Fierce Boss Ladies

This Is What It’s Like To Be A Latina Ironworker Living In New York

Ambra Melendez works in a field largely dominated by men. On any given day, the ironworker whose father came from Puerto Rico can be found amidst a blaze of sparks and steel working side by side with men in hard hats who, like her, grind away at a trade that she’s fallen in love with. In her eleven year career as an ironworker, Melendez has worked on massive projects like the World Trade Center Transportation Hub and the Gowanus Expressway. When I call her up on a Wednesday evening, the Queens, New York-native has just gotten back from a long shift working on a man bridge that will cross the Long Island railroad.

In spite of the laborious work, and in part because of it, Melendez says even though it’s tiring she loves her job. At least, most days.

Ambra Melendez / Facebook

“There are days that I hate it. Where I’m in pain or my boss is being a jerk or I’m just not having a good day,” Melendez says her voice a bit fatigued. “But for the most part, I love what I do. I really do. I wish that I was easier and it that there weren’t so [personalities] that get in the way you know but I love it. I don’t think I would do anything else.”

Melendez has been doing ironwork since she was 27 years old. It was a career that she had been drawn to six years earlier when she was close to turning 21. At the time, she had just given birth to her daughter and her mother, a Masters graduate from Colombia University, wanted Melendez to get her act lined up. “My mom gave me six months to kind of get my stuff together, so at the time I was looking into trade school because that was a quick way to do it,” Melendez explains with a matter-of-factness. In the years leading up to her decision, Melendez had tried her best to go the conventional job route. She worked a desk job, tried to be a receptionist, but it just didn’t stick.

“I did get a desk job, it wasn’t for a lack of trying,” She says with a laugh. “I tried to do what they say you’re supposed to do. In high school, I was in a program where you worked one week and the other week you went to school. For my last year, I was working in an office and I was wearing dress pants, suits, things like that to work so I knew what the atmosphere was about and it never really worked for me.”

Twenty-one, a new mother, and pressed to meet her own mother’s deadline, Melendez surveyed her options and quickly found a 6-month welding program at a trade school in New York. Soon after she finished, she started working construction and eventually found her way into welding and ironwork. Both are trades that have led her to a career that she takes very seriously. Even if, oftentimes, she feels the men on her jobs fail to lend her work a similar regard or respect.

In every job that she has had as an ironworker, Melendez says she is mostly surrounded by men.

Ambra Melendez / Facebook

On her current project of building a man bridge, Melendez is one woman in a crew of four guys. It’s assignments like this, where she’s largely outnumbered by men and machismo behaviors that she itches for a more balanced field. “It’s really nice to have more women. I feel like when you have more women in the field the men behave a little better. They’re a little more decent. It shifts a little bit when it’s not just one woman. You kind of get power by being there together,” Melendez admits before recalling moments at worksites that ranged from inappropriate to abusive.

“I was talking to somebody today — some guy asked about me or somebody was speaking out me and some other guys said ‘oh she slept with this guy’ and mind you I never even ever but… every time like you spend more time with someone or they mentor you or you partner with them and have lunch with them, the guys sort of say oh she’s screwing him or something,” She says with exasperation. “There’s things like that… that sort of happen, it’s not okay but no one is standing up and standing up about it.”

Melendez says that the gender disparity on job sites is one of the greatest drawbacks of her work.

Ambra Melendez / Facebook

Melendez says that oftentimes women in her field are faced with basic issues that male managers of sites never consider because the solutions, which have been geared towards men, are already there for the majority of the team. Issues, Melendez says, can be as simple as having access to bathrooms and full body harnesses but are often turned into full-blown problems. Particularly when job site managers refuse to provide accommodations.

“I’m not trying to be special but all women need [certain accommodations]. All women need it and from the minute they get on the job site every woman should have it even if there’s only one woman. Don’t say ‘there’s only one woman on the job she doesn’t need [special treatment] Yes she does she needs someplace else to change. She shouldn’t have to walk in on a guy changing and see his penis. That happened to me. That should never happen and I should never have to share a [private space] with guys.”

Still, despite the frustrations of the job, Melendez says she could not imagine herself doing anything else.

“You have to be really resilient you have to be able to deal with things changing every day every minute every second and you have to be able to solve the problems and it’s not necessarily about lifting and being all brawny. It’s not. It’s not anything like that. It’s about ‘how smart are you?’ and ‘how can you figure out a way to do this so that it doesn’t kill anybody in a way that doesn’t cost a whole lot of money to do it?’ and ‘can you get it done willingly?’ To be a fierce ironworker I like to say that I’m a problem solver I’m a leader.”


Read: She Got Turned Down For A Job Because Of Her Hijab But This Latina Isn’t Letting Bigotry Block Her Money Moves

Recommend this story by clicking the share button below! 

Notice any corrections needed? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

When Emma Gonzalez Leads The March For Our Lives, She’ll Be Following In The Footsteps Of These Latina Civil Rights Leaders

fierce

When Emma Gonzalez Leads The March For Our Lives, She’ll Be Following In The Footsteps Of These Latina Civil Rights Leaders

As you gear up and rally to march for our lives this weekend, you might be completely in awe of the power and effect of Emma Gonzalez. The high school student from Parkland, Fl has, along with the great efforts of her peers, rallied cities and communities across the globe to fight back against the NRA and the inaction of political leaders who have long held the power to put an end to gun violence. For many of us, it’s exciting to see a Latina show the world that once again we are forces to be reckoned with. But long before Gonzalez called B.S. and became the face of a growing national movement, other Latina activists had a huge hand in changing the course of our history.

Here’s a look at seven of some of history’s most powerful Latina activists who led marches and fought for your civil rights.

Sylvia Mendez

the.daily.feminist / Instagram

When it comes to the desegregation of schools in the country, American history often credits the case of Brown v. Board of Education for the changes. Barbara Rose Johns is also the one who is most typically considered to be the face of that movement after she led a 450-student walkout at a high school in Virginia in 1951.

But history has largely written out the work of Sylvia Mendez an American civil rights activists of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent who played a key role in the integration movement back in 1946.

nhmc_org / Instagram

Mendez v. Westminster was a case sparked by Mendez’s rejection from an all-white school in California back in 1943 when she was just eight years old. Mendez’s parents sued the school district and the landmark case which was ultimately settled in 1947 successfully desegregated public schools  in California making it the first U.S. state to do so.

Dolores Huerta

@thewipinc / Instagram

As a fierce civil rights activist and labor leader, Dolores Huerta became a tireless advocate of the United Farm Workers union. The American-born Latina of Mexican descent originally started out her career as an elementary school teacher. After seeing kids in her class come to school hungry and in need of new shoes, she decided she would help organize their parents.

She started to fight for economic improvements for Latino farm workers and pressed local government organizations to improve barrio conditions.

excellentcoatsonirritatedwomen / Instagram

In 1962, she co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (now known as the United Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee) with César Chávez. Her non-violent strikes and protests led to her 22 arrests. In 1997 she was named one of the three most important women of the year in by Ms. magazine.

Carmen Perez

Noam Galai/WireImage

In 2017, Perez helped lead the country in its largest protest in U.S. history as a co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington.

In her 20 year career as an activist, Perez has dedicated her advocacy to some of today’s most important civil rights issues including violence against women, mass incarceration, gender inequality and community policing.

taiiasmartyoung / Instagram

Before the Women’s March she helped launch a 9-day 250-mile march from New York City to Washington, DC called March2Justice which implored congressional lawmakers to turn their attention to the nation’s police justice crisis.

Berta Cáceres

univisionplaneta / Instagram

Best known for leading a campaign that opposed a dam on the Gualcarque River, Cáceres was an award-winning Indigenous environmental activist. In 2015, the Honduran environmentalist received the Goldman Environmental Prize for helming the grassroots effort that pushed the world’s largest dam builder to stop the construction of the Agua Zarca Dam at the Río Gualcarque.

Because of her efforts the river that was saved and considered to be sacred by the Lenca people, was still able to provide the nearby tribe access to water, food, and medicine.

infonodal / Instagram

On March 3, 2016, Berta Cáceres was assassinated for her activism when two assailants broke into her home and shot her. Her murder sparked international outrage and brought attention to the fact that Honduras is the most dangerous country in the world for activists who fight to protect forests and rivers.

The Mirabal Sisters

lorpop3 / Instagram

Patria, Dedé, Minerva, and María Teresa Mirabal were four sisters from the Dominican Republic who ferociously opposed the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo and became known as Las Mariposas. In 1959, after witnessing a = massacre executed by the Trujillo regime the sisters were sparked into activism and rallied communities into public protests that renounced Trujillo’s rule.

Three of the sisters, Minerva, María Teresa, and Patria, were murdered for their advocacy when they were beaten to death by associates of the government.

historiadeellas / Instagram

Following the death of Las Mariposas, Dominicans across the island decided they had had enough. Six months later, Trujillo’s dictatorship was brought down when he was assassinated.

Sylvia Rivera 

luz_0602 / Instagram

Well before activists like Harvey Milk and figures like Caitlyn Jenner made waves, there was Sylvia Rivera. The Latina born and raised in New York City had Puerto Rican and Venezuelan roots and a tragic story when she first began to carve out a place for trans people in the American gay liberation movement. 

Rivera was a self-identified drag queen and transwoman who participated in the Stonewall riots of 1969 and soon after founded Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries (STAR) with Marsha P. Johnson.

anithacocktail_ / Instagram

In 1970 she led trans activists in the country’s first Gay Pride march, then known as Christopher Street Liberation Day March and in the years after she delivered fervent speeches that called for the support of LGBTQ people of color and who were homeless.


Recommend this story by clicking the share button below!

Notice any corrections needed? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Latinas Are Gearing Up To Run 2019: From Tessa Thompson’s Role in The New ‘MIB’ To J.Lo’s Skin Care Line, Here’s A Look

Fierce Boss Ladies

Latinas Are Gearing Up To Run 2019: From Tessa Thompson’s Role in The New ‘MIB’ To J.Lo’s Skin Care Line, Here’s A Look

As 2018 inches toward its finale, we can’t help but look forward to the new year and get excited for all of the exciting and unpredictable things that 2019 has in store. Among the things we’re excited about is a newly-announced skincare line from the venerable Jennifer Lopez, which is set to be released in late 2019. But Lopez isn’t the only Latina that has exciting projects lined up in the new year. In fact, so far 2019 is shaping up to be a year chock full of Latina-Power so far. In addition to Lopez, we’ve rounded up some Latina-Power Projects to look forward to in the new year, starting with the ageless goddess herself.

Jennifer Lopez

@jlobrasil/Instagram.

In response to a question about her skincare routine during her promotional tour of Second Act, Lopez revealed that she “will be coming out with a skincare line” that she’s been “working [on] for a long time”. She further explained why she decided to release it after her makeup collection, saying, “I don’t want to put [just] anything out”. According to Lopez, she hopes the line “encompasses all of the things I’ve learned, all of the secrets I have”. And suddenly, 2019 can’t come fast enough.

Gina Rodriguez

@spanish_teacher_nyc/Instagram

There will be no escaping Gina Rodriguez in 2019–not that we’d want to. Not only will her action-thriller Miss Bala (a film with a 95 percent Latinx cast and crew) hit theaters in February, she will also be voicing the iconic Latina character Carmen San Diego in Netflix’s animated re-boot, set to premiere on January 18. And lest we forget, the fifth and final season of Jane the Virgin is rumored to be premiering in early 2019, officially making next year the property of Gina Rodriguez.

Cardi B

@iamcardib/Instagram.

Cardi B can’t–and won’t–slow down. Not only is she scheduled to make regular, showstopping appearances into 2019, but she’ll also be making money moves with her lucrative partnership with Reebook. It’s safe to assume that Cardi isn’t going anywhere for a long time.

Rita Moreno

@RitaMoreno/Instagram

As we announced before, Rita Moreno is set to appear in Steven Spielberg’s much-anticipated remake of the beloved classic, Westside Story. According to Deadline, the actress will play an “expanded version of the character of Doc, the owner of the corner store” from the original movie. According to Moreno, she is “tingling” over the opportunity to re-visit the story that made her a legend. She further stated: “Never in my wildest dreams did I see myself revisiting this seminal work, and to be asked by Steven Spielberg to participate is simply thrilling!”. We can’t wait to see her back on the silver screen where she belongs.

Tessa Thompson

@meninblack/Instagram

Tessa Thompson isn’t letting some out-dated name of a movie stop her. In 2019, the talented Mexican-Panamanian actress will be starring in a “Men in Black” reboot with Chris Hemsworth. The fact that an Afro-Latina is headlining a movie that literally has “men” in the title is so refreshing–we can’t wait to see Thompson break down more barriers in 2019.

Isabela Moner

@isabelamoner/Instagram

As soon as we heard that a live-action version of “Dora the Explorer” would be coming to a theater near us, we couldn’t wait to see what Latina fabulosa would fill Dora’s little white tennis shoes. Luckily for us, we weren’t disappointed. Peruvian-American Nickelodeon star Isabela Moner was announced as the actress who had won the part among many. Moner stated that she was “excited and honored” to get to play the iconic character. “I grew up watching the show, and for me, especially as a Latina, Dora was an amazing role model”, she said. We can’t wait to catch Moner in theaters on August 22nd.

Valentina Garza

Youtube.

Yes, we’re sad that “Jane the Virgin” is coming to an end, but we can’t help but be excited about its recently-announced spinoff. And in even more exciting news, this time the show will be run by Cuban-American writer/producer Valentina Garza. This will mark the first time a Latina has been a showrunner of a CW show. No news yet on when the new anthology series will premiere, but either way, Garza will have her hands full with development and pre-production all of 2019.

Anjelah Johnson/America Ferrera/Emilia Serrano

@mexemilia/Twitter. @americaferrera/Instagram. @anjelahjohnson/Instagram.

In November, deadline announced that it was developing a sitcom called “All Fancy” that is starring Mexican-American comedian Anjelah Johnson, written by Mexican-American writer Emilia Serrano, and produced by Honduran-American actress, philanthropist and overall powerhouse America Ferrera. According to “Deadline”, the series will revolve around Johnson playing a “newly successful 30-something Mexican-American woman who often goes against cultural and social expectations”. Kudos for these Latina ladies making waves in Hollywood.

Gina Torres

@ginatorres/Instagram

Finally, Cuban-American actress Gina Torres is getting her day in the sun. After co-starring in “Suits” for six years, USA Network has given Torres her very own spinoff that is currently in production and set to premiere in 2019. According to Deadline, the series, entitled “Second City”, will center on Torres’s iconic character Jessica Pearson as she “enters the dirty world of Chicago politics”. It’s so rare that a Latina–let alone an Afro-Latina–has the chance to star in her own show, that we’re jumping up and down for joy because of this one. We know Torres will be her usual, mesmerizing self in this role.


Read: After A Judge Ordered Activist Ale Pablos’ Deportation, Thousands Sign Petition Urging Arizona Governor For A Pardon

Recommend this story by clicking the share button below! 

Notice any corrections needed? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *