Noemy Vides and Vicky Steinitz
"IT'S VERY WEIRD. I DON'T KNOW HOW I GOT THE COURAGE. For three years I tried to hide it from everybody and here I am telling my story to this big audience." Noemy's decision to "come out" as a public assistance recipient at the U-Mass/ Boston Welfare Teach-In was fueled by her anger at the labeling and mistreatment of student welfare recipients and her conviction that "those of us who know need to say it, shout it out, and teach and educate the rest, and also defend ourselves,"
A U-Mass/ Boston faculty member talked about the importance of having a Latina presence. We had discussed the invisibility of Latina students at the university before and wanted to make sure that this time their voices were heard. Noemy, with Miguelina Santiago, a fellow student, set out to talk with Latina women about their welfare experiences and to see if some would be willing to speak out:
We decided to collect real-life stories or testimony and share it, including our own, despite our learned and imposed shame. Those of us who said "I'll talk" equipped ourselves with strength and courage to tell and defend our truth. The testimonies of the Latina students are unique and strong but also sorrowful, so much so that for some of them it was unbearable to share their own experiences with a big audience.
I decided to open my identity with the audience and my fellow Latina students because we are seen as cheaters, intruders, and illiterates. As Latinas, we are victimized and punished over and over, for being deserted with our kids, for being foreigners, and for being unskilled in many ways. Not speaking the language, not having our families here to help us to take care of the kids, being poor and without enough education is too much to bear alone. We have been accused of coming to this country to