Image of Sheila Rodriguez

SHEILA ANN GARRETT RODRIGUEZ

I identify with being a Chicana and grew up in a household which worked very hard to remove the Latino culture from the outside yet embrace it once at home. This drew me to enjoy my home place more than any other location in the world. As I became an adult and created my own family I began to re-member my cultural identity and instill that in my children and celebrate it both internally and externally as an artist. It is important to me to share this rich cultural history with both my own family and the community I live in. This connection to the constructs of culture within my home is where I find a majority of my personal identity.


What is an “identity”, and what advice can you give someone who is discovering their identity?

I would say that one’s “identity” is defined through experiences and acknowledgement of who we are and where we find ourselves in this life. We grow up not thinking about all the lives that touch us and mold us, or the way our paths are directed by outside influences, especially within our “home place”. I would recommend that as one matures and becomes aware of how they can affect change and be changed that they take hold of that and find strength in it. Continue to grow and share what you learn as it’s in the sharing that you find yourself, your voice.

 

When has your identity been compromised, and what advice can you give someone whose identity is being challenged?

I have been told and questioned about who I am through my peers and through my elders many times. I have struggled through expectations of others and a desire to please everyone. What I have learned through my experiences is that only I can define how I feel about myself. Others may see me in a certain way or have opinions of how I should or shouldn’t be, but it is only my voice that can truly define how I feel and who I am. Do not let your voice be taken from you. I find strength and peace through prayer and in quiet moments, this is how I am able to refresh and continue to use my voice to share who I am.

 

What actions and/or tools do you use to remind yourself about the value of your unique identity? How can someone be proud of who they are?

Often I get caught up in the expectations of others and try to mold my thoughts and actions to fit the expectations. While adjustments do affect growth it is important to remember to listen to your inner voice and not lose that strength. Once you lose that voice you can feel hopeless and lost. I find my greatest strength and peace through prayer and in quiet moments, this is how I am able to refresh and continue to use my voice to share, who I am. By supporting your voice you gain strength and begin to feel more comfortable in expressing who you are. I recommend practice in sharing who you are and how you think even if it is not the most popular opinion. Be open to communicate with others and learn from those around you while sharing who you are.

 


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Image Credit: Sheila Garrett Rodríguez (US, b. 1973) Courtesy of the Artist