the work here. My work with Mijente as an organiz--I mean as a, you know, "Mijentista" is like more of a personal drive. I think, again, it's the first time that I've felt as if I've found people who--in a group--who had the same ideals, values, background that I did so there's definitely like a familial--it 42:00feels like, again, a little bit like home, like at least a political home, which is something I had never experienced, you know, it'd be like the Democratic party or different parties or different kinds of groups reaching out because they need Latino presence but have never found a group that was organized for Latinos, by Latinos on an agenda that we care about, saying what we're gonna do. Not going into a group that's telling us what to do or needing our voice because they need diversity? Does that make sense? So, we--so I think with Mijente, how it influences my work at UofL is--I think from just a--just a social justice perspective being able to understand what's happening on a national level currently under this administration with all the deportations and the raids and knowing that that's happening in Philly, St. Louis, L.A., Chicago--like everywhere. Georgia, North Carolina, right, that sanctuary 43:00cities and sanctuary churches are being establishes as a place to create safe place. I mean that's all sanctuary is. It's a safe place and so knowing that that kind of work is happening in other places, you know, is helpful to influence what we're doing on a local level in Louisville but I--even more so from the student's perspective and their families because a lot of our students have mixed status so even though you or I might be citizens, we probably have family members that might have, or, you know, an undocumented status in some way or have been at a status or who maybe have permanent residency and never got citizenship and have issues with--and have a record and have issues now with being able to get full citizenship privilege. So, I think being able to 44:00understand that on a deeper level helps a lot when working with students. Following this immigration issues is like really hard to keep up with because it's changing so constantly, like March 5th we needed to have a decision on DACA and is DACA gonna--is the executive order in the rescinding of DACA actually gonna hold up in the courts and, I mean, there's so many things that are happening, even on a statewide level, around legislation and so anti-immigration--anti-immigrant legislation--that I think just knowing about that stuff and seeing how it's playing out in other areas in the country is super helpful, at least in my own personal understanding of it and then when working with students and families. You know, helping them to--if resources are needed, getting those resources to the families. Information. Helping people to--it's just really complex and really hard to understand if you don't follow 45:00it on the regular and keep yourself well-read and well informed, like, it can--in six months it's gonna be different. There's just a lot to keep up with and being a part of Mijente helps me to stay in the loop for the benefit of the students.
MM: Besides the deportations and stuff do you see the election of the currentpresident affecting the community in a different way? Like a micro-level?
SN: I think yeah--I think what happens inside an administration doing that, whatthey're doing to our people today, I mean, it's terrorizing, it's fear ridden, it's very hard for families so I think the mental health impacts--. People's 46:00ability or feelings of wanting to create community and have deeper relationships with their church, with government, with people outside of the communities becomes even harder, right? So what effect does that have on the long term, on the families and being in a place that says "we really don't want you". So then being able to then thrive in school and have--I mean, the stressors are just intense and the traumas and I don't know that there's enough mental health--you know, and bilingual trained folks out there that can actually serve the communities and all of their needs and inside of our population--inside of our culture it's not a welcome thing to go and seek out therapy. You know, you don't talk with your other people outside of your family and your preacher or 47:00your pastor or priest about your problems. I think yeah, there's--I mean, I think that at the core of who we are as a people is really being challenged. Our huma--our, like the--yeah and I don't know what the impacts on the long term are gonna be. It's really kind of scary to see that a population, our population might end up, you know, not being as educated, not being able to access as much wealth. A similar story is exactly what's happened in the African American and Black communities. I mean, the system is set up to make us fail and the system's working and so we've gotta fix it! We've gotta do something, like, not tomorrow, today. I think that's what drives the social justice and the activism work that 48:00I'm involved in, is that there is no--not one more family needs to be deported, not one more family needs to be separated, not one more young woman needs to be traumatized by [police] showing up at their home and taking their father or their mother away, like, this cannot continue to happen and the fact that we're allowing it--. You know, I met with legislators recently, at the immigrant and refugee rally day, and we had legislators just look at me and say, "it's not on my radar--immigration is not on my radar". To me that's like, wow. Anybody that says that, it's not something that I--it's okay, let's get you up to--let's think about if it's not on your radar, you know, what kind of glasses do you need to put on so that it is on your radar? What do you need to see so that we get it in front of you but because the media is saying oh, we're deporting criminals and terrible people, it's like that's not--that's what people think but it's not what's actually happening. So I believe that--that now is the 49:00time. It's not about tomorrow, it's about saying today we need to work on being able to create a place. We maybe can't do it nationally. If we can't do it nationally do we do it statewide? If we can't do it statewide can we do it in your local--. It's like right in your neighborhood, right in your backyard, right with the people that you have access to work with on a daily basis. My access is the students and their families and through some of the organizations I volunteer with and hoping as a community-wide effort we can move closer and closer to a place where these kinds of practices are not tolerated. Not even just not tolerated, are, like, completely abolished, like, we cannot continue to create a system like this, but it's, you know, follow the money and it's all 50:00based in a very--racist system that's set up to benefit a few and, you know, over-militarize our communities and criminalize our people which feeds right back into--into war and into what's really driving all of this. That's the part that I think we've lost our humanity.
MM: Did you ever think about going back to Colombia and doing this kind ofwork there?
SN: I don't think that I would be able to because I don't--people that do thiskind of work in Colombia usually end up missing or dead. I mean, that's at least what I've learned in the past, that there's, you know, because Colombia's 51:00also got a lot of different--it's a lot of different layers, with the paramilitaries, with the (51:06) guerrilla, with the government. There's a lot there that, like, it's just, it's very--there's a lot. With the drug war, with the cartel--It's just, it's a lot and I don't know that--I think it's safer to do this kind of work in the United States even though it's still not safe, but it's--I mean the activism. Working in higher education and working with students I don't feel--you know, like, that's work that puts me in danger but you know, some of the other things--. I mean I've thought about moving back to Colombia again and being there and spending more time there I just don't know that I would be able to really do the deep work and I believe that the, you know, the rural South, the Southern part of the United--the Eastern part of the--South East, Eastern United states is in an area of deep need and I feel like it's really where--I mean although I call Colombia home and it's kind of 52:00where my roots are--parts of my roots are planted, and part of them are in Asheville and in North Carolina. When I even take it a little deeper it's the South, and the Southern United States and I just feel like my work is here. When I was younger I may have maybe gone and done some deeper--like deeper--like gone and worked with Witness for Peace or done some humanitarian type of--you know, spending a year or something like that but it just, my life wasn't set up in such a way to be able to really do that for a long period of time because my family has always really needed my support and I wanna be close to them. I don't want to be too too far away from my mom and dad and my brother, so for those reasons I stayed pretty local.
MM: My last question, how do you self-identify with your Latino culture now as53:00an adult and through your transition and everything?
SN: For a long time, Colombian-American, I think would be first, just hyphenatedidentity because I have both Colombian citizenship and United States citizenship, citizenship in the United States. So I have two passports and two ID's and my cédula Columbiana, and my social security number in the United States, like, right. I have those and I hold those two different pieces so Colombian-American feels right but I've really started to embrace the term Latinx over the last two years or so, just, it feels like I can wear it, like putting on t-shirt, like a t-shirt every day. It feels like okay that feels alright but it doesn't identify, necessarily, all of the parts, right, it's not just being Latina or being Latinx or being Colombian-American, right, it's--in essence I'm Sarah Cecilia Nuñez-Mann, and that's--that says it all, right, 54:00because, Sarah is my first name with an "h", which is, you know, Hebrew and Sarah from the bible was married to Abraham. Cecilia was my grandmother's name--my grandmother on my father's side, Colombian dress maker, um--fierce woman. Nuñez is my father's, you know, last name. I never--I was married for twelve years and I did not take my ex's name and so I kept Nunez. I mean, I just couldn't let go of it and I'm proud--I'm glad I did that 'cause I did end up getting divorced and it turns out that, hey, that was a good decision. Then Mann, M-a-n-n, my mother's father's last name, who was from Germany, or immigrated from Germany, married my grandmother who immigrated from 55:00Czechoslovakia who's family immigrated from Czechoslovakia, so lots of European roots and they were based out of North--actually they lived in Louisville even, for like--in the fifties--for like a year. My grandfather worked for GE and they were here for like a year and so Sarah Cecilia Nuñez Mann, right, like tells the story so much better because not only does it create this connection to my ancestors and to my people and to my lineage, but it also combines both worlds of the European and the Colombian and Latin American and Spanish roots. I would say also, definitely Indigenous and Black too it's just we don't--I can't follow that. I don't know where those roots are. My grandfather and my father's side was adopted and so we don't know what he was, but he was very--to me he 56:00looked very Indigenous, he had very high cheekbones, came from an area outside of Bogota, more rural area. I forget what the question was [laughs].
MM: [Laughs] How do you self-identify with your Latino culture now as an adult?
SN: Mm-hmm. So, I guess there's the identifier of like "are youLatino/Latinx?", whatever, hyphenated identities, mestiza, Chiquana, right, all these different, Boriqua, like all these different words that we can call ourselves but I guess really when it comes to...read it again?
MM: How do you self-identify with your Latino culture as an adult, hyphenatedidentity, et cetera. How did you come to that identity?
SN: I think I answered that, but I think the part about the Latino culture nowas an adult isn't just necessarily the name, right. It's--you know, it's like 57:00tacos on Friday nights, right. It's traveling to different cities when I'm able to connect with the Mijente folk from across the nation and learning and growing with them and understanding politics in the world, right. Through our lens, through the story and the way that we wanna tell it and that we wanna see it and frame it and create it. I see it through, you know, artists, through poets, through my mentors, which it was an older age that I was actually able to find people that could be my mentors that had similar experiences as me. Growing up in as I was younger, it was, you know, maybe, African American and White men and women that acted as those roles for me but it didn't come until my late twenties, early thirties that I found Latinos that I could--probably actually thirty-two, 58:00thirty-three, till I was able to actually find--and that's an older age to be able to find people that look and feel like you--but it's through my mentors in my older age now. I think it's through our celebrations, you know, I guess too goes back to, right, the bag of Alpina avena, the arequipe, the bocadillos, the soups, you know, the ajiaco, which I make fairly well, I just have not--it's very time consuming and I have not made it in a while but that's something I need to do on the regular. It's through, like, speaking Spanish with my father when he calls me. It's through memories of being in Colombia and spending time with my family and I think it's also through the lives of the 59:00students that I work with on every day. You know, witnessing their growth and their abilities and their strengths and their brilliance every day, you know, reminds me of how proud I am to be, you know, a woman that walks on--kind of like walking on a trapeze, that not necessarily having a root planted totally in the Latino community and not necessarily a foot planted one hundred percent in the Caucasian-White community, but a woman that kind of walks this fine line of, of an identity that I'm really proud of, but through life, right, there's a lot of shame that has been put on me or that I created or the societal whatever that I had to get through to get to a point of feeling super comfortable where I am. 60:00 So that's how I generally feel my culture. Yeah, through the senses. Smell, taste--touch, but not so much physical touch but like how finding a political home and finding community and finding mentors and all of those things like touches my life and my soul to help me do the work every day.
MM: Thank you so much, Sarah.
SN: Okay, you're welcome.
SN: Are we done?
MM: Yeah. [Laughs]