Rising from the Ashes: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month as a Latina

Maggie outside of the US Capitol

As the seasons change and hopes of temperatures dropping become real, I have begun to look back on the incredible journey that has led me to where I am today. Hispanic Heritage Month holds a special place in my heart; it is not only a time to celebrate our rich cultural heritage but also an opportunity to share stories of resilience and rebirth.  

My father was punished and ostracized for being the child of an immigrant. We were raised to believe that celebrating our culture was wrong. Being ashamed of who I was contributed to me facing some of my darkest challenges, from addiction to incarceration, family separation, and finally, a remarkable recovery and a promising future. My belief now is that this is a testament to the power of hope and the perseverance that comes from the bloodline of a resilient people.

Addiction knows no boundaries, affecting people from all social classes. For me, it was a struggle that nearly consumed me, a battle I fought not just for myself but also for my family. Addiction didn't discriminate, leading me down a path I never thought I would tread.

Being a Latina struggling with addiction, I found myself ensnared in the Texas carceral system, where there was a noticeable difference in the way I was sentenced and treated. My experiences there would forever change me. The system offers little in the way of rehabilitation or support for those grappling with addiction. Instead, it perpetuates a cycle of punishment, making it even more challenging for individuals like me to break free from the chains of addiction and incarceration.

During those years, I witnessed the stark realities of racism in the system. It was a painful time, one filled with despair and heartache. But even in the darkest moments, I clung to my identity, drawing strength from the resilience and tenacity of my heritage.

One of the most devastating consequences of my addiction and incarceration was my separation from my children. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services became an unexpected presence in my life, again showing me the system's inequities, tearing me away from my children and leaving me with nothing to lose. The pain of separation was agonizing, and it served as a stark reminder of the impact that addiction can have on families, especially within the Hispanic community, where family bonds are paramount.

Despite the challenges, a glimmer of hope emerged in my life. After several years in and out of the Texas carceral system, I found the opportunity to rebuild my life. I was given a comprehensive approach to recovery, which provided the community that believed in me and gave me the support I needed until I could believe in myself. This newfound freedom led me to the Texas Center for Justice and Equity – an organization that also believed in me and offered me an opportunity when no one else would. 

Today, I am proud to say that I have more than six years in recovery. The road hasn't been easy, but with unwavering support, determination, and a fresh sense of purpose, I have risen from the ashes of my past. This journey has taken me places I never imagined, and I am grateful for every step.

I am now rising to a new position in life, both personally and professionally. Recovery saved me and provided me with the tools and guidance to rebuild my life. TCJE took a chance on me and recognized the potential within me, and through their support, I have been able to grow and thrive.

As I celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month today, I do so with a profound sense of gratitude and pride. Hardships have marked my journey as a Latina in recovery, but that journey has also been defined by the strength and unwavering spirit that runs deep within the Hispanic community.

My story serves as a reminder that no matter how dire the circumstances may seem, there is always hope for a brighter future. It is a testament to the power of belief, support, and second chances. As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, I admire the strength of my ancestors and the incredible potential that resides within each of us. Together, we can overcome adversity and achieve new positions in life, embodying the essence of resilience and hope that defines our community.


About the Author

Maggie Luna, JI-RPS

Maggie Luna

Maggie Luna was a Policy Analyst and the Community Outreach Coordinator at the Texas Center for Justice and Equity until 2023, having joined the organization in early 2020 as a Hogg Foundation Peer Policy Fellow. In her role, Maggie focused on creating advocacy opportunities for system-impacted Texans. Maggie is a graduate of the Smart Justice Speakers Bureau at Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law, and also holds a Re-Entry Peer Specialist Certification.