LatinXcellence: Diane Guerrero, the Actress Speaking Out for Immigrant Rights
Celebrate Latinx Heritage Month with People CHICA's LatinXcellence series, spotlighting the incredible women who are changing the world through their work and activism. Today we focus on Diane Guerrero, the actress moving the spotlight from herself to immigrant rights.
Here at People CHICA we celebrate our Latinidad 365 days a year, but during Latinx Heritage Month, we go extra hard. Established in 1988, Latinx Heritage Month recognizes the generations of Latinx Americans who have positively influenced and enhanced our society. All month long, we'll be celebrating with a series called #LatinXcellence, highlighting women who are making a difference in Latinx culture today through their art, work and activism.
Diane Guerrero always knew she wanted to be a star growing up, and it was no secret in her household. In her 2016 memoir In the Country We Love: My Family Divided, she describes herself as a bubbly little girl who enjoyed performing for her family each night at the dinner table. Her parents, undocumented Colombian immigrants, earned low wages working off-the-books jobs in Boston, but when Diane was 14, they were deported back to their home country after their pursuit of legal citizenship was unsuccessful.
Guerrero went on to attend Boston Arts Academy, and eventually became the actress we know from Orange Is the New Black and Jane the Virgin, but at first, she kept her family's tragic situation a secret from both her peers and the public. In 2014, inspired by an attorney from the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, a nonprofit offering resources to those facing deportation, Guerrero decided she wanted to use her growing platform to share her story. She published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times that reflected the reality for many immigrant families living in the United States.
That op-ed was simply the beginning of her activism, which has since expanded into the areas of women's rights and environmental justice. In her book, Guerrero writes of her advocacy: “What matters more is how I can turn the trauma of my experience into some kind of meaningful change for myself and others. There's no point in going through anything difficult if, on the other side of it, very little shifts.”
Guerrero finished raising herself when ICE not only took her parents but never checked in on the child that they had left alone to fend for herself. “I've written the book that I wish I could have read when I was that girl,” she said. Hers is a situation faced by many American children, which is why stories like Guerrero's are so crucial to share.