I have always admired the strength of the women that have surrounded me. In particular, whenever I visited my family in El Salvador, I would marvel at the wisdom, courage, and composure of Salvadoran women as they go along their daily living in the face of hardships, which included poverty and lack of basic human needs such as water, threat of violence, lack of education and jobs.
A few years ago, I was given the opportunity to interview 10 Salvadoran immigrant women in the United States. I was curious to find out what it meant to them to be a Salvadoran woman, some of them were very surprised, and stated that she had never thought about it. One woman, Francisca*, a mother of two, said, “I never thought about what it means to me to be a Salvadoran woman.”
Nevertheless, all of the women interviewed stated that a Salvadoran woman is a working person who tries to move ahead without questioning the obstacles and needs that are at her disposal.
Another idea that was repeated consistently was the willingness to stand up in the face of adversity, unwavering. They labeled themselves as a “luchadora,” or a fighter and strong when faced with difficulties. Carmen said she is “someone who likes to work, is responsible, and independent.” Daniela, the oldest interviewee at the age of 73 stated that a Salvadoran woman is “a woman who is strong in front of struggle, who knows how to live and survive everything, who is open to everything that presents itself, someone who always thinks of getting ahead.”
These notions did not change with the younger women interviewed. The youngest woman Maria, a twenty year old, said, “Every day, I want to go forward, because Salvadoran women want to get ahead and they are characterized by working hard.” Adriana also added that for her a Salvadoran woman is a “person with integrity, humility and sincerity who works hard…this country (El Salvador) is poor, when there is poverty there is sincerity and humility.” With all these women there is a sense of “orgullo,” or pride, when they discuss their background and the qualities that for them exemplified a Salvadoran woman. This pride can be seen as they proudly depict a Salvadoran woman’s characteristics as well as when they talked about their homeland.
Listening to these characteristics I felt that we were clearly describing our SEW women. Let us celebrate women everywhere who in the face of obstacles work hard to move forward to seek their dreams!
*All names have been changed to protect the identity of the women interviewed.