Looking up into the auditorium’s balcony, filled mostly with students, Carmen Velásquez said: “Young people here do not yet realize what their parents and adults do to survive a country that does not know the value of who we are as Mexicanos.”
In her talk, Carmen tells a story that begins with her own parents―with her mother named Soledad, born in Iowa, and renamed “Shirley” by her teacher―and describes her own experience with discrimination as one of the only Mexican children in her own school, and her lifelong fight to see better opportunities for students and families who would follow.
A tale of identity, of struggle―of war, as Carmen calls it, her story is one that is both emblematic and enkindling. “That lesson about who I was continues to feed my soul,” she says, “It continues to make a fire in my belly. This country says to us―’you have to forget who you are,’ but we cannot forget who we are.”
Carmen Velásquez Senior Advisor
Activist, social worker, bilingual education specialist and founder of Alivio Medical Center: Carmen Velásquez has had a storied and accomplished career that has transformed the healthcare system for Chicago’s Mexican immigrant community. Carmen has been recognized with the prestigious Ohtli Award, and too many other awards to name; she even has her own holiday―October 2nd was decreed Carmen Velásquez Day in the State of Illinois by former Governor Quinn.
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