Interview by Aimar Rosario Ávila
Coming Home: A take on activism with Alexandra-Marie Figueroa
Puerto Rico- It is not a secret the word activism has become a ubiquitous term to embody a certain ideal in the 21st century. With this in mind, what does it truly mean to be an activist? Activist, communicator for Taller Salud, and Co-founder of La Clara Alexandra-Marie Figueroa Miranda dares to answer this question in a blunt yet gracious sentence, “It’s hard work, it’s dangerous and it’s consuming. It might be trendy but it becomes your life.”
Growing up in a low-income household in Puerto Rico, Alexandra was no stranger to the roots of socio-economic disparities. Although in Alexandra’s words “I was raised in a single-parent household and although I was raised in poverty there was never a moment where I didn’t have what I needed. My mother always made sure me and my brother had everything we needed. In 7th grade, I got the UHS (an esteemed public high school). There, I realized the different social realities everyone lived. I realized I was poor. I was like Ohhhh so it’s not normal that sometimes things don’t get paid? But everything that other people had was not a necessity to me. I was always taught I would have what I needed to survive. Now that I am older I understand from my own financial liberty every sacrifice my family made. I am thankful I got to realize this because it allowed me to see the vastness to need. It was a privilege to have a conscious education”.
It was at this high school Alexandra began to have an internal social awakening once Fortuño won and “la ley 7” arose. From this, she learned “We actually have to fight for our rights. It’s not
that we live in these conditions, we can do something about this. In the protest of 2010, I worked with other students for 2 years and there I started to organize for freedom education pretty young”. After knowing more of the ways activism breeds on real-world issues and lives in the hearts of its people, Alexandra explained the controversy of activism. “There is a stigma of being an activist. Now being an activist is trendy and everyone wants to be one, particularly on social media. Not to discredit them but back then, being an activist was a dangerous thing. Doors would legitly be closed.” As Alexandra explains, being an activist cost her her education after having to move to the United States on a scholarship to study at Syracuse University since her mother was threatened with social services for her activism. Nonetheless, at Syracuse “ I discovered myself as a feminist. Although I didn’t know these words existed even if it was 10 years ago I began to understand the values of the movement”. From these experiences, whether it was working with Black Lives Matter and Amnesty International for immigrant rights, fund reform, and the death penalty, learning the language of activism came to form the contacts in the communities and activists.
After gaining this knowledge, Alexandra came back to her home in Puerto Rico. “When Maria came, I realized I could not wait for an opportunity to come home, I just needed to come home. I quit my job and then worked at Amnesty in Puerto Rico. I was gone for 7 years and I couldn’t come acting as if I knew. I learned I could find my own way.” Since activism takes root from the community, Alexandra began to reconnect with Puerto Rico and her craft with Amnesty International.
A strong characteristic of activism is the idea of “It’s not I, it’s we”. As Alexandra explains, activism comes from the root of creating a better future for future generations. This depends entirely on creating steps and spaces for people to questions and partake in these conversations. “Without creating the terrain, there would be no space left for change.” On the other hand, Alexandra does point out at times activism can feel very gate-keeping but argues the most successful activism comes from working in a community. “It is truly love that guides this work. Sometimes there are instances of dishonesty, protagonist, and ego in this movement because some people like the spotlight But you can tell those people apart in the way they contribute to the work and they way they talk about their work”. In the end, “It’s so important to have representation. You work a job and you know how to do it but eventually, you're gonna leave this job and you need to know the next person that comes to know how to do that job.” In a world that shifts, every activist is still discovering themselves. -GGH
“We weren’t born activists, we weren’t born feminists. We learn in the process.” — Alexandra-Marie Miranda
CONNECTIVITY CONTRIBUTORS REACTIONS
To begin with, I feel heavily inspired after reading this interview, and I don’t think I will forget this impact for a long time. One of the most important things I learnt from this interview was the fact that how easily I, and many others, make the mistake of not differentiating between need and luxury. The most inspiring words I read in this article were “I was always taught I would have what I needed to survive.” which made me do a self check.
The majority of the article was somewhat like reality slapping me in the face. Although Alexandra and I are worlds apart, one thing that I believe connects us is the way we think of activists. In today’s world everyone is thriving for acceptance and by being an activist they intend to gain the respect of everyone instead of doing community related work. Most of the people do not even realize what it takes to be an actual activist and that is a major issue. Alexandra’s story has moved me drastically, because the journey from poverty and making the world hear your voice is tremendous. Alexandra’s story has given me a new vision and it has given me a new power.