El Amor

From Deportation To Incarceration, These Are The Stories Of Women Loving Through Injustice

During the day, children pass out “be mine” cards in class, teens roam school hallways holding giant teddy bears, adults make reservations at restaurants packed with red heart balloons and housekeepers scatter rose petals on hotel beds. In the evening, couples sing and dance to their song, and single ladies cheer to a night of self-love with their closest gals.

It’s clear: Valentine’s Day, the holiday of love, is upon us.

But while some decide between heart-shaped chocolates and fruit bouquets for their sweetheart, for others, the day is much more complicated. Some, separated by borders or barbed wire fences, won’t spend the holiday in each other’s arms. Others will encounter homophobia or transphobia even on the most loving day of the year.

Violence, whether instituted by the state, an intolerant society or a trusted companion, directly impacts the way we love — ourselves, our partners and our communities. From marrying someone behind prison walls to falling in love with yourself after domestic violence, these are stories of Latina women who love through injustice.

These stories have been edited for clarity. Trigger warning: violence against women, suicide.

Undocumented Mexican Mother Reyna On Loving A Husband Who Has Been Deported

(Credit: Getty)

I met my husband, Maximino, when I was a teenager. It’s kind of a wild story, but it’s ours. I was a young girl from Guerrero, in southwestern Mexico, and desperately wanted to be reunited with my father, who lived in Veracruz, which is on the eastern bank of the country. At the time, an older man told me if I married him, he’d take me to my father. I did. In Veracruz is where I met Maximino. I never thought I’d be someone who was with one person but in love with another. But it happened. I’d eventually end my first marriage and wed Maximino. We had a fair enough life in Mexico. We had two children, and he had a well-paying job. But we wanted more for our family, so in 1997, we came to the United States. We first landed in California before settling in Miami, where for about 15 years, we lived a humble but good life together.

That all changed under President Barack Obama. Over the course of his presidency, my husband was deported three times. The first time was dreadful. We hadn’t been separated before, and I didn’t know what to do without him, especially raising our now five children. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for him to return. But before I knew it, he was gone again. This time for a year and four months. This was the worst case of all. He was first incarcerated, and while I wanted to, I couldn’t take my children to see him because I, too, risked deportation. They were hysterical. One of my sons even tried to kill himself. I wanted to show the president this is what happens when you rip families apart. I was desperate and became very depressed. It was the most devastating time of my life, and I wanted to take my children and just return to Mexico. But one of my sons begged me to stay. He said he didn’t want to go, that he didn’t understand Spanish and that he hoped to remain in Miami to study. How could I force him to leave? There were highs and lows, but God gave me the strength to keep going while he was away.

Five years ago, my husband was deported once more. I haven’t seen him, and I don’t know when I will again. It’s difficult. For work, I pack tomatoes and calabazas. It pays enough to cover rent and the most basic necessities. But my children need things that I can’t afford. They have to do homework in the library because they don’t have computers. They don’t have new clothes or shoes every new school year. They don’t have all the things other kids their age do, and that leaves me with so much pain.

It would bring me the greatest joy to have my husband back, to have my family back. I used to pray, “God, please surprise us with him.” It’s an impossible dream, but I still have them.

I never thought this would happen to me. I wish parents were never separated. Every time I hear of another case where a parent is deported, where kids are left with that trauma, my heart breaks. We are good, hard-working families. I want them to stop doing this to us, to stop having hearts of stone.

Puertorriqueña Maritza Gabriel On Loving Yourself After Domestic Violence

(Credit: Maritza Gabriel / Editor’s Note: Maritza is the author’s cousin.)

I’m a survivor of domestic violence, and falling in love with myself after years of brutality and trauma has been the most difficult, but imperative, romance of my life.

My relationship with the man that abused me started like most: blissful and seemingly healthy. That changed the moment I sought some financial independence and accepted a job offer. He became jealous and insecure. He saw my professional attire, in contrast to my stay-at-home mom garbs, as a sign that I was trying to impress someone else. He started popping in at my job, making sure I was there, and questioning most of my moves when I returned home. If he didn’t like my answer, he’d push or slap me. I didn’t realize I was being abused until his aggression intensified. He started to use cocaine, saying it would ease him of the jealousy I caused him, but when he was high, he became more violent. He began making up stories in his head and believing them. As revenge for his jealous delusions, he’d beat me and rape me at night.

My abuser told me he’d kill me or hire someone else to take my life if I ever tried to leave him. I didn’t take his threats seriously until the day I almost died. He held me over a balcony, dangling my life in his hands. When a neighbor came to my rescue, saving my life, I realized that he could have actually killed me, and that I needed to leave.

Being the survivor of domestic violence is grueling. While I was making sense of the gravity of those six years of my life, resenting myself for staying and raising my children in an abusive home, the world was judging me, calling me stupid for loving a violent man. Moving on isn’t easy, either. Loving another person after abuse is a challenge. Even if everything seems to be going right, there’s always that fear that one day this new person could get angry enough to physically hurt me. I keep my guard up when dating, and that shield, I fear, may keep me from enjoying a healthy, loving relationship.

But romance isn’t the only form of affection, and these days I am most intent on learning to love myself. For me, caring and loving me is helping other women and girls. I speak at schools and workshops around the Washington, D.C. metro area, offering listeners the tools to be confident and to identify abusive behaviors. I didn’t know my own worth, so showing them theirs, I hope, will encourage them to never tolerate violence. I also volunteer at my local Boys and Girls Club, where I’m surrounded by kids who remind me a lot of my own children, young people growing up in abusive homes. I want to be someone they can turn to, someone who supports them and who will bring light to their lives, even if just for a couple hours in their day.

Showering women and children with care, kindness and understanding is how I love, both my community and myself.

Cubana Ashley Rodriguez On Loving Someone Who Is Incarcerated

(Credit: Ashley Rodriguez)

I had a troubling upbringing. Homeless at 13, I moved in with my then-boyfriend. He was my first love, but he was abusive. By 17, I knew I needed to leave. Johnny helped me. He comforted me, reminded me of my worth and, when I got my first apartment, he even bought me furniture. It was the start of a beautiful romance. But then he got locked up. He stole an iPhone, and because it wasn’t his first robbery charge, this stupid decision that so many young people make cost him 10 years behind bars. I was distraught, but he told me to move on. I did, for a little while.

Two years into Johnny’s sentence, I reached out to him. He had made such a huge impact on my life, and even far away, he was the only man I thought about. He didn’t want me to squander my years loving a man I couldn’t physically be with, but, to me, he was worth the wait.

Loving someone who is incarcerated is difficult. Prisons treat people like animals. Hearing stories of the way guards dehumanize him is infuriating, and not being able to do anything for him, like make the six-hour trip to see him when he’s crying on the phone, needing me, is equally painful. On the outside, I can keep busy working and raising my daughter. But he doesn’t have that luxury. There are also the ordinary relationship activities we miss out on. Johnny can’t take me out on a date for Valentine’s Day. He can’t kiss me every morning. He can’t help me with the bills. And I can’t do things for him I’d like to do, either. Raising a child and caring for my mother with one paycheck leaves little money to put funds in his account or afford long trips to see him in prison. All we can offer each other is love and emotional support, but don’t those things make up the foundation of a relationship? I think so. That’s why, on January 7, 2018, we tied the knot.

My love proposed to me on March 18, 2017. During a visit, he got on his knee, told me he doesn’t want to live in this world without me, asked if I’d be his wife, and I said yes without hesitation. The process of marrying someone behind bars is long and laborious. The inmate must have good behavior for one year before starting the application process, which includes getting a psychiatrist and warden to sign off his request for marriage and us writing short essays on why we want to marry each other. I then had to secure a marriage license, by myself, send it to him to sign, have it returned to me to sign and bring it with me on our wedding day. It wasn’t a fairytale. My big white gown was actually a short, beige, form-fitting dress, and his tuxedo was his typical red jumpsuit. But it was still beautiful. The most important part of a wedding is marrying the love of your life, and in that sad, cold place, with our closest relatives and friends, we did that.

Women who are in relationships with people behind bars experience so much stigma. People gossip about what your partner did to land them in jail and wonder how you can stay with them in spite of the crime. They call you desperate and stupid. They warn you that your love will leave you the moment they’re released. It’s not right, but I don’t let it bother me. What Johnny and I have is real. It’s not temporary or material. It’s pure love.

Salvadoreña Alexa Rodriguez On Loving While Trans

(Credit: Alexa Rodriguez)

Dating is hard, but dating as an HIV-positive trans woman of color is its own special kind of difficult. According to the statistics, less than half of LGBTQ singles say they’d date someone who is trans. While there’s no data on how many people as a whole would get serious with someone who’s trans, I bet the results wouldn’t be that different. And when you are dating, it can be very dangerous. Last year alone, 28 trans people, most of color, were murdered. These statistics are daunting, and they can convince many of us who are in unhealthy, abusive relationships that staying is better than leaving and reentering the dating pool. That’s how I felt when I was with my abusive ex. But leaving him was one of the best decisions I ever made, not just because he was violent, but because it made me available for the man who I’d eventually marry: Pedro.

Pedro and I met in 2013. It was in his hospital room. I was accompanying his brother, a friend of mine, during a visit, and we hit it off. We laughed a lot, mostly about the accident that landed him on the physician’s table. Talking to him felt natural, and flirting with him was fun. When he was discharged from the hospital, I invited him to hang out at my apartment. His leg was hurting, so I suggested that he rest it on my bed. He joked that if he did, he wouldn’t leave. I laughed, not realizing that we’d share a bedroom for the next four years.

Getting into a new relationship was scary. He, a cis man, had never been with a trans woman before. I asked him, nervously, if he was sure he wanted to be with a girl like me. He said, “Why not? You’re a woman. I see a woman when I see you.” He made me feel so comfortable and happy. I wanted it to work. That’s why I was terrified to tell him about my status. In my previous relationship, my ex threatened to kill me if I were HIV-positive. That trauma was all-consuming. When I finally worked up the nerve to tell him, his reaction surprised me. “I don’t know much about this, so I’ll need you to teach me,” he told me. I couldn’t believe it. While his response should have quelled my concerns, it actually left me suspect. “Me tienes lástima” (“you pity me”), I said. But he didn’t. This, I learned later, is what love looked like.

Pedro and I got married October 27, 2017. It was a small but beautiful wedding, a day of pure joy. Not every moment would be like that, though. We’ve experienced some shaming because I’m trans. He doesn’t speak to most of his family back in El Salvador because of the rumors they spread about me and the names they call him. Even one of my own friends, who is a member of the LGBTQ community, once called him gay for being with me. It’s upsetting, because my friend, being gay himself, should have known his comment wasn’t accurate or acceptable. And it’s also distressing, because it’s 2018, and we shouldn’t be judging men who are with trans women, or anyone.

While I try not to let it get to me, my husband notices when these remarks hurt me, and reminds me that I’m a strong woman, who has overcome a lot and who does so much for the community. He always brings me back to myself, and that’s what a partner does. We love and we care for each other.

Love is love, and love conquers everything.

Read: Legendary DJ Art Laboe Has Connected Those In Love, In Pain, And In Prison For 74 Years

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20 Lingerie Sets That Will Get You Ready for Valentine’s Day

Everyday Runway

20 Lingerie Sets That Will Get You Ready for Valentine’s Day

It’s only natural to want to look your best on Valentine’s Day. This includes your date-night outfit and the look you’ll slip into that evening. However, lingerie isn’t just for the benefit of your significant other. It should also be something that makes you feel comfortable and confident.

Luckily, there are plenty of lingerie companies ready to cater to our Valentine’s Day needs. Just pick your style, color and size and you’ll find a lingerie set perfect for your night of amor.

Try one of these lingerie sets for the Valentine’s night of your dreams.

1. Get your heart on with this sweet bustier set.


Nothing says Valentine’s Day like being covered in cute little hearts. Deck yourself out in this adorable matching bustier set and get ready for some love. Available at AdoreMe.com, this set is simple enough to slip on under your little black dress and bold enough for when you’re ready to put on a show. Available in plus sizes.

2. The babydoll of your dreams.

Victoria’s Secret

You’re already the angel of your novio’s dreams so this sweet babydoll is icing on the cake. A part of Victoria’s Secret Dream Angels line, this set offers a sheer skirt attached to a criss cross peekaboo halter. It’s sheer skirt will have you feeling fun and flirty. Available in 5 colors and 5 sizes.

3. A BERRY beautiful Valentine’s outfit.

Victoria’s Secret

For a sensual play on the typical V-day lingerie, try this deep berry number. From Victoria’s Secret, this teddy takes things to the next level with its plunging keyhole and all-over sheer coverage. Scalloped lace will have you feeling delicate but its bold cut just screams daring. Available in 3 colors and 5 sizes.

4. You’ll love how you feel in this sexy slip.


You can’t go wrong with this black set that’s anything but basic. Available at AdoreMe.com, this babydoll is lacy in all the right places and comes with a matching panty and adjustable straps. It’s little bow details will remind your love just what a gift you are and will have you ready to be unwrapped. Available in plus sizes. Also available in white.

5. Look hot in this hot pink teddy.

Victoria’s Secret

You can never go wrong with pink. Available from Victoria’s Secret, this hot pink teddy will set the tone for your hot night of passion. It’s lacy material, high neckline and thong bottoms are just the the right amount of sexy. Available in 3 colors and 5 sizes.

6. You won’t be feeling blue in this babydoll.

Frederick’s of Hollywood

Can’t choose between lace and mesh? No problem! This gorgeous teddy has them both and comes in a unique royal blue that will catch his attention. Offered by Frederick’s of Hollywood, the bodice has an underwire and padded cups to keep you feeling supported. Available in 2 colors and 4 sizes.

7. You’ll get all the besos in this bustier.

Victoria’s Secret

Every woman should have a good bustier in their lingerie rotation and this beautiful two-toned set perfectly fits that need. From Victoria’s Secret Dream Angels collection, this bustier is boned and has lined cups to make this an comfy under-clothing wear. Removable garters add to this hands-on experience. Available in 2 colors and cup sizes A-D.

8. Try on this charming chemise.

Frederick’s of Hollywood

Feminine and lacy, this chemise is a vision in lavender. Available from Frederick’s of Hollywood, this set features criss cross straps plunging from the bust to navel. These straps are mimicked on the back side — showing off your backstage talent if you know what we mean. Available in 4 sizes.

9. Take the plunge with this babydoll

Victoria’s Secret

This babydoll means business. Showing off a plunging neckline and a bare back, this set wants you to feel comfortable in your skin. Offered by Victoria’s Secret, it’s removable garters and simple silhouette easily make this an every day wear. Available in 3 colors and 5 sizes.

10. Sheer=sexy.

Frederick’s of Hollywood

This barely-there chemise mixes sophistication with sexiness. Mostly sheer expect for its padded cups, the set features a high neckline, cap sleeves and a bare back. Available by Frederick’s of Hollywood, this chemise says delicate from the front but daring from behind. Available in plus sizes.

11. Who said casual can’t be sensual?


If g-strings and thongs aren’t your thing, this set’s bralette and shorts combo might be your perfect match. Featuring a lace t-back bralette and tap shorts, this set sold by AdoreMe.com is both casual and flirty. Available in 5 sizes.

12. You’ll look great in these garters.


This red-hot, all-lace set is dramatic, daring and 100% a Valentine’s Day must. It’s demi contour corset is sure to show off your shape. The matching bustier set is available from AdoreMe.com. Add thigh high stockings with the garters for a sexier overall look. Available in plus sizes.

13. Mesh never looked so good.

Frederick’s of Hollywood

Seductive scalloped edges and see-through mesh make this chemise feel as luxurious as you’ll look. A sexy pushup, detachable garters and matching g-string make this Frederick’s of Hollywood set a sensual classic. Available in plus sizes.

14. Valentine’s Day means lace all over the place.


If you’ve got it, flaunt it, mama! This lacy body suit leaves little to the imagination and essenuates what it covers. A FashionNova.com piece, it features a bare back and sides, a plunging neckline, and cheeky coverage in the back. Available in 2 colors and 3 sizes.

15. This bodysuit will have you ready to be unwrapped.


Mix some lovely lace and a bit of a bandage edge and you’ll get this sexy body suit. Available from AdoreMe.com, scalloped lace is criss crossed across your body using gold o-rings to keep you wrapped up. It’s unlined cups and cheeky panty make this an irresistible lingerie choice for your big night. Available in 5 sizes.

16. You’ll be sweet like pan dulce in this babydoll.


Fun and flirty, this red number adds a unique texture to the usual lace and mesh lingerie game. An AdoreMe.com original, the sweet babydoll utilizes soft velvet in the bodice and hem. As beautiful as this set will make you feel, it’s flyaway back also makes it easy to remove. Available in 5 sizes.

17. In blue, he can’t take his eyes off of you.


You won’t be left feeling blue this Valentine’s when your boo catches you in this set. With blue and silver threading laced throughout its mesh front, the bustier adds some glitz to your bedroom. Offered by AdoreMe.com, the form-fitting bodice will show off your curves beautifully. Available in plus sizes.

18. Get cuddly in this teddy.


With shimmering lace, a plunging front, and a cheeky panty, this teddy has sexy down to a science. The adjustable halter top makes sure you’ll have the perfect fit every time. Available from AdoreMe.com, this teddy is much more sheer than it appears. Available in plus sizes.

19. Sexual. Sexy. Satin.


Even if you’d rather have a comfy pjs set than traditional lingerie, you can still show off your sexy. This satin two-peice features a pair of lace-lined shorts and an adjustable tank top. Offered by FashionNova.com, this set is available in 8 different colors and 7 sizes.

20. Feel lovely in this lace number.

Victoria’s Secret

Don’t let the high neck fool you. This teddy’s sexy keyhole cut out, bare back and cheeky bottom bring all you’ll need for Valentine’s night. Available through Victoria’s Secret, it’s from their Dream Angels lingerie collection. It’s adjustable halter offers comfort and style. Available in 3 colors and 5 sizes.

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20 Celebrity Couples Who Were Together 10 Years Ago


20 Celebrity Couples Who Were Together 10 Years Ago

Love in Hollywood is fleeting.

For one reason or another, relationships just don’t stick for the rich and famous. Despite their frivolous interchange of boyfriends and girlfriends, each relationship mattered. Heck, they still do! We can clearly remember these couples as they were, young and wealthy with no care in the world. Some of these units had an obvious shelf life, but others truly seemed like they would last — and some of them even did.

Here’s a look back at some of our favorite couples from the past that still reminds us that true love exists even if it’s for a short while.

1. Madonna and Jesus Luz


Madonna has had countless boyfriends, and at least two husbands, but the lady clearly has a thing for Latin men. She dated Jesus Luz, a Brazilian model, and DJ for quite some time. Now, Luz is married (with someone else) and a father of two.

2. Selena Gomez and Taylor Lautner


Oh Selena…we love her hopeless romantic aura, especially back in the day when she dated Taylor Lautner from the “Twilight” franchise. But then he moved on to Taylor Swift. Wow.

3. Eva Longoria & Tony Parker


When Eva Longoria broke out into the scene as a Desperate Housewife, she had that whole Hollywood picturesque life down cold. Her relationship with NBA star Tony Parker catapulted them into a real power couple. Alas, they divorced. But do not fret, Longoria found love once again with José Bastón, and is now a mother of a baby boy.

4. Alex Rodriguez and Kate Hudson


Alex Rodriguez has been around the block, to say the least. From Madonna to Cameron Diaz, the boy has a thing for blondes. Just take his time with Kate Hudson. Perhaps he learned his lesson and decided to stick with brunettes.

5. Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony


Speaking of A-Rod, his new love — Jennifer Lopez — was married to Marc Anthony ten years ago. We really thought this was it for both them. What did we know!

6. Nick Cannon and Mariah Carey

YouTube/Ken Fuhr

When Nick Cannon got Mariah Carey’s name tattooed on his back, we should have known that these two were doomed for splitsville, and yet we still hoped for the best.

7. Nicole Richie and Joel Madden


America’s bad girl, Nicole Ritchie found her bad boy and soul mate in Good Charlotte’s frontman Joel Madden. This is another success story because they are still together and have two kids.

8. Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr.


The union of Freddie Prinze Jr. and Michelle Geller is like a page out of the movie scene. The two did meet on the set of “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” which came out in 1997, and they have been together ever since.

9. Jessica Alba and Cash Warren


California native Jessica Alba — who now runs a multi-million empire — met her baby daddy, Cash Warren in 2004, and got married in 2008. Still going strong till this day.

10. Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz


Cameron Diaz dated former ‘NSYNC-er Justin Timberlake post-Britney Spears in the late aughts. They dated for a couple of years until they both started dating other people.

11. Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem


Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem are Spanish royalty. Way before they even got married, these two were the most famous Spanish actors in American cinema that one would have thought “why aren’t these to together?” Well, eventually, after years of meeting on the set, they finally did and have been married since 2010.

12. Demi Lovato and Wilmer Valderama


Between 2010 to 2016, Demi Lovato began a long-term relationship with actor Wilmer Valderrama. Despite their 12-year age difference, these two have remained in contact long after their breakup.

13. Cassie and Diddy


In 2007, mode and performer Cassie became the face of Diddy’s fashion label Sean John, but the couple didn’t make it official until 2012. In a 2013 interview, Cassie said about Diddy that “just being around him is a completely inspiring experience.” The couple recently split up, but it’s clear the hip hop mogul wants her back.

14. Matt Damon and Luciana Damon


When actor Matt Damon spotted waitress Luciana Bozán Barroso in Miami in 2003, the boy was hooked. The couple married two years later and have been together ever since. The couple has four daughters together.

15. Matthew McConaughey and Camila Alves


Another love at first sight moment came when Matthew McConaughey met model Camila Alves at an L.A. club in 2006, even though he wasn’t ready to settle down. “Out of the corner of my eye, this sort of aqua-green figure went floating across the frame about 20 feet in front of me,” McConaughey said in a 2016 interview. McConaughey and Alves married in 2012 and have three children together.

16. Zoe Saldana and Keith Britton

YouTube/Incredible Top 10

Way before Zoe Saldana was a loving mom of three boys with Italian hubby artist Marco Perego, she dated and was engaged to Keith Britton. Britton, a CEO of a fashion website, and Saldana were together for 11 years but broke up in 2011.

17. Jennifer Esposito and Bradley Cooper


Before Bradley Cooper became the mega-famous, Academy Award-nominated actor and director, that he is today, he was just a struggling actor in 2006. That’s the year he married actress Jennifer Esposito. Unfortunately, the couple divorced after five months of being together.

18. Lenny Kravitz and Adriana Lima


The now-retired Victoria Secret model, Adriana Lima was actually engaged to artist Lenny Kravitz but it was all on the down low. He spoke about their engagement briefly in a 2004 interview — during the height of his career. They both, however, went their separate ways. In 2008, the model became engaged to Serbian NBA player Marko Jarić.

19. Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber


One of the most tumultuous relationships in Hollywood has to be that of  Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. The couple met in late 2010 and began an off-and-on relationship for the next few years. They were back together in 2017 but broke up soon after. Bieber is now married to model Hailey Baldwin.

20. Anna Kournikova and Enrique Iglesias


In 2001, Enrique Iglesias met his baby mama Russian tennis player Anna Kournikova and were hot and heavy for several years. While they broke up in 2013, they soon got back together and had twins in 2017.

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