Saturday, November 2, 2013

#BreakingTheSilence at #LATISM13 {LATISM recap part 1}

On September 18, 2013 (on my 38th birthday) I stepped into The Waldorf Astoria for the very first time. For the 2nd year in a row, I was honored to be named one of LATISM's Top 100 Blogueras. And also, for the 2nd year in a row, I attended the LATISM conference.

I laughed, I cried, I learned and most of all I was inspired by the many voices of LATISM13. The women and men I met were courageous in breaking the silence and sharing their stories - from immigration, mental health, finding balance, obesity, chronic illness and special needs.

I wanted to share some of my highlights with you.

1. I got to meet the President of Iquana Films and film maker, Maria Aqui Carter. Carter's, recent documentary, REBEL, tells the untold story of Loreta Velazquez - a Civil War soldier and spy. Carter says "In a world where our Latino children grow up knowing little of Latino contributions to this country, it is imperative that we recuperate the stories of the incredible Latinos in American history, particularly biographies where we can connect with individual stories."

2. The Panel that should have been sponsored by Kleenex because by the end of the 60 minute session, there wasn't a dry eye in the room: "Work, Life and Balance: Se Puede," moderated by Helen Troncoso. The speakers included: Vicky Barrios, MSW, Jeannette Kaplun, Michelle Herrera Mulligan and Cynthia Santiago. The women spoke candidly and passionately about their personal lives, families and careers. One of my favorite takeaways from this panel was what Jeanette Kaplun said "I believe you can do it all, just not all by yourself and not all at once."

3. The Panel that inspired me to break the silence: "Mental Health: Breaking the Silence in the Latino Community" moderated by Pauline Campos. The speakers included  Helen Troncoso,  Pauline Campos, Nelly Maseda, Jes Sofia Valle and Ane Romero. Pauline Campos nailed it when she said "We are a family-oriented culture. But our tendency to sweep tough stuff under the rug needs to stop."

For years, I have struggled with depression, insecurity and anxiety. If you've been reading my writing for a while, maybe you've seen traces of it here and there. Last year, I hit bottom and decided it was time to get help. During my first therapy session, I explained everything I had gone through over the last 5 years and she said, "It sounds like you've experienced a lot of loss..." Seeing a therapist has been the best decision I could have made - not only for myself but for my family. Yet I found myself ashamed of being in therapy. I only told my closest friends (and it took me months to tell my mother). I hid it, as if it was weakness with me. 

It was during this panel that I had the courage to stand up and tell a room full of strangers that I had been in therapy for the last year. Seeking help for mental health is not a sign of weakness, it's a sign of courage. In the coming months I plan to share more of my mental health journey here. 

4. Meeting Pauline Campos and hearing her story truly inspired me. She is funny, fearless and passionate about raising awareness on mental health in the Latino community. Her blog Girl Body Pride empowers women and girls to love their bodies and accept themselves just the way they are. 

5. One of the best parts about attending conferences is connecting with my online friends in real life! It's always such a treat to see Jeannette Kaplun.  What can I say about Jeannette that hasn't been said a million times over? She's an award-winning journalist, author, TV host, spokesperson, public speaker and Latina blogger. Jeannette is just a genuine person and I'm grateful for her support and her friendship.

 Who inspired you at LATISM13? 
from top to bottom, left to right: (1) Maria Aqui Carter  (2) Helen Troncoso, Jeannette Kaplun, Maria Herrera Mulligan, Cynthia Santiago, Vicky Barrios (3) Helen Troncoso,  Pauline Campos, Nelly Maseda, Jes Sofia Valle, Ane Romero (4) Pauline Campos (5) Jeannette Kaplun

More LATISM photos and inspiration to come this week! 

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AutismWonderland - written by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez - is a personal blog chronicling a NYC family's journey with autism, while also sharing local resources for children/families with special needs.