A difficult time for me was when I worked as a family case manager for the Department of Human services and WIC. The stories that my families were living, ultimately struggling to survive. My heart was broken– day in and day out. I remember going home in tears for four years, feeling powerless. Without fail, every morning as I got ready for work, I prayed. Walking out of the door, my mother would remind me “donde hay desesperación, Dios te mandara para dar alegria” (where there is despair, God will send you to give joy.” I made a vow to my mother to always have faith in a higher power and to live every day with joy in my heart.
My parents, Juanita and Antonio Lopez have been married 42 years. They came to the U.S. 40 years ago from San Luis Potosi, and have lived in La Villita ever since. I fell in love with their love story. As an only child, they devoted all of their love to me. I owe them both the world. However, their story is not one that I have been fortunate to live. I was blessed with a beautiful daughter despite becoming a single mother at the age of 21. Ely is my pride and joy and I wanted to raise her with the same warrior spirit that I have so I decided to raise her in Little Village, my home.
At the time that my daughter was born, we almost lost my own mother due to failing health. By the grace of God she was able to receive a double transplant. Seeing what my family had to endure in order to pay for her expensive medical bills is the reason why healthcare is so important to me. I lived through that anxiety and stress that many families in my community live through due to the lack of information, quality medical care, and social service. My family was fortunate enough to save our home and gain stability, many are not that lucky. I have made it a mission of mine to be a part of the movement and conversations to bring quality services and funding to alleviate the cost of healthcare for those that are at a disadvantage (minorities and the aging population).
One day, I was walking in my neighborhood with my daughter who was 3 at the time. The images and sounds still flash before my eyes as I relive that horrible day. Everything happened so fast– the sounds of the gun were muffled by my screams, racing to shield my daughter. We were both caught in a drive-by shooting in front of the very school she was attending. To this day, that moment has been embedded into my child as well. While thankfully nothing happened to either one of us and there were no casualties, I did not speak against my community. I did not move. I did not switch her to a private school. We remained in La Villita and I stood my ground even more from that moment on– our youth needed help and I was going to do whatever necessary to help them. I continued the fight so I could be an example to my daughter who would see that work in life is not easy and you have to approach all problems with love.
I co-founded Imago Dei shortly after, a gang and drugs desistance program using arts and faith as tools for healing. We began targeting areas in the community where gangs would hang out and there was graffiti, to then paint over with lively murals sharing hope and love for our neighborhood. The program took off and we were able to serve 300 + youth in 4 years. Many of the murals seen in the community today were a product of that project.
I married in 2014 to someone I thought was going to help me write the fairytale story my parents live. However, after 3 years of marriage, my relationship ended due to domestic violence. At first I was embarrassed to share the truth of what had occurred, but after reaffirming my faith and receiving so much love and support, I am stronger and will be a voice for those that have lived and are currently living a similar situation. No one should be ashamed. My community is full of heinous stories where no justice was served because survivors live in fear. I want to change that narrative. I want to share my story so that it can empower men and women to heal.
I am not your typical politician. I have so much love for my community and for the residents, because of my community is the reason I can stand with my head held high. I decided to take the opportunity to run for alderman of the 22nd ward because my community has been mute for too long. We need a genuine voice and champion.
I march with mothers who have lost children to violence, I stand in corners with lost youth looking for love, I host drives to help our growing homeless population and seniors. I know what is keeping our community from stagnant progression– lack of love through assistance, resources, care… My goal is to advocate to deter violence in the community, help small businesses return to the community and thrive, improve the quality of our schools and to bring in healthcare awareness and services. My community needs a warrior to champion for it, and I know I am her.