(Pixabay/Mohamed_Hassan)

The concept of flourishing typically encompasses rapid growth and success. Yet I associate flourishing with strength and courage, particularly as a result of growing up in a highly “machista” region. To begin flourishing, it takes an incredible amount of strength to face the obstacles life presents. Personally, the pressure and pride of being one of the few Nicaraguans at Emory have afforded me the opportunity to flourish as a student, woman and individual in our diverse and driven community while also challenging misogynistic stereotypes surrounding Latin American women.

Being a woman in Latin America is not easy, especially when confronted with the societal expectations of women. Thousands of women associate success with fulfilling household and family duties, rooted in the pervasive patriarchal culture in the Latin American region. Even if the influence of women in the workforce continues to increase, women are socially coerced by men, and at times, by other women, into traditional gender roles that limit their ability to flourish as independent women. I’m expected to create a family even if I have worked hard over the years to prepare myself for a different future — even if I don’t know what my plan will be. In no way do I criticize women who choose a household role over other paths, but it was always my plan to defy the traditional roles encouraged in Latin America. As a result, it has taken tremendous strength and courage to even fathom pursuing higher education and growing as a professional in a foreign country. I strive to inspire other young Latin American women into believing it is possible to pursue dreams beyond the sexist standards and the violence that thousands of women face every day. 

My parents, while maintaining their conservative values, have supported me in my mission to transcend traditional roles. My journey hasn’t been easy. Rather, I am always expected to hold the best grades, participate in tens of extracurriculars and hold a job to support myself without complaining. It is disappointing at times to have my stress invalidated, given those around me constantly remind me I signed up for this. Instead of getting discouraged, I have managed to use this pressure to remind myself of the importance of proving Latinx women are capable of more than what the patriarchy expects from us. 

In the spirit of constantly challenging the patriarchy, I always proudly told my peers, family and friends that I would attend the most prestigious university outside of Nicaragua. I would learn all the necessary skills to become a political analyst, mathematician or president one day. But I was repeatedly told that my vision was “cute” rather than courageous or driven. My path toward flourishing was never meant to be cute.

When I started college at Emory University, a glistening sense of hope reignited my mission to prove misogynist stereotypes. I may not be a pioneer for Latin American women, but I am not easily giving up and complying with what is expected of us. It is not part of my character to pause life for someone other than myself. Truth be told, this journey is scary. There are a lot of expectations from everyone who knows I was given the opportunity to further my educational career at one of the best universities in the country with a good scholarship. This accomplishment is a step closer to proving the tangibleness of pursuing an education abroad. I wish to flourish at Emory as a person, student and Latinx woman, setting one more example for future generations and making success an experience unbounded by gender roles and expectations.  

The pressure that comes with pursuing higher education as a Latin American woman is not always easy to handle. There are moments when I get overwhelmed, stressed and hopeless. We are all human after all. However, I remain confident that my journey to flourish will inspire other young women to break boundaries in Latin America.

Sara Perez (24C) is from Managua, Nicaragua.