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Connecting Latinas All Over the World through Literature

Author Interview: Dr. Ana Nogales

Dr. Ana Nogales, Author

Dr. Ana Nogales, Author
(Photo credit: Nigel Skeet)

Interview with Dr. Ana Nogales, contributing author of Count On Me: Tales of Sisterhoods and Fierce Friendships, and author of Heart-to-Heart Connection.

All Count On Me author interviews were done by Oné Musel-Gilley of SocialZip.com as a volunteer. All of us at Las Comadres Para Las Americas are very grateful to her for this treasure trove of work. ¡Gracias!

 

What are your thoughts after reading the galleys for Count On Me?

I haven’t read the whole thing – ­­­I just took a look. From what I saw, I was impressed we were all coming from different directions, and we are all talking about the beauty of being a woman at this time in the history of the planet, and how connected we are in so many ways. How our dreams are so similar and our aspirations about having a different life, about having a more meaningful life for ourselves, and for other women around us.

 

You talk a lot about this idea of comadres, this notion of being responsible, adopting that role of being responsible and caring for another woman. Do you feel that these principles are as strong or come to shape in any way in other cultures?

I think so – more in some cultures than others. I do not know all the cultures of the world. But I know that women take the role of being the responsible ones of the community. In the American Indian culture, for example, the roles of women are very predominant in being responsible for the welfare of the community. Not in every tribe because every one is different, but I think usually the women are the caretakers…not just of the children, but of the general welfare of the community.

 

In some of the stories in the book, there are some friendships described between the authors and friends who are not Latinas. Do you see the same benefits that you describe in your story – the benefits of the feeling of connection, sense of belonging, emotional support – applying to friendships of mixed cultures?

I just returned from a conference in New Orleans: a federal conference about violence against women. There I met a woman I felt so connected with. She was talking about social change, how we as women have an impact in producing social change, that I was just feeling and absorbing, not just what she was saying but her presence, her passion, her convictions. The only thing I could do was go to her and say, “Excuse me, can I give you a hug?” And she felt so touched because I think she knew what I meant – we connected.

We did not say anything else. I was there, present for her, and I was receiving what she was telling u,s and there is something that goes beyond understanding, beyond words and beyond a lecture…it is a presence among women, when we let ourselves connect with each other, connect with the essence of each other. It’s easier when you are with women of your same culture because you know where she is coming from so maybe it’s easier, but when you open up and extend yourself a little bit to others, it may happen [with women of other cultures], too.

 

You write in your story about moving to California and being Argentine, and feeling that you didn’t belong anywhere. Can you explain more?

Usually I do, when I have pressure – when I am so overwhelmed by decisions I have to make. I run a nonprofit organization, and I thought a nonprofit organization was something that you do with love, without bother, and that other people will also join you who have the same convictions, the same understandings of life, and we are going to do this together. I did not expect so much pressure, so much stress, so much giving of your time and life. When I feel so much pressure, and it overwhelms me, I feel “What am I doing?” and I start to disconnect. I start to feel lonely and that I don’t belong.

It is a strong feeling that only leads me to reconnect. Who told me that this was going to be easy? I have to reconnect, find myself that I am doing the right thing because this is what my soul is telling me, when I see the product of what I am doing, then I feel totally at peace. I am in the right direction, and this implies going through all of these things. So whenever I feel that way, it is just a push for me to reconnect and to find myself, that being different is OK, and it’s good because I have something to contribute coming from a different background I bring something positive.

 

You comment in your story about when these moments happen, you think in your mind of the images of women that you have met.

There are some very meaningful women in my life. I am reconnecting with those that were able to give me strength. There are some that I cannot remember their face, but I remember their Karma. Guardian angels.

 

Who are some of the most influential comadres in your life? 

Nora Comstock is number one.

 

Are there other women who have been notable in your life.

First of all my mother, mi mama of course. She came to the U.S. when she was 60, and now I am 61, so when I say “what am I doing?” I just think of what my mother was doing when she was 60. WOW! Coming to another country to live because of her choice to follow her dream. A story of her incredible strength and determination.

Also, my sister and my daughters – so my immediate family. My seventh grade teacher. She was the one that made a significant change. She gave me the confidence that I could be intelligent, smart and I could accomplish things, at a time that I was very insecure and did not think that much of myself. Her confidence in me at that special age was very, very influential.

Then there was somebody else when I started in college, a woman that I do not remember her face, I don’t remember her name, but I remember her presence. When I finished high school I went into Physics and Mathematics because I was really good in science. When I started my major, it’s not like here in the U.S. that you choose your classes. You strictly study the subject or career that you chose once you finished high school. I was not doing really well, I was not enjoying college, I was really under pressure. She was the one that said it is OK, you are just starting to decide what you are going to do with your life and know what you like, and there are many things that you like. She was as young as I was. But she gave me the peace to decide, to not have pressure, to have options and to explore. She was very influential, and I thank her for who she was even though I don’t remember her name or her face.

I developed many friendships in college and one was Carmen. She passed away last year. And Carmen was crazy. We finished our degree in Psychology together. She did things that I would never do in my life because she extended herself. She gave herself permission to have a very, very free life, and she and her husband enjoyed their life to the max. She was crazy because she did things that women did not do at that time. She was very free with her sexuality, and she became a sex therapist in Argentina and created an organization about sex therapy. WOW! She was a pioneer. In many ways she was very influential about asking WHY NOT!! And I thank her very much for who she was.

 

What sources do you draw your inspiration from?

Women that are voiceless. Women that feel that they cannot do it because they were told “You can’t.” They were told by their own family most of the times, by oppressive societies that make them believe that this is what it is and that’s it. Women that cry because life is not what they thought it was, women that cry because men do not treat them fairly or mistreat them. Men hurt them, which is what we work on in my nonprofit organization. So those are the ones that inspire me.

My own healing is with Nature. Now I am sitting on a couch talking to you and looking at plants here around me and with beautiful colors. Some plants that have tomatoes, an artichoke plant is in front of me, a dry rose from someone who loves me. What else can I have as an inspiration but the beautiful colors of life. Life is colorful – it is not in black and white. Nature is fruitful. Life continues and is very green and inspires.

 

Are there any books that you keep close by?

I love the books from Jean Bolen and also Men In Search For Meaning. Those are my inspirational books.

 

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Professionally, sometimes people say “You are not just what you do, you are a woman.” Yes, I am a woman, but being a woman is what I do and is within myself. When I had my own radio and TV shows, when I felt I was able to reach others, men and women, produce some kind of a change, when I am able to deliver wellness –– those are my accomplishments. For example, I wrote a book called Latina Power and I was going to meet my editor Marcela Landres in New York. I had never met her before. We were meeting in the hotel where I was staying, so I said, “How can we recognize each other?” I would have my book with me.

So I was in the elevator with the book in my hand, the book had just released, and this woman looks at me and says, “Ohhh, did you read that book already. I already read it, and it changed my life.” Can you imagine? She did not know who I was. Her intention was for me to read it, so I could make a change in my life too. How wonderful! What an experience! Again I do not remember her name and her face. I am so glad that she said that because she had the choice to say nothing.

When we can express ourselves and we use our voice to say what we have to say we are impacting each other in more than one way. That is why this book is so important because it has the voice not just of who wrote it but of many women. Having a voice for women makes us connect and make the changes that we need to make in society. Rapidly bringing women into the light so women can have the lives that they deserve.

 

Do you have a favorite motto or quote?

“Love is Not Violent” is the campaign for our nonprofit. All the violence against women is an epidemic. Terrorism against women all over the world by those that are supposed to love them. Their parents, their husbands, and their brothers.

 

You are on radio and TV, and you have become a role model…but what do you think most people do not know about you?

That I am shy and humble. When I am in front of people on the TV or on the radio, I feel the adrenalin and I am not shy at all. I was shy as a child and as a teenager, and I have worked very hard at going in front of people and being myself.

 

Give me three (if you can narrow it down to three) main reasons why a woman needs a comadre in her life.

Let me put it in more than three words: We need to share our passion, voice our troubles, and we need to feel the strength to make it. Passion, the strength, and the voice.

 

So what is on your list  of things to do before you pass from this great big earth?

That touches me very much because I am 61 now, and my friend Carmen passed away last year along with her husband, and that made me feel very, very, very vulnerable. I may be coming to an end, too. So I am still thinking about the question. There are so many things that I want to do, and I don’t know if I will have the time so that’s really something that makes me troubled. I am still reorganizing my priorities. I think I need at least 100 more years to do what I want to do. I want to continue with this campaign to stop the violence against women. Once men can respect women more, then I think that everything can change on the face of the earth.

And I know this is not something that I can do by myself, and that it is an ongoing thing. But what I can do with my own hands is a lot, and that is why I feel very troubled and very impotent, because there is a due date. So what can I do? I am still in media. I would like to continue with my media messages and continue my other projects in media, which are my books. Especially those simple workbooks that are very readable and easy to do and very practical. A simple way to help others instead of being too intellectual or theoretical.

Now we have opportunities that have opened up with the Internet. Developing apps, presentations, and develop new groups. We created three women’s groups here in Southern California and also a men’s group. They have a voice, as well, talking about their own issues and how they relate to women so they can then produce changes within themselves, because as women, it is hard to reach out to men. We have to do it from man to man – “Hombre a Hombre.”

I developed and launched a magazine that is online now addressing all of these issues, and I would love to have it in print to reach others. I will continue producing my CDs. The ultimate thing is to start a channel for women in Spanish. Woman to Woman. When Oprah came out with her own channel I applauded her. WOW! – she was doing what I envisioned. It is a very long term dream, so I do not know if I will be able to do it.

What I envision is to be able to deliver to this community, especially of Latinos in the U.S., tools so they can achieve whatever they want. I think that we all want health for our families. We all want to have a better life. That is why we come to the U.S. Sometimes we get confused, disenfranchised, and isolated. The pressures from working and living in a very capitalistic society, where you have to buy things, to use money to feel good and to have a better life, sometimes causes us to do things that are not the right things, like alcohol or drugs. For many young people that is very attractive because it makes them feel “good” – instant gratification. They do not even know what they are doing. They are just following the dream of gratification, of feeling good because that is what you think you are supposed to be doing.

We need to reconnect, we need to value where we are coming from, honor our past and understand better what we want for our future in order to have healthier communities. There is a lot to be done. I am not the only one. There are a lot of Latinas and Latinos doing this. It is a non-ending road. If my life stops here today I will be satisfied with what I have done and I will also be frustrated by what was not completed.

 

I am sure your story, your work, your website and your magazine are inspiring. So that’s why it is important to tell your story. What are some of the things that need to be done?

I wrote two plays already. One is about the stigma of mental illness, and the other is about human trafficking, based on real stories of women trafficked into the U.S. for sexual exploitation. That is giving a voice to those women, too. I want to keep writing and creating images and voices for the voiceless.

 

Fill in the blank with whatever comes to mind. “I am proud to be a Latina because_____”

That is who I am, and I don’t want to be anything else.

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