Connecting Latinas All Over the World through Literature

Author Interview: Teresa Rodriguez

Teresa Rodriguez, Author

Teresa Rodriguez – Journalist, Reporter, Author

Interview with Teresa Rodriguez, contributing author of Count On Me: Tales of Sisterhoods and Fierce Friendships, co-anchor of Univision’s primetime award-winning weekly newsmagazine, Aquí y Ahora, and author of best-selling nonfiction book The Daughters of Juárez: A True Story of Serial Murder South of the Border.

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


How did you become acquainted with Las Comadres or with Dr. Nora Comstock?

I’ve never been to one of their meetings, unfortunately. I don’t recall how we got acquainted, but I believe the conversation started when I had written and published my book on Juarez – I began talking to Nora, and she interviewed me. We began to talk about the situation on Mexico, and the plight of women, and then we started communicating via email and phone calls. She’s invited me to some of the Comadrazos in my area, but because of my travel and work, I have not been able to do so. I do feel like I have this connection and know Nora and Adriana (the editor), who’s been wonderful as well.

Talking about Comadres, these women embody the word “Comadre” and we’ve yet to actually meet in person. It’s funny how just a conversation can get something started, which can then can turn into such a beautiful book with so many tales from the heart – little slices of life – that no matter where we are all from, we can identify with somebody’s story, or many or all of the stories, in this book.


Have you had a chance to read any of the stories in the new book Count On Me?

Oh, I did…I did! With the exception of two of the stories, I’ve read all of them, and I was very moved. I had to hold back tears when I was reading Carolina De Robertis’ “Every Day Of Her Life.” Really… it got to me, but it was so beautifully written. And the message at the end about ‘living life to its fullest today’ – sometimes you don’t realize how much we love someone until they’re gone. That grief is what makes us aware of how much that person meant to us. I could identify because being a widow who lost someone very suddenly – all those emotions were coming up again. Carolina’s tribute to her dear friend Leila, finishing that book… to me that speaks volumes about the kind of person that Carolina is.

The other story that got to me was “My Teacher, My Friend.” Talk about a guardian angel that is placed [in someone’s life]. I do believe in destiny, and I do think that we are all in charge of our destiny, but somehow there is a greater power up there working to put somebody in our path, to lead us in the direction that we would have never envisioned, or never thought or never dreamed of. When I read “My Teacher, My Friend” I was very blessed. Again, I could identify with Reyna’s story. I come from a very humble, humble home. My mother encouraged me to pursue my dreams, to study, and I was the first one in my family to graduate from a university. That was thanks to the people who were key in my life.

Luis Alberto Urrea – that guy is so centered, so grounded. The yin and yang – this little woman opening a salon over a dump yard just because these ladies want to look beautiful. There were so many messages woven into this story: futility, friendships, and that appearance isn’t always who we are.

I started reading it, and I couldn’t put it down. The other thing is that each story is self-contained. The message is very similar, but the stories are so very different. Our children have no notion of the hardships that we had, or that our parents and grandparents had. There was very little help offered along the way unless you were lucky enough to have someone in your life…a comadre?


Can you expound on this? What do you hope readers get out of your personal story?

It’s very timely we’re doing this interview, and the book will be out soon – there was a memorial for the slain women of Mexico that was just unveiled this past week. It’s sitting in that cotton field where those eight bodies were found and where I always suspected there were probably more bodies that were buried. This memorial has gone up sort of as a gesture for the families of the victims, but the murders continue and so does the investigation. Just because the memorial went up doesn’t mean the investigations should cease because the murders continue. Juarez is still the murder capital of the world.

What I want readers to take away is “what a fighter this woman was.” She was someone who you could listen to and just be mesmerized because she believed so firmly in what she was doing, that you could tell it was coming from the heart. I think she was a wonderful teacher, and she’s left people behind to carry on what was her passion. So, #1 – I hope she is an example to others; #2 – I hope that what she started only flourishes, and #3 – I hope that someday we don’t have to be reporting on this still.


Do you feel there’s a distinction between saying “you have a friend” or saying “you have a Comadre”? If so, what is that distinction?

I have not been one to have a lot of friends. I don’t know if it was just circumstances in life, but I find that there may be people come into my life for a certain period of time, that I trust and they trust me, but for some reason they either disappear or we lose touch.

A “friend” is someone where I can open up to and be myself with. A “Comadre” probably would have the same connotation, but a Comadre like in Nora’s case – I can open up to her, and even with Adriana, and say “God, I don’t know if this project is going to work” or “this is how I feel,” and I feel very much at ease talking to them.

To be honest, in my case I don’t think that I’ve ever been a Comadre. I maybe have three (at the most) close friends that I share a lot of things with. Everyone else…they’re just friends, but I don’t talk about things that I feel are more personal. Maybe that’s the way I was brought up, very independent even as a young child.

I don’t know. I don’t know what the answer is – I’m dumbfounded by this question. I can’t really say that I have a lot of friends, and then there are acquaintances. As far as Comadres, I would look at them in a different way – like a support group, women that you could go to, and maybe, in the end, that IS another definition of friendship; another level where you can establish an even deeper connection.

I would like to say this: As women, as Latinas, there should be more camaraderie, more communication, more bonding. We need to help each other out. There should be less competition. I know we all work in fields where there’s going be competition, it’s part of life.

We should help each other out. I’ve done it, I’m sure you’ve done it. Those are the things that make you feel good – give back, pay it forward. As Comadres we have a sense of friendship, but also of gratitude and empathy of wanting to help others around us because we’ve been there and know how tough it was. And when you get there, you don’t forget where you came from, and you go back to help.

I still don’t know if I have answered your question because in my mind I’m still trying to decipher the differences.


What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My two boys, without a doubt: my sons. I have a 25-year-old who works at the ABC local affiliate where he anchors and does sports reporting. And I have a 20-year-old who is a junior at the University of Michigan and wants to go on to law school. They keep me centered; sometimes they test my patience, but they also make me very happy.


Do you have a favorite motto or words to live by?

I guess I would have to go back to a poem. You’ve got to live life to its fullest and tell those who you love how much you love them every day. Don’t forget how blessed and how fortunate you are and don’t forget to give some back. Don’t forget to pay it forward.


So what is on your bucket list? What do you want to do before you leave this earth?

I want to live to be a great grandmother; I’m going to spoil those kids to death. There are always opportunities, and I would like to be able to write another book that would be personal. The Daughters of Juarez took me ten years to put together, and it sat on a shelf for a while, then I came back to it, revised it, and it finally happened. But I’d like to do more work in English. At some point in my life I’d like to go back and teach because I think we are all teachers. There’s nothing like life experiences that make you a better teacher.


Where do you get your inspiration from – not just from writing – but just in life in general?

I think that every day is such a gift: to have your health, to be alive, to have a wonderful family that supports you, to have friends, to have a job –a job that you are passionate about. I just give thanks every day for what I have and look outside the window – whether it be raining, whether it be sunny – hey, I’m alive, and that’s a gift from God. It isn’t until you’ve been through tragedy that you really appreciate life.

I lost my mother when I was a young child. She had cancer. I lost my brother in a horrific circumstance, and he died before my mom. And then, to lose my husband…he died in my arms. When you’ve been through these catastrophic events in your life that shape you, you realize that every day is a gift. Just look around you, at what you have and say, “Thank you, thank you, Lord. This is wonderful.”


What would you do I f you weren’t writing? You talked about teaching. Would you be a teacher?

I would probably be an attorney, fighting for justice, which is what I wanted to do. I really wanted to go to law school. I’d be an activist. Although I didn’t get there, I think that by the stories that I have covered and the investigations I’ve done in this book, I have probably reached a lot of people, versus taking one case on at a time – where justice may or may not be served – and in so doing these stories that I’ve covered, I think I’ve been able to reach the masses.


What might readers NOT know about you? Obviously you are a very visible force on TV, you’ve written a book, and you’ve helped to create awareness about so many things. What you think most people do not know about you?

Oh, that I am extremely sensitive; that I am really very down-to earth. I think, everybody would like to get dressed up, to go important places. I just came back from the RNC, I’m going to the DNC next week – the privilege of sitting at the dinner table with Jeb Bush, you know? That’s all nice, but in the end, I am a home body, down to earth. I rarely use makeup when I’m not on TV (laughs). I enjoy going to the gym and bicycling, and I’m just really a home body. I love sharing time with family. I’m very sentimental.


This is the last question and it’s more of a fill in the blank. Just say whatever comes to mind – it could be short; it could be long: “I am proud to be a Latina because…

I’m proud to be a Latina because of what we stand for; for what I stand for. I’m very proud of my roots and my culture. And how it has enriched what my life is today, which is a combination of growing up in the United States and being an American citizen, but hanging onto my roots and my language. When I was growing up, the rule at home was “you speak Spanish at home and you speak English at school” so that I would never forget my language. So, I am very proud because I’ve been able to live the best of both worlds. My rich tradition, culture, my language, the food, the spices, the smells, the aromas, the way of life, the value system, family… and just incorporate that into the wonderful life I been able to live in the United States since I was nine months old.

I think it’s wonderful to be Latina, to have that rich mix of culture, of language and of tradition, and to transmit that to others. We are so blessed. I can also say that I’m living in a time when the stereotype is no longer what it used to be. You know, the stereotype of the Latina being the maid on TV or the Latino being the gardener. We’ve grown beyond that. We’re educated. Many of us not only have bachelors degrees but we have PhDs and Masters. We’re professors, we’re leaders, and we are making a difference not just for this generation, but for generations to come. I am proud of my heritage – where I come from, where I am, and where I am going.

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