Ramona Reyes

Ramona Reyes
Ramona Reyes

In the small town of Weslaco, Texas, Ramona Reyes grew up sharing a room with grandmother and namesake, Ramona. Her parents and grandmother sought to break the family’s cycle of migrant farmworking by urging Reyes and her eight siblings to earn at least a high school diploma. Reyes surpassed her family’s educational goals by enrolling at Ohio State on scholarship. Now an Ohio State graduate living in Columbus, she seeks to use her education and experience to give back to the city’s Latino community.

Reyes’s involvement in the Latino community started with her pledge to Alpha Psi Lambda, a coeducational and Latino focused intercollegiate fraternity at Ohio State. Through the fraternity she became involved in service activities throughout Columbus’s Latino community. She graduated from Ohio State with a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Transportation Logistics she worked at Nationwide Insurance Company for twenty years in human resources.

In 2009, Reyes became the first Hispanic elected to the Columbus City School Board, where she still serves as a member. She also continues to help and partner with the Mid-Ohio Foodbank and Big Brothers and Big Sisters while serving as the Director of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Center. She spoke more about her work at the center during our meeting in the small offices on the West Side of Columbus:

Leaving the farmworking fold:

Listen (2:35)
“There’s a difference between a migrant farmworker and an immigrant farmworker. So a lot of folk are like ‘what country did you come from?’ Well, actually I was born in Indiana as a migrant farmworker kid and all my brothers and sisters were born in some other state.”
“We were fortunate enough that my mother stopped that generational farmworking concept. She would always tell us, ‘No seas burra como yo,’ read, learn, travel… She said everyone in the house was required to get a high school diploma.”
img_6326
Reyes’s grandmother stands receiving an award from Vice President, George H. W. Bush on behalf of President Ronald Reagan’s administration.

Becoming a Buckeye:

Listen (3:34)
“I didn’t even visit Ohio State… It took two years to convince my parents that, yes, one little Latina can go 2,000 to 3,000 miles away from home by herself to study.”
“When I came [to Ohio State]… I knocked on the door and my roommate answered and the first question was, ‘What are you?’… I kinda looked around and was like ‘I think I’m a girl?’ and she was like, ‘No, no, no, where do you come from?’ I was like, ‘Oh! Oh, I come from Texas.’ And she was like ‘No, no, where do you come from???’ I said, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t understand your question…’ That was the first time I had been asked what I was.”

Dispelling myths about the Latino community:

Listen (2:03)
“There is an assumption that many Hispanics are not from the United States. This is one of the biggest myths that I have found.”
Our Lady of Guadalupe Center
Our Lady of Guadalupe Center serves approximately 3,000 people in Columbus’s Hispanic community each year.

On creating a center for Latinos:

Listen (2:45)
“Organically it became a Latino Center. I think part of it was the staff spoke spanish, our volunteers spoke spanish. They provided the food staples that we ate…. People have the chance to meet other people in their community.”

How to help Our Lady of Guadalupe Center:

Listen (4:43)
“From a food perspective, dollars are useful. From a non-food perspective, we need toilet paper, deodorant, shampoo, soap, laundry soap… there are these other items that are essentials that perhaps we take for granted [like] toothbrushes, toothpaste. Our clientele, our families they have interviews, they have to go to school they have to go to work, they want to be well-groomed, they want to be presentable, and they want to be just like everybody else.”

A Texan and public servant:

Listen (3:03)
“It’s very difficult for a Texan to say they’re anything else but a Texan… it’s a part of who I am… I miss that food the music, the culture, the dialect, the words we make up…But I think from a leadership perspective I say that I’m a strong Latina leader who wants to continue to learn and listen and serve.”
Ramona Reyes
Ramona Reyes sits in her office at the Guadalupe Center.

 

Visit Our Lady of Guadalupe Center’s website to find out more about how you can help this community.
Unless otherwise noted, all photos and text are copyrighted to Leticia Wiggins. Music for introduction & interlude by The Original Soundtrack (thanks, guys!).

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