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About Maria

A little background

My advocacy and engagement in various social issues has motivated me to get involved politically on a local level and inspires my run for Multnomah County District 2 Commissioner.

My understanding of the needs of immigrants in our community was obtained first hand. I was born and raised in Mexico City, where art, culture and monumental historical buildings tell the history of La Conquista, the fusion of Spanish, Moorish, French and native indigenous customs and traditions. I grew up very close to my “abuelita” (dear grandmother), a very charismatic, loving, strong woman with high morals and a kind heart. I ate fresh homemade food every day through my childhood and the fond memories of my abuelita inspired me in many ways to become the woman, mother, and citizen I am today.

Throughout my 22 years living in the United States, there have always been those who have shown kindness to me and my daughter, who was just 2 years when we arrived in Palm Springs, California. For the first time, I understood the challenges and frustrations of those indigenous people knocking on doors trying to sell their goods. They were trying to work hard, take care of their families and survive. That is one of the biggest challenges of the immigrant community. No matter where we immigrate from, we find ourselves immersed into a huge melting pot of cultures, some very different from our own, learn a second or third language in many cases, and are faced with the challenges of adapting to and supporting ourselves and our families in a new world.

Being a teen mother with no family in the United States, I understood the needs and challenges faced by many within the immigrant community. I understood the challenges of not being educated, nor being able to acquire a job paying more than minimum wage, so I sought out other alternatives available to me. I took courses and pursued a career as an Orthopedic Massage Therapist. I worked in Physical Therapy clinics in Palm Desert, building a strong private practice with predominantly elderly clientele. Working directly with the elderly community, I learned much about the challenges seniors face from their shared life experiences. I love working with them, somehow they made me feel closer to my dear grandmother through interactions with them.

Ultimately, I moved to Portland Oregon where I volunteered at the Mexican Consulate and later was hired to work in the Community Affairs Department. I learned so much about the Mexican community living in the United States, as well as their needs and different circumstances motivating them to move to the United States. I was not only working with them, I was serving them and connecting with them on a whole different level.

Thanks to this position, I learned to connect with different Mexican indigenous communities as well as the forgotten community of those who are/were incarcerated. My advocacy for incarcerated communities and prison reform started after being invited to an event inside the Oregon State Penitentiary. There, I learned another facet of the realities of our society, a very painful one. I became acquainted with an incarcerated associate who was sent to solitary confinement for a not valid reason. In an effort to get answers and figure out a complicated prison system, I contacted several people within the justice system with little to no response. I sought out help on a grass-roots level and joined “Don’t Shoot Portland”, a group for which I am now the President. I am also Co-chair of the New Portlanders Policy Commission where I was invited to participate due to my engagement within the new immigrant community, and I'm an entrepreneur and owner of the first Mexican inspired cafeteria in Downtown Portland, Revolucion Coffee House.

Through my community advocacy work, I've gained an understanding of the issues facing those who are entangled within the justice system, the importance of promoting and nurturing art and cultural education, and the lack of attention to the needs our elders and their health issues.

Our youth need leadership and I am a strong believer in leading by example. I have developed an understanding of youth in the juvenile system. I have listened to their voices and discovered a common theme. There are simply not enough resources and opportunities for our youth, little access to the arts, music and other forms of expression to provide them an outlet. The arts awaken our senses and help us to better understand our surroundings.

Many men and women in our community have their first encounter with art while incarcerated. I asked myself many times, why do they have to discover their artistic potential in jail? I think that if they had an encounter with art at an earlier stage in life, they may have made different choices. That's why we need supportive after-school programs that are free for vulnerable communities in their own neighborhoods. I believe we can utilize our libraries even more as a way to engage youth as well as their parents. We have so much local talent and goodwill; artists of different backgrounds willing to work with youth, but there is simply not enough support this type of cultural teaching.

As Multnomah County Commissioner I will be a voice for the many diverse communities within the district. I will work to increase opportunity and prosperity for our youth and for those communities that are too often forgotten. And I will seek reforms to our county prison system, increasing transparency and accountability while ensuring there are adequate pathways for productive reentry into our communities.

 

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