Camila Cabello, Gloria Estefan and Diane Guerrero Share Their Poignant Immigration Stories
Camila Cabello, Gloria Estefan, and Diane Guerrero are some of most celebrated Latinas in the entertainment industry, with accomplishments and contributions to the arts that have been recognized with countless accolades. And if that wasn't enough, they've served as role models for women everywhere.
This Hispanic Heritage Month, something else binds these stars with their Latin roots in the United States: their immigration stories. Family separation, risking their lives, and leaving everything behind were part of their —and their family's— journeys as they sought a better life outside their countries of origin.
In honor of their harrowing trajectories, we highlight their inspiring stories that genuinely say "Sí, se puede."
Colombian actress Diane Guerrero is best known for her roles as inmate Maritza Ramos on the Netflix original series Orange is the New Black and Lina in Jane the Virgin. But behind her success lies a story of loss and separation, which she shared in a Los Angeles Times op-ed piece in 2014, describing her parents' deportation from the United States.
"My real story is this: I am the citizen daughter of immigrant parents who were deported when I was 14. My older brother was also deported," she wrote. "Throughout my childhood, I watched my parents try to become legal but to no avail."
Guerrero explains she was "haunted by the fear they would be deported."
"And then one day, my fears were realized. I came home from school to an empty house. Lights were on and dinner had been started, but my family wasn't there," she wrote. "Neighbors broke the news that my parents had been taken away by immigration officers, and just like that, my stable family life was over."
The Boston-born actress was allowed to stay in the U.S., where she was taken in by a friend's family but lived a "rocky existence." She only spoke with her family in short phone calls and during summer visits. Unfortunately, her story is only too familiar to many immigrants.
"My story is all too common," wrote the advocate for immigration reform. "Every day, children who are U.S. citizens are separated from their families as a result of immigration policies that need fixing."
"Emilio and I were the first couple to receive it together," she told People. "We're immigrants who came to this country with nothing, and this country tells you, 'You can be who you want to be.' "
Estefan moved to the United States with the family at the age of 2. She found refuge in music as she helped her mother Gloria care for her Vietnam War veteran father, José. She met her husband Emilio in 1975 where she began singing for the Miami Sound Machine.
"Our cultural differences are our strength and only enrich this country. The United States is supposed to be a place of freedom and opportunity for everyone, and we cannot allow that to change," added the singer, who has discussed her life experiences, including a devastating bus accident that broke her back, suicidal thoughts and childhood sexual abuse in her Red Table Talk: The Estefans show (Facebook Watch).
Camila Cabello let the world know in 2018 that her heart was in Havana, Cuba, the island of her birth. The Cuban-Mexican star came to the United States at the age of six and has proudly represented her heritage in her music and shows. But behind her performances lies a touching story of family separation and pushing through adversity.
Cabello left Cuba for Mexico and moved to Miami with her mom, Sinuhé Estrabao, when the singer was 6 years-old. With just a backpack, a doll and a Winnie the Pooh journal to her name, Cabello believed her mother when she told her in Mexico they were going to Disney World. Instead, they crossed the border into the United States, where her mother stacked racks at a Marshalls store in Miami so they could make ends meet.
In an essay for PopSugar in 2017, the "Don't Go Yet" singer recalled the experience.
"I didn't realize it then, but, boy, does it hit me now. I realize how scary it must have been for them. For my mom to leave the streets of Havana where our neighbors were our friends, where we gathered every holiday to eat pork and my grandma's rice and beans, to not hear the malecón and the heartbeat of her city pulsing with every crash of the wave," she wrote.
It took a year and half for her to be reunited with her father. Both of her parents gave up their professions and left everything behind seeking a better future for Cabello.
"I am so proud to be Cuban-Mexican. This country was built on immigrants. People who were brave enough to start over. How strong we are to leave behind everything we know in hopes of something better," she concluded. "We are not fearless, we just have dreams bigger than our fears. We jump. We run. We swim, we move mountains, we do whatever it takes.