Traditionally Barrios have been seen as a specific geographic location for Latin communities. Most notable barrios are recognized in larger urban metropolises in the United States such as in New York and Los Angeles. Even in Orange County areas such as parts of Santa Ana have historically been recognized as a Barrio. But take away the physical elements and geographic location of these communities and what is left? The answer is the people. For generations the people of the Barrio have fostered an enduring spirit that once channeled has brought about great and inspiring movements for the Chicano people. So again I ask what the Barrio is. It is the soul of the Chicano people who all live, work and strive for better communication and prosperity in their community. Claudia Cabral is part of Barrio of Latinos who tirelessly work day in and day out in the financial sector of the economy. While I cannot disclose which specific institution she works for I can say she is among the countless who make every attempt at the retail branch level for all customers to have an advocate to help them succeed financially.
Claudia was born in Colima, Mexico and is the oldest daughter of her parents. When she was 3 she was sent to the United States with her aunt and uncle to chase the American Dream. As we talked about her recollections she recalls when she was in the US she felt like an outsider at school and with her family. The outsider feeling came with her as she returned to Mexico where many of her peers would call her “Gringa” because of her time in the US. Even her teachers would ask for her assistance with English lessons, solidifying the differences between her and those of her home town. When her parents were approved for visas to live and work in the US her entire family moved around Orange County, from to Santa Ana — Civic Center and Shelton to be exact — to Huntington Beach and Tustin where Claudia began her path to self realization as a strong and proud Latina.
Even though Claudia had been born in Mexico, had lived there for the first part of her life when she returned to the United States she felt that she had to prove herself.  She recalls feeling not “Mexican” enough. So to prove to not only to her Barrio but to herself Claudia immersed herself in the Chicano culture that surrounded her. She joined the MECHA programs at her schools. Over the weekends she would go Centro Cultural de Mexico and learn more about her distinctive culture and the proud history of the Chicano people in America. As Claudia talked about learning about the Mendez family and their struggle for equality in education in Westminister I could see that she was not only proud of her Barrio’s past but Claudia was now a torch bearer for the Barrio’s future.
Always as someone who was determined to be something for her family Claudia strived for excellence in all that she did, including in her education. After graduating from Tustin High School she went on to OCC and received a certificate in dance. Then her father did not find this a suitable career path and so Claudia began studying psychology where she transferred to CSULB where she received her Bachelor’s degree. Then having to step out into the real world Claudia decided that a career track in financial sector was “making it”. However the world of retail banking is not what she thought that it would be. Demanding goals and expectations from both the corporate institution and from customers at times Claudia says can make her feel overwhelmed. Though daunting goals are always set before her she aspires for a career in the company that she works for where she can use more of her psychology background but for now she has other things occupying her mind.
Family is something that Claudia has always believed in. At one point after completing her education at OCC she considered attending UC Berkley. Having been accepted she was tempted to leave Southern California for new life up north. However Claudia valued her family relationship far more than any possibility in the unknown. In fact as she now looks to the future she wonders aloud where she will draw the line between her career and family life and she decided that when there comes a point in life where she had to choose between her family and work, family will always triumph. “As a career woman I would never chose my job over my family.”
For now however Claudia is content as a Service Manager in Orange County servicing what she speculates to be a customer base of at least 85% Spanish speaking people who often have many questions and are usually extremely appreciative of her efforts to help them succeed financially. Claudia’s work in the financial sector’s barrio has had an exponential effect on the physical barrio she works in. Now fathers can come to her to find solutions to pay the rent and mothers can seek help paying for groceries. “At the end of the day I like working with people and knowing that I took every opportunity to help someone have a better day.”

Claudia is part of the common heroes of the financial barrio who desire nothing more than to help “La Raza”. Using her experiences Claudia can testify that through hard work, dedication that any goal can be accomplished. Those like the Mendez family and the community who fought for Chicano Park are her inspiration to bring equality to the financial world. Family is important and inspires her to find a balance between career and home life. As we parted ways I asked Claudia what would be one thing she would want anyone to know to which she replied, “Si se puede!”            

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About ocbarrios

Professor for Cal State Fullerton's Barrio Studies class for Fall 2011 semester

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