Juana Rosa Cavero’s Story
Juana Rosa is a first-generation immigrant and reproductive justice organizer who places great importance on relationships and responsibility as elements of community care. She names building a community of practice (in her words: uplifting, protecting, cultivating, and mentoring the leadership of women of color) as central to her definition of reproductive justice. CoreAlign values of radical collaboration have informed her approach to social justice work as well as her current leadership of a reproductive justice coalition.
I’m from a first generation immigrant family. So I always realized we were different. Even though I grew up in the United States, as soon as I walked into my house, we ate Peruvian food, we watched Univision… when I walked outside it was a different place. I realized that this world is very, very small. That’s something that I also try to tell my kids. This is a huge place we call earth. Right? And we all just happen to live on it.
When I went to high school, I was the president of the Latino Unity Club. And that was weird because in Colorado, most of the Latinos are Mexicanos and then there was this Black Latino girl and everybody was confused. But I felt my connection with Latinos, and I could step into that leadership role. Teachers also saw it and gave me the responsibility of this club. That’s why I really think that relationships are important — people see the benefit of working together in order to do something bigger.
I believe that if you have the capacity to fix a problem, you have a responsibility to fix it. If you see somebody struggling to buy something at a store in Spanish and you are bilingual, it’s your responsibility. In college, I worked on the retention of students of color. Many of us would come in with scholarships, so it wasn’t necessarily a cost issue. So then what was the issue? Most of us knew each other because we were part of a pre-collegiate program where they go to high school and escort you onto the campus. Even though many of us who did go through those programs hit a wall somewhere and dropped out. And that big wall was culture shock.
When I got into reproductive justice, something I think the founding mothers really understood was that we need to uplift and protect and cultivate and mentor the leadership of women of color. I remember that element as being part of the definition of reproductive justice. That meant relationships, that meant collaboration with other movements. That meant walking each other into leadership.
CoreAlign helped me appreciate that the only way to win is by working with a group of people that might think about or approach the problem differently. If today I’m like, we cannot burn the house down and you’re like, we’re burning the freaking house down… maybe we just burned the first floor but keep the top, because the top is going to attract more people. My solution is not the best. Your solution is probably not the best and us meeting in the middle, or just burning the grass, but keeping the building… that’s okay. We are coming from the same place- our win is we want to fit as many people on that property as possible. That’s the win.
It’s not easy stuff. Sometimes we make our own work difficult, because it can be so complex. When somebody is coming into this work with an open heart, I think that’s where you need to take care of people and build off of relationships. I think that’s just how we function as humans – even if you’re an introvert and it’s exhausting for you to go to a party, you need one-on-one relationships to rely on. The bigger picture is that if we keep to ourselves, we will break our movement.
Every time a new issue comes up, you’ve got to reteach. If a meaningful and authentic relationship is in place, the teaching happens along the way, and the relationship is the resource for whatever movement issue needs addressing. If there’s trust and there’s real, authentic relationship between two people, I think all concepts can be held. One of the things that I’m learning, especially within my work now, is that people come to the table because they have a self-interest of some sort. And that’s fine. It doesn’t have to be bad or it doesn’t have to be looked at like you’re manipulating it or being deceiving. But with managing a coalition this big, sometimes people don’t put their self interests on the table, so you really don’t know why they’re there…. One of the things that I’ve tried to model for folks is the vulnerability I learned with CoreAlign of putting all your stuff on the table. And the benefit of doing that, the benefit of getting it back, is a more trusting coalition.