Listen to Maria Teresa’s interview (in Spanish) below!
“La unión hace la fuerza.” (“Unity makes strength.”) – Teresa
Maria Teresa or Teresa, as she would prefer to be known, is an immigrant from Mexico who has pushed through the hardship of adjusting to American life in Oakland. She came to this country after having a C-section just fifteen days prior, with a young child; and during her first moments in Oakland, she was sleeping on a staircase. It was with the help of people around her that she was able to find shelter. Her experiences with people have been integral to her life in Oakland and have shaped her into the valiant woman she is today.
Teresa is a friendly woman who has learned through others about culture and activism. In her first days in Oakland, Teresa made a friend with a neighbor who helped give her insight on black culture and who learned from her about Mexican culture. Teresa is a keen reader and took it upon herself to learn about slavery and the history behind African American life. Currently, Teresa is an active member of ACCE and Causa Justa:Just Cause, working to address the threat of displacement to blacks and Latinos.
As a community leader, Teresa would like to see more people engage in community issues, but she believes that the Mexican culture contributes to a lack of involvement. She also believes it is important for people to be engaged specifically in schools, where it is necessary to have a triad of cooperation: students, teachers, and parents.
Teresa says that in Mexico, there is not as much access to the commodities available in America. Since some immigrants now have things they could not have in Mexico, they believe that they have everything they could ever want or need and, thus, do not fight for anything more. Teresa wants to see this change because she sees so many young Latinos throw away the opportunity to seek out higher education because of such complacency.
Teresa has survived many trials during her time in Oakland and is proud of what she has been able to accomplish. Two of her children went back to Mexico to successfully earn their degrees, and, even though she has not seen them for a while, she is proud that she was able to do what she could for them to succeed. Teresa was father and mother to her children, using the money she earned from cleaning homes to pay for her children’s tuition. She is a writer and has used poetry to overcome the hardest relationships she has had in Oakland. Each poem she writes marks her success in overcoming the trials and tribulations she has faced as a single mother, low-income immigrant in Oakland.