Aidee Pascual (left), our Community Events Coordinator and Administrative Assistant, is the daughter of immigrant parents from Mexico and was born and raised in New Jersey. She is thoroughly impassioned with the work led by coalition members at NJAIJ and supports the critical infrastructure the coalition needs for our work ahead. Laura Bustamante (right), is our Policy and Campaigns Manager. Prior to joining NJAIJ, she was the Chief of Staff to Jersey City City Councilman James Solomon where she managed and maintained the day to day operations and helped lead and coordinate key progressive initiatives like affordable housing, social justice issues, and improving government efficiency. Aidee and Laura are cornerstones here at NJAIJ, and we celebrate them and their Latinx heritage every day!
A large part of our philosophy at NJAIJ isn’t to just celebrate holidays, heritage months, and special wins just when they happen, but rather to keep the sentiment going year round. How do you make sure to connect to and honor your Hispanic heritage on a daily basis?
Aidee: "My family is my strongest tie to my heritage. I honor that by asking them about what it was like to grow up there, what they miss, what they don’t, etc. They always have new stories to tell and it reminds me of the entirely different lives they lived before coming to the US. I believe knowing my family’s personal history connects me more to them and to my culture as well. On a more regular basis I like to blast my mom’s favorite Spanish pop songs of the 80s and drop in on her for the best Mexican food you just can’t get at a restaurant."
Laura: "Staying close to my culture and heritage is really important to me and it’s something that I always say it’s in my blood (quite literally). One way that I stay connected to my culture is by listening to music in the morning’s when I get ready for work or what I have in the background when I’m at my desk. I especially love listening to vallenatos, salsa, and everyone’s favorite Bad Bunny. I’m also really lucky to have Colombian stores near where I live so for breakfast I almost always have arepa and Colombian coffee which makes me feel as if I was in Medellin."
As a Latinx woman of the immigrant community in politics and advocacy, what does this identity mean to you, and why do you think it’s important?
Aidee: "Being the Latinx daughter of immigrants and being able to work in advocacy is extremely important because it is the ultimate way of honoring my parents and all of my family. I can’t change what they’ve had to go through as immigrants in the US, but I can be a part of the movement towards justice for them."
Laura: "First, I’ll say I stand on the shoulders of giants that came before me, people that inspire me everyday that look like me and since I was a little girl made me feel like I too one day could use my voice to create change. I’m thinking of women like Sonya Sotomayor, Michelle Obama, and some local women right here in New Jersey like Senator Ruiz and activists like Karol Ruiz. It is thanks to so many Latina women that came before me that I felt the empowerment to get involved in this movement. I think being loud and proud of who I am in this space is extremely important because it gives so many others like me a voice that they might not even know they have. Historically immigrants especially women of color have always been pushed to the side and are repeatedly told their concerns don’t matter. Due to this, those that are in this space need to be 10x louder and stronger to ensure our issues are always heard and we aren’t left behind no matter what space we are in."