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Cynthia N. Cortez - Entry 5

What is the most valuable lesson you learned during your internship?

Before coming to D.C., I had exponentially gained passion to expose as many different paths as possible towards empowerment for my community. However, as I reflected on the institutions that were painfully slowing down the prosperity of Latinos, I had developed a strong disdain for the government. I truly felt little was being done to help Latinos facing challenging socioeconomic situations being that government is a powerful player in maintaining societal inequalities. Nonetheless, I knew I had to challenge these beliefs because theorizing about change without a practical way to create it can only take me so far.

The first thing that was blatant in CHCI was how the Latino community needs representatives in as many aspects of society as possible. Yet, that didn't rest easy on me because I would wonder how much the community would be compromised as the leaders who gain more responsibility also became subjected to more regulation on the type of change they could administer. It wasn't until I sat down with one of the legislative assistant who made me see that we HAVE to play by the rules of in institutions in order to redistribute power. At one point, I saw this type of strategy as ‘selling out' the community because we would rarely achieve what I would call progressive legislation. But, when I noted how much struggle and compromised occurred on The Hill to fight for legislation that would help the Latino community and how many different groups were advocating as passionately for their camps, my perception changed.

It took me a while to flush out what I had believed versus what I was seeing but I'm leaving D.C. understanding that compromising with the other side doesn't mean that I am backing down from the change I want to see. In order to make significant strides, I have to fully know how to listen to someone else's position and find a way to negotiate our differences so that both parties reach a satisfactory compromise. And that means baby steps. I now see that my job is to become as skilled as possible in the art of persuasion in order to articulate why such large changes need to take place. I need to do maintain my vision even when my emotions become flustered with irritation when people just don't seem to understand my goals. Why? Because that's how this still-not-quite-as-aware-of-its-unequal-and-unfair-reality world works.

I have no idea how long it would have taken me to see that without this experience.

Please summarize your internship experience in one word. Maturity.