Celeste Ortega-Felix, 2021 SAF intern
NC Community Health Care Association
I am Celeste. I come from the hibiscus-lined cool concrete houses of Puerto Rico under the fierce heat of the Caribbean sun. I am from the sweet juicy insides of mangoes and quenepas, from late afternoon walks to the beach and the town square. I am from a family of a strong and resilient mother, a compassionate and loyal father, and a visionary sister. I am soft-spoken and a person of a few words. I am breaking out of my shell.
Loving humanity fiercely with all its ugliness and beauty is what I am breaking out into. I strive to transform into someone who will support the voices of communities whose livelihood and happiness have been stolen by the greed of the powerful and wealthy. From communities who have been made victims of the deeply flawed U.S. American criminal justice system, to low-income BIPOC communities that lack educational resources, I have spent my recent years advocating for communities who have been made victims of circumstances outside their control and who often carry generational trauma. Agricultural workers are a community that have gone under the public’s radar for far too long for the challenges that they face on a daily basis.
I begin my exposure to the world of farmworkers with the Into the Fields internship, working closely with my peers and the NC Community Health Center Association (NCCHCA) to learn more about and advocate for the physical and mental health of farmworkers. I am excited about getting to submerge myself into a tight-knit working community with my SAF and NCCHCA peers where I can learn from their experiences, their paths that led them to where they are now, as well as meeting the agricultural workers of NC and listening to their stories. I am excited to feel the compassion of my peers and resilience of farmworkers, although I wish they did not have to be resilient in the first place. I am excited to be able to break out of my shell and potentially thrive in this new environment. Ultimately, I am excited to help support the voices of our country’s agricultural workers.
However, I am afraid. It is my own lack of self-confidence that prevents me from embracing conversations with new individuals and taking lead in social change. It prevents me from speaking my thoughts and feelings and from connecting with others. I am afraid of my declining ability to speak fluent Spanish, my homeland tongue, a phenomenon existing within the younger generations of immigrants due to language assimilation in the United States.
But I am breaking out of my shell. I plan to approach this summer’s experience with a fire of passion and determination to help amplify the many voices of farmworkers in our country. It is time I learn to strengthen the voices of farmworkers along with my own. It is by working together as equals that we can do so.