the work of Paulina Gonzalez in the US
was ten years old, Paulina Gonzalez
felt great indignity and impotence when she
found out that her
father, a Mexican immigrant and factory worker in California, United States, was fired from his
job for trying to organize a workers union.
has taken on different campaigns and social movements, with the purpose of generating change in the most vulnerable communities.
Paulina Gonzalez took her first steps as an organizer when she decided to quit college and work for the United Farm Workers of America.
After that, she decided to go back to her studies, finish her degree in sociology from the University of California, and look for a way to continue with her experience of organizing in the union.
Currently, Gonzalez is the director of SAJE (Strategic Actions for a Just Economy), an organization that works to create strategic actions for a fairer economic system.
routine as an organizer begins every day at 8 in the morning when she
drops off her
nine-year-old son at school.
After that, her
day is made up of meetings, reviewing proposals, following up on current actions, evaluating recruiting plans, training and fundraising for the organization.
These tasks, according to her
, demand about 60 hours of work a week.
"Organizing is hard work, physically and emotionally, because I don't have as much time as I would want to be with my son who is autistic.
Not being able to help him sometimes 'til late at night, makes me feel guilty," she
Gonzalez highlights that the organizer takes on a long-term commitment with the people he
is trying to help.
"Sometimes one tries to do things for the people and it doesn't work.
I go home and they remain.
You walk away with that emotion, that guilt, even though you can't do anything right there and then," says Gonzalez
When facing complex cases like these, the community organizer says that she
remembers the hard battles that were won, like the time she
was with a group of farmers who had been fired for going on strike.
During hard moments, Gonzalez
draws strength from inside.
"I think of the things I know we can achieve individually and I challenge that emotion into working for change.
I transform it into inspiration. thinking of the way it will better people's lives and their community," reflects Gonzalez
As an example, she
quotes de story of Mariana, an indigenous lady from Guatemala who could not read or write in Spanish.
Mariana could only express herself in her
native indigenous tongue and lived in very precarious conditions when they met her
and began working with her
"I felt very indignant and I knew it would take time to win her
When I feel that way I think of the future and the results we want to get, and I remember moments when we were able to achieve something like it," explains Gonzalez
Mariana always cried when she
story but they quickly saw changes in her
For example: she
had never taken the bus.
was very afraid but they told her she
had to be a leader, she
had to be independent.
"We had a community meeting and we told her
we weren't going to pick her
up in a car, that she
had to take the bus by herself.
The meeting was on Friday and she
did a trial run on Thursday: she
took the bus to see how long it would take her
arrived by herself on Friday and she
was so proud of having done it on time, that she
was more independent.
When we asked her
to tell her
story during the meeting she
didn't cry," remembers Paulina Gonzalez
spoke of how she
was a leader, that she
was committed with the organization of this issue and told everybody else how they also have to commit and develop as leaders.
It was an incredibly gratifying change," she
The solution, according to Paulina Gonzalez
, would be to use decentralized methods of organizing where there are subdivisions that don't allow decision-making powers to concentrate around a single person.
That way you can guarantee continuity in the movement even in the possible event of someone profiting for personal motives.
Taking lessons from her
comments that it is imperative that people in social movements have a political education so they are aware of their rights, so they can identify legal risks, and so they can identify when politician's promises can stop a movement's growth.