Isabel Gonzalez-Smith Talks La Villita and Latina Motherhood
Written by Vocalo Radio on October 9, 2019
Isabel Gonzalez-Smith is the Founder and Executive Director of Chicago Latina Moms.
Isabel is also a doula, practicing traditional Mexican care for pregnancy, birth and postpartum healing. She is the mother of two boys.
Chicago Latina Moms is a group of Latina mothers/mothers-to-be and mothers of Latinx children. The organization seeks to empower and uplift the Latina mother, lead the social justice conversation with children, celebrate the diversity within the Latinx community, and connect children to their rich Latino culture, language, tradition, and histories.
From hosting mom’s night outs, to Spanish storytimes, playdates, workshops and more, they aim to create a community where moms feel supported, appreciated and recognized for their hard work in their families, communities and careers.
We took some time with Isabel to chat La Villita, leadership, and being a Latina mom…
Where in the city did you grow up? Describe your neighborhood.
I grew up in the neighborhood of La Villita / Little Village. It’s a predominantly Mexican neighborhood. 26th Street to me represents my childhood – lots of small businesses, lots of entrepreneurial spirit. I remember hearing the bells of the Paleteros, the guys that sell Paletas, buying elotes on the corner of the block and, as an adult, I look back at those folks and those memories of strong work ethic.
That’s always part of the Latino community. The beauty of the neighborhood, for me, was the community and the families here in La Villita and Chicago. Even today when you go down La Villita, you see benches on people’s porches and kids playing with each other on the block, lots of floral plants on porches and block parties. It’s just really family oriented and community oriented. It’s a little piece of home, Mexico in Chicago.
What do you love about Chicago?
I’ve been very fortunate to have traveled to different parts of the country and the world but there’s just nothing like the city of Chicago. I love the diversity, I mean, you can visit the world and stay within city limits. The museums, the art, the food, the festivals, we have it all.
I also love the leaders that Chicago has – the artists, the activists, community organizers, faith leaders, and just the everyday folks who are often overlooked. It’s their stories that make what this city is.
Talk about Chicago Latina Moms. What lead you to start the organization and why is this work so important?
When I learned that I was going to be a mother, I wanted to be around more Latinas. I wanted to grow as a woman, as a mother, with other Latino families. And so I looked up “Chicago,” “Latina” and “moms” on Google. The results that came back were all associating Latina motherhood with crisis, like teen pregnancy or domestic violence, or homelessness, which are all very real issues in our community.
But I also just wanted a mommy group, a space to share, to vent, to grow together, to cry together, to celebrate and empower each other, to raise our families together, and impart to our children our Latino heritage, our culture, and our language.
In the summer of 2014, when I was 17 weeks pregnant with my first son, I started Chicago Latina Moms, and our first meeting was in La Catrina Cafe in Pilsen. Today, we’re a very, very active group of 2,000+ moms in our community at every stage of motherhood. We represent the diversity of Latinos in Chicago. We meet for play dates, for cultural events… we support the moms in our group who are entrepreneurial and have businesses. We rally behind them and put our money back into our community and support each other.
At the end of the day, what would you like to give back to the community?
Being a parent is beautiful but it also has many responsibilities and challenges. I think that anyone who’s a parent can relate to that. We often question whether you did the right thing, if you did enough research, if you did enough, if you are enough… You compound that with being a person of color, being a woman of color in the current political climate, and you step out into the world, into your workplace, into schools, and you constantly see what you or your family or your children are facing.
I want to give back to my community a space for Latina mothers to feel safe and protected. I want them to feel like they’re surrounded by their sisters and family. We’re going to lift up. We’re going to celebrate and empower you. We’re are going to recognize you. We’re going to tell the world, “look at this amazing Chicago Latina mom doing something that you should know about.”
Listen to the full interview here:
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Interview Edited for Length and Clarity by Seamus Doheny
Audio produced by Fyodor Sakhnovski
Photos by Paul Araki Elliot