OITNB’s Diane Guerrero Is the Show’s Newest Star-Turned-Activist
Ladies First highlights women and girls who are making the world better for the rest of us.
In its five-season run, Orange Is the New Black has kept itself interesting (and important) by shifting its focus away from protagonist Piper Chapman to the ensemble of women all around her.
Many of those women have revealed themselves to be as compelling IRL as on camera — Laverne Cox is a vocal trans rights advocate, and Diane Guerrero works tirelessly for Latino representation and immigration reform. Now, Guerrero is going to Washington to join the fight for a Smithsonian American Latino Museum.
“Our story is not being told,” Guerrero tells Brit + Co in an email — and she wants to change that.
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Today was so inspiring! Today marked my first day on the job. A @smithsonian @latinomuseum in Washington! I was so humbled to spend the day with members of Congress from both parties who are committed to creating a Smithsonian American Latino Museum. Just as we have a Smithsonian celebrating African American history, so, too, will we honor the great and expansive history of Latinos in America. The entire nation will benefit to learn about our neglected and often omitted contributions to this great nation. Thanks @karen_millen for my patriotic dress! It was so appropriate for today 😊🙌🏽
A post shared by Diane Guerrero (@dianexguerrero) on
About a year ago, the organization Friends of the National American Latino Museum reached out to Guerrero to gauge her interest in helping grow support for the project. After a lot of behind-the-scenes work, a group of lawmakers was recently able to introduce a new bill for a National Museum of the American Latino on the National Mall. The process to secure a location near the Smithsonian’s other museums — including the National Museum of the American Indian and the new National Museum of African American History and Culture — has also been started.
“Latinos and Latinas have contributed to every aspect of society in the United States,” Guerrero says, noting that less than two percent of all National Monuments and National Historic Sites are dedicated to women or communities of color.
“Our stories are entwined in the history of our country and in everything our nation has achieved since its founding, in the areas of health, science, business, sports and the arts. Latino immigrants also have readily served in the military and many have received medals for their heroic service in world wars…We have to accomplish this [museum].”
Guerrero herself is the daughter of undocumented immigrant parents who were deported to Colombia when she was 14 (her older brother was also deported). Having been born in the US, Guerrero was able to stay, but the museum represents a huge missing piece in her, and many others’, history and American experience (which she wrote about in her recent memoir, In the Country We Love).
“I am my family’s first American-born citizen, and no centralized place exists where I can learn the national story about Latinos in America.”
Despite increasingly tough immigration laws under President Trump, Guerrero remains motivated to speak up for her community and for immigration reform.
“The sense of community and the feeling that we have each other’s backs made me feel like we have the strength and the power to overcome what I hope will be seen as a glitch in American history,” she says. “I’m working to help create the course correction.”
What do you think about the proposed American Latino Museum? Let us know @BritandCo!
(Photo via Gary Gershoff/Getty)