Interview by India Carranza
*Trigger Warning: mentions bullying, animal cruelty, alcoholism, abuse, and depression*
Name: Arlinda Marie Massa Carranza
City you were born in: San Juan, Puerto Rico
City you currently reside in: Caguas, Puerto Rico
// Tell me a little bit about your childhood:
Well, I grew up in the United States until I was nine, then I came to Puerto Rico. Since then, I’ve been living here. This is where my parents were born –– and where I like to be.
// Haha! Great! What is it like growing up and being a woman in Puerto Rico?
It’s tough. There’s a lot of machismo. Do you know what that is?
// No, I don’t.
It’s where the men are the ones to lead everything. They’re on the top. You have to obey what they say and do what they want you to do. But you learn how to go through it and how to be strong and tough.
// Definitely a thing you have to learn. Can you think of a time you learned that Puerto Rico was full of machismo?
Ah yes. In school, I was chubby. I was a chubby girl. Most of the time, they would make fun of me –– bully me. You have to look out for yourself and sometimes fight back. Pull yourself together and stop them. They say this is a dog-eat-dog world. Come in! I’m ready!
// [laughs] Yeah! That’s a great mindset. What are you most passionate about or enjoy doing?
My job. I like my job as a customer service representative in a casino. I like to be with clients. Take care of them –– get to know their background, their families, and what they like to do. I’ve been in the casino industry for 24 years, maybe a little bit more. So, they know me. I know them. And I try — if I don’t know them — to get to know them.
// That's great! That sounds like a really cool job. What did you want to be when you grew up?
Actually, I wanted to be a designer.
// A designer? Wow. What kind?
A clothes designer –– and I liked criminology. I got my bachelor‘s degree in criminology –– then I came into the casinos. [I] liked it so much –– I left it all. I stayed in the casino.
// That sounds really cool. My sister wanted to be a clothing designer! I love [the] fashion runway. When was a time you empowered yourself?
Wow. Empowered myself? Every day as a single mother, I try to make decisions where I can grow professionally, and I can work with my family at the same time. If the economy is really bad –– I would decide to change jobs and have more time with my family.
I empower myself by studying. The first time I decided to go into the casino business, I was just taking phone calls. I said, “You know what? No matter how much time it takes, I will study dealers.” Dealers are the people that throw the cards. I would come at four in the morning, waiting till 6 o’clock in the morning for the dealer [for the dealer]. [I did this] just so people couldn’t tell me, “Oh, she only knows how to take a call. ‘No. I know what I’m talking about. If I go to a table, I can tell you how to play blackjack.’” I learn all that I can, and I’m not shy to ask anybody that’s lower in the position. I ask them to show me what they have in mind. Most of the time, when I do promotions, I get feedback from other employees –– my employees –– and put them to work. I will make it happen.
// Wow. There’s a lot more that goes on in a casino than I thought. If you could go back in time to the lowest point in your life, what would you say to yourself?
Be strong. Everything will pass, you know? You suffer. You cry, but you get back on your feet and go on. Something better is always going to come and come back to you. You don’t know when. You think you’re going to die, and you’re suffering, you think this is the most awful moment of your life. Once you go through it, you say, “OK. Now I understand.” For example –– your Tio Danny did not pay attention to me for years and made me suffer. I would have to pass through his house and see him with somebody! I was like this is hard! Why does he have to live next to me? But now we’re together.
// Aww. How long did you two know each other?
All my life. I’ve been in love with him all my life. This is a love story! He wouldn’t pay attention to me! You know why? Because I was fat. That’s why! He would always look for this typical slim person, and I wasn’t slim. When I was slim –– he didn’t even pay attention to me! So, after that, I gained weight again, and he still didn’t pay attention.
He made me suffer, but it worked out. I was persistent all the time. When I said I don’t care about Danny anymore –– forget about it –– of course there came the love birds! Tweet tweet! Haha. Well, now we’re together after 30 years. When he first saw me, I was really skinny. I was going through depression. I was 125 pounds. He’s like, “Oh, I love you!” But I was young. I said no. He was too skinny! I don’t like skinny men! After that, [the] years go by, and we always [would] write to each other. When he came to Puerto Rico, I would see him and whatever.
Finally, when he decides to live in Puerto Rico –– he gets a girlfriend! I lived three stories above him and would have to pass through his house every day. I was jealous; I’m Puerto Rican! My friend, she knows the story, so she said, “You want me to go to his house?” I would say, “No. No. Don’t go to his house. I’m OK.” But, life is weird, and here we are together.
// What a love story! You must’ve learned a lot from that. Do you have any advice for girls who want to empower themselves?
People will always try to bring you down. Think like a man. I don’t always put that into practice, but sometimes I do. You know men always look for ways to make money [and] go through things. They don’t push too much to it, but they go through it. Don’t be sorry for anybody because nobody is sorry for you. Take the risk. If you have to tell somebody something that they don’t like, [then] tell them. If they don’t like it, too bad!
You have to be strong. You have to think like them. If you feel ashamed of yourself, you're at the bottom. Nuh-uh. They don’t feel ashamed for us. They’ll call you a drama queen. But no, you're not a drama queen. I will do what I have to do! I like to fight! I don’t take as much crap from anyone anymore. I’m almost 50! Men don’t care for what you think, so why do we care so much? You think I don’t want them to think I’m this or that. I don’t care. This is life. I pay my bills!
Women always change for men. Men always tell me they love me as I am and respect me. You make mistakes. You think that person is going to change, but they aren’t. The only thing you can change is your mentality. You have to say no. This is what I want. I deserve better. When your uncle gets a little pushy, I say, “Woah, I still pay my bills. You respect me. I respect you. Don’t think I’m here because I need you. It’s because I love you. Don’t think that means I’m going to take crap from you.”
I have learned after the years that if you speak out –– people [will] respect you. If you stay silent, like [thinking] he’s my boss; I don’t know if I could tell him. You tell that person what you think. You think your silence is respect at times, but they will treat you how they want to treat you. We don’t have to put up with other people's mentality or meanness. When you get a job –– someone will be screaming at you. You don’t have to take that. You have to tell them [to] wait a minute. Stop there. But we don’t dare. We’re young, and we’re scared to stand up to people. If you don’t say anything or you don’t put yourself in the spot of them respecting you –– they will always take that as a weakness.
// I love that! That’s a lot of great advice. Who did you learn this advice from? Who taught you empowerment?
My mother. My mother is a strong woman, almost like a man! She doesn’t take anything from anybody. Nobody! That lady is something else. She’s old right now. But my mom, if she would have to kill a pork, she would kill it. I remember seeing my mom [and] chickens around the patio. The chickens would eat her vegetables, but she would just go thwack and kill the chicken right away. She didn’t care who the chicken was, and I was like, "Ah!" She could be your friend, but if she had to tell you something. She’d tell you something from her gut. Whenever I have the chance or when something is wrong, I will take her advice. My mom showed me how to empower myself.
// My mom too! Why is empowerment important to you?
Empowerment. You learn how to be strong, teach other people how to do the right thing [and] how to go through the processes of pain. The pain is always going to come with a breakout, a loss of a family member, or somebody you love. That’s part of life. When you go through depression, you say this [is] bad. I can’t go through this. I’m dying. But when you have empowerment–you know that it’s a process and that you have to go through it and be stronger.
// Yeah, it’s important to go through all the parts. A lot of people just want to go through it immediately and think it’ll be a quick fix — but it’s not. It’s always a process.
You learn how to show other people that you're going through a process. When you go through it––you suffer. With the father of my kids, I had a moment where I felt like my heart was literally broken to pieces. I felt like that. It was hard, but when you get support from other people that are empowered—they show you that it’s a process. But you're going to get through it. You’re going to make it. You’re young. You're going to remember this––that this is a process. That you're going to make it because you're learning empowerment. OK. I’m going to suffer [for] three days. Maybe a week. Maybe a month. Maybe a year. Who knows? But it depends on me to get out of it. People sometimes don’t have that empowerment and stay in that stage of suffering. They think there isn’t a way out, but there is always a way out. When you believe in God––you believe that he is making you go through it in a good way. Have you ever lost somebody that you loved?
// Not really. I’ve lost pets before. When I was younger, my grandmother died. I was too young to really remember her, so it didn’t really affect me. I felt really bad for not remembering.
Do you know what my grandma used to say when you had a pet, and it died? She said, “Don’t suffer because God put those pets in your way.” So when someone has to die––instead of being your mother, sister, or brother –– he takes that pet’s life away. So that makes me feel better. Maybe it’s not true, but it’ll help.
// That is so nice. It gives you a bit of solace during hard times, even if it’s just a pet. Do you enjoy the process of girlhood?
Yes, of course! I was single until I was 29! I would tell –– while you're young have a life –– enjoy yourself. Try and go out. Discover, see other things, have fun, and don’t be in a worry. Age will come real fast. When you know you’re 50 –– but I feel 29! I want to go places! I want to have fun! I like the stages of being a girl. First, it’s when you’re at school wondering if you fit in, being a chubby girl knowing you aren’t the prettiest girl. You see popular girls and famous people and say I’m not like them, but you learn.
You still have friends and see the diversity in people. Some are quiet. Some are the life of the party. What I can tell you is that I will have a goal, and I will make it happen. I will put everyone to work for me! Still today, I do the same thing. I realized today that I want something. Don’t be afraid. Take the chance. If it doesn’t work out –– it doesn’t work out –– but at least you tried. At least you can’t say I wanted to do that, but I didn’t do that. Don’t let anybody stop your dreams.
// Yeah, I think that’s important. People let their dreams be dreams and they don’t go after them.
Yes, because someone told them they couldn’t! Never let anybody stop your dreams.
// Yeah! That’s really inspiring, especially for young girls. How can the international community help your community in a legitimate way?
My job [is] in customer service. You dedicate most of your time [to] taking care of customers –– anticipate their needs. You learn from them. Sometimes you have this story to share, but when you hear their story –– you start seeing the things in life in a different way because you have –– well –– you have your family. You have your mother, your sister, stepdad, but you get to know some people who don’t have anybody. They don’t have a mom. They don’t have a dad, a brother –– or they’re older and sick. They see you as part of them –– that they have a friend. Arlinda is my friend in the casino. I can talk to her, and she isn’t going to judge me. Sometimes we judge people too fast and don’t know their background. So get involved with the community of old people where they can feel included, young, and full of life. It makes a difference. You have to always try and make a difference wherever you go. Be a positive person and listen to people. Don’t judge people because we don’t know what’s in the background.
For example, when I tell you my mom was my inspiration to be an outgoing person––she struggled when she was a kid. They were poor. Her dad was an alcoholic and a bad person. She learned that maybe she isn’t a lovely person, but she likes to help because that’s the way she is. She will give you food if you need food and shelter if you need shelter. But –– if you look at her childhood –– it was rough. I compared that to the life she gave me, and it wasn’t as bad. Yeah, my dad liked to drink. Yeah, they would fight, but it wasn’t rough. Nobody abused me.
Sometimes you have to see what’s in the background of every other person and what they go through in life that made them that person. The people that use alcohol –– the people that use drugs –– you have to wonder what went on in their childhood. You have to hear and learn and be conscious of [their struggles]. How can I help this person? How can I understand what they go through in life and make it better? This is what we should do as people. Always think about whether you're doing the right thing or the wrong thing. If your conscience is telling you not to do it, then don’t do it. Be smart.
// Is there anything you would like to share with our Global Girlhood community?
To encourage women in this world, we need to empower ourselves. No matter if you're pretty, ugly, skinny, fat, religious, whatever sexual orientation you have –– you have to be strong and have fun in life. Life is short. If you get a hold of something that doesn’t make you happy, get out of it. I like to go to the beach, so I go to the beach. Live life for yourself. Once you make yourself happy –– the rest will come. People will look for you. People love to be near positive people ––– not negative people. If you see someone complaining like Mr. Grinch, no one will want to be with you. People will look for you because you are fun. Feel at peace when they are with you, and that they can be with you all day long. That’s my advice. - GGH
CONNECTIVITY CONTRIBUTORS REACTIONS
I love to read other women’s stories of empowerment––not only because it makes me happy to see them empowered––but also because it reminds me to continue to empower myself and the women around me as well. In this interview with Arlinda Marie Massa, she talked a lot about having to fight for what you want and work to achieve your dreams. That really resonated with me. I started thinking about my own dreams and how I rarely feel as if I can actually achieve them. I don’t know when I started to feel this way, and I don’t think it’s because anyone ever told me specifically that I couldn’t achieve them. It’s just something I came to believe as I got older.
Reading this interview also helped me to realize that––even though our lives have been drastically different––Arlinda and I are very similar in the challenges we face. In this way, I do think that this article has helped [me] to overcome some stereotypes I believed. It is easy for people to believe that their own goals and values are superior to others. But in the end, we all just want to be happy in life.
This interview has inspired me to stand up for myself and to fight for my dreams because no one else is going to do it for me. It has inspired me to stop caring so much about what other people think and to pick myself up when I fall or when I fail instead of relying on others to do it for me. And it has inspired me to be the best that I can be and to never stop empowering myself and the women around me.
- Morgan Clark
After reading this story of empowerment, I was really reminded of the importance of having a positive mindset. The particular section I loved most in this story was where Arlinda spoke about strength. She said, “I don’t take as much crap from anyone anymore.” This [serves as a] reminder of the power that is found in valuing your own happiness and strength. [It] is something that really stood out to me. I think that this sense of doubting and undervaluing yourself is a struggle that is faced by women all over the world, and this story reminded me of the strength in taking a stand and fighting for what you believe in.
I was moved by the part of the story that demonstrated that going through the process of pain can often lead to empowerment. This gave me the opportunity to reflect on the fact that pain teaches you to be strong and that there is empowerment within that process. Pain is inevitable, and this part of the story reminded me that the most important part of the journey of pain is to empower yourself to move forward even if carrying that pain with you is difficult. This story of empowerment really inspired [me] to get to know people from a variety of backgrounds and learn from others. Arlinda’s line, “You have to always try and make a difference wherever you go,” is something that I hope to follow wherever I go into the future.