Acting became a form of therapy for actress Diane Guerrero in her turbulent youth, after her parents were deported to their native Colombia when she was just 14 years old. It soon became her life’s passion, eventually landing her a breakout role on Netflix’s original hit series Orange Is the New Black. The star, who frequently vocalizes her concerns about Trump’s policies around immigration and deportation, has sought to use her newfound fame to raise awareness and affect positive change. She’s also working with members of Congress to establish a museum devoted to Latino history and culture.
With the hopes of sending a “message of unity,” the author of In the Country We Love: My Family Divided opens up to PEOPLE CHICA one year after the 2016 presidential election with a message for fellow Latinos.
PEOPLE CHICA: It’s been one year since the 2016 election. Have your political opinions shifted?
DIANE GURRERO: I had feared that the current administration would be a threat to our country and its values, but unfortunately, it has proven to be much worse than that. However, my desire to participate and contribute to our society has grown. My desire to resist and change a society that does not reflect our country’s values of freedom and equality is ever-present.
PC: The current political climate feels inhospitable to some Latinos. What’s your message to them?
DG: I want to send a message of unity. More than ever, we need to reflect on our history to try and understand where and why we are at this moment. Then, we need to unite and understand that the forces that connect us as human beings like love, family, and empathy are stronger than the forces that divide us like hate, greed, and ignorance. But it is important to understand that we cannot separate ourselves from another human being’s struggles; we are all connected. Therefore, your fight is my fight and vice versa. We should all be fighting for Black Lives Matter, immigrant rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, indigenous rights, disability rights, and women’s movement, and for all people of color who feel marginalized.
PC: What sparked your interest in establishing a museum devoted to Latino history and culture?
DG: So much of our history and culture has been wiped out, especially here in the U.S. There has been an intentional effort to deny our history or connection to the U.S., and for the Latino community, this has been detrimental. We are as much a part of this country as anyone else. It’s important to see the Latino community’s contribution to our country and that’s something that’s clearly lacking in the U.S. A museum in the nation’s capital could educate not only Latino men and women, but clear up any misunderstanding from others who don’t know about Latinos’ part in the formation and success of the United States.
PC: As someone who faced real trauma growing up—from family deportation to depression—it must have felt like life was picking on you. What advice do you have for people who can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel?
DG: My advice is to have an imagination. We only have this one life to live, so we might as well give it our best shot. Be resilient, resourceful, and respectful. That took me a long way, and I’m sure it would you too. Also, be curious about who you are. Be curious about your history to find your purpose and how you can give back to others.