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October 11, 2022

Meet Sierra

Hi, my name is Sierra and my pronouns are she/Sierra. I am the Partnerships and Youth Engagement Team lead here at FriendsPDX and have called Portland my home since 2015. I am from a small Southern California beach town called Carlsbad and haven’t always had an easy journey being a brown girl.

I identify as multi-racial. I come from a mixed mom and a mixed dad, so I am a melting pot of many beautiful cultures. My mom's ancestors come from Northwestern Europe and West Africa. My dad's ancestors come from Turtle Island (North America, specifically Mexico) and Ireland. I haven’t always had an appreciation or understanding of what it means to hold multiple identities.

Growing up in Carlsbad, I was very different. I grew up around mostly upper-middle-class white people, and everyone who didn’t fit into that category was forced to have to assimilate to be validated as a human. There was an obvious spilt in Carlsbad. The two communities included: wealthy white families and migrant families. My family didn’t fall into either category but was able to find solidarity in our town just by being visible.

My parents were never married and so I had a typical narrative of having split households. I would go see my dad in downtown LA for school breaks and holidays. This is where I was able to see and experience my Mexicana roots. I’d make tamales with my godparents at Christmas. We’d explore the historic Olvera Street and I’d get lost in vendor stands and the historic architecture for hours. I’d be around my family at parties and BBQs where they were laughing and joking in Spanish. But during all of these memories, I never felt enough. I never felt like a “true Gonzalez” or “a real Mexican”. I don’t speak Spanish and it always felt like I was on the sidelines, not only in conversations but in my identity as a whole. It made me start to question my heritage and who I was.

When I was 18 I moved to Oregon to attend college. For the first time in my life, I was regularly around people of color, and I know that’s saying a lot for Portland. I was around people who I couldn’t tell what ethnicity they were or couldn’t guess what language they spoke. I was around people like me.

Today, I identify as a proud Afro-Latina. I am still unpacking and learning every day about what it means to hold multiple identities and be proud of each of them. I am able to learn so much from the youth I work with about what it means to be proud of who you are. They teach me so much about the beautiful differences there are in what it means to be Latinx.

Today I am Sierra. I am proud of being Sierra, even if that means I’m still figuring it out.

September 15 - October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month. FriendsPDX fully acknowledges that the terms Hispanic and Latinx are not naturally occurring and instead placed upon the communities that they were invented to describe. We have a whole blog dedicated to its historical background here.