The first tattoo I ever got, which was completely forbidden in my family to do by the way, was the word “Chicana.” I got it in Guadalajara, Mexico, after a group of friends and I ditched the educational tour we were supposed to be on in order to check out the local scene of artesanía, restaurants, and the tattoo parlor where I received my very first ink. I have always prided myself on my identity as Mexican-American. So much so, that it was up to me to decide that I would learn how to speak, read, and write Spanish and learn about traditions that I did not grow up with.

Through my parents’ own life experiences, particularly in the 1940’s and 1950’s, and justifiably so, they would teach their five children only English after recounting their stories of the struggles of being Mexican-American only knowing how to speak Spanish in a conservative state that controlled where they would sit on a bus and which water fountain they would be allowed to drink from.

Cinco de Mayo has never been a day that I celebrated or commemorated but understand the symbolism of resiliency and determination despite the circumstances at the Battle of Puebla. It has been a beautiful cultural lesson that I used to teach when I was a high school Spanish teacher. It has also been a time for some great local margaritas which always seemed to be a prerequisite for the day in my local community.

Since becoming a mother, I find it crucial to create our own traditions. This year, we will likely be dancing in our kitchen to Trio Los Panchos as I did as a child and cooking some great Mexican food. And as my daughter becomes older, she will know her history as I do.

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Jessica Montalvo
Jessica Maria Montalvo has dedicated her life to the diverse field of education for over 19 years. She knows the importance of cultural inclusivity and diversity, equity, and inclusion as a part of what she stands for as not only an educator, but a life-long learner as well. Jessica is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Indiana University, and from Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne with her teaching Certification for Secondary Education. Later she earned a Master of Education from Indiana Wesleyan University and is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Indiana Tech in the global leadership program. Her passion for service has translated to her involvement in creative projects which include roles within an original musical theater production about mental illness written by James Wesley Williams, since its full-cast production opening premiere in 2014. She is also a producer for the recent film short, Grummy. Her greatest work of art is when she became a mother in 2020 to her beautiful baby girl, Lara Juliana Montalvo.