Diana Guerrero currently stars in two highly acclaimed award-winning series, but back in November it was her family’s harrowing immigration story that took the spotlight.
In a Los Angeles Times op-ed, the actress made an emotional plea for immigration reform by describing how she lost her parents and older brother to deportation when she was 14. Her story went viral, a reaction she recently told The Huffington Post she did not expect.
Guerrero, now 28, also pointed out in her op-ed that after her family’s deportation back to Colombia, no government official contacted her to verify she was all right. She was forced to depend on friends’ families to survive.
The actress is currently writing a memoir based on her immigration struggles, titled In The Country We Love.
Just days after her letter went viral and Guerrero appeared on CNN’s “New Day,” breaking down as she described the toll her family's absence has had on her over the years, President Barack Obama issued his historic executive actions to protect nearly 4.5 million undocumented parents and children with longstanding ties to the U.S. from deportation.
HuffPost recently spoke to Guerrero about what it was like to share a very personal story, and what everyone should focus on in the upcoming election.
When you published that very moving letter about your experience with your family’s deportation, did you expect it to go viral?
No, absolutely not. I really just thought I was going to get a few retweets, which is silly because so many people in this country are experiencing the same thing, with fear of their family being taken away and separated.
Clearly it’s still a very emotional topic for you. How do you feel about doing it now that you have the benefit of hindsight?
It’s a topic difficult to talk about, to have people know your business like that. It was hard but I’m really glad that I did it; I think a lot of people can relate to the situation. A lot of young women have come up to me, Latinas who are going through the same thing and are really afraid of their situation. And I think what I’m doing is, I’m urging people to participate, I’m urging people to get involved in their community and vote if they can vote. Or get the word out if they can.
Speaking of voting, the election is fast approaching. What advice would you give voters as candidates begin to surface?
I think it’s really, really important for you to pay attention this year because it’s really going to dictate how you’re going to have your life for the next four years. It’s really important to participate. If you’re not voting for the people who have your best interest in mind, then you’re doing something wrong.
Shifting to your career, you star on “OITNB” as Maritza and you also portray Lina, Jane’s best friend, on “Jane The Virgin.” What is it like being on two highly acclaimed series?
I think just being on screen and being a Latina is important. In terms of Maritza on “Orange Is The New Black,” it’s a story being told of many Latinas, and I think that’s important to show. With this show, I think it feeds you a stereotype in the beginning and then it really breaks it down. You really get to see who the person is, where they came from. And I think that we’re speaking out for a really large group of Latinas who are very much ignored.
And you go from a prison in Litchfield to working in a luxury Miami hotel as a waitress.
Yeah, a luxury hotel. A hardworking Latina who is kind of not sure where her life is, which is a very common story for every woman or any person. Just trying to be the best friend she can be, even though she fails at that a lot. But just showing a different side of the Latina story, the Latino family. I think “Jane the Virgin” does a beautiful job of showing the Latino family and really holding on to your culture, really holding on to your values, and I’m glad to be a part of that.