I was born and raised in Houston, TX, I am a current senior at Duke University, president of Duke Disability Alliance – a student run organization that raises awareness about disability issues on campus and the country –, and am receiving my B.A. in Psychology with a concentration in Abnormal Psychology in May 2017. I was born with a rare form of dwarfism called Spondyloepimetaphyseal Dysplasia, also known as SEMD for short. Basically, that just means I am short in stature. I come from a Hispanic background, my mom’s family is Cuban and my dad’s family is Mexican.
Growing up, I was faced with people not taking me seriously because I was a Little Person. That because of my short stature and because I can’t do a lot of physical activities such as jumping and walking long distances, I would have trouble in the world. And being a Little Person comes with complications and challenges. I developed a severe scoliosis when I was eight years old that progressed to a 100 degree curvature by the time I was 11 years old. I got surgery to correct it in 2007 but spent the year off from school to relearn how to walk as the complication of the surgery was my spinal cord accidentally being stretched. I also got had another spine surgery completed in 2010 to replace the rod. And then two years later, in 2012, I had limb lengthening surgery on my legs in order to gain more height to become more independent for life. In total, I gained 4.5 inches in height, which leaves me standing at 3 ft and 4.5 inches tall (and I’m proud of it!).
“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass…it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” – Vivian Greene
Despite these obstacles or doubts people have of my abilities because of my size, I am out to prove them wrong. With my love of Latin dance, I have competed on a regional level (and have placed 1st and 2nd), to show that I do not let my size stop me from achieving my dreams. I love to do art because it is another form of storytelling for me and another form of expressing what I have gone through. In the last year, I have become interested in performing and theater, which has helped me express myself in a way I could not have imagined. It has allowed me to be free.
In addition, I have been on the hit reality TV show The Little Couple on TLC where I got to meet Dr. Jennifer Arnold and her husband Bill Klein for the first time. They were the first people I met who had a similar form of dwarfism as I and I could connect with. Since then, we have been very close friends and have been my role models and people I aspire to become one day. Though they are Little People, they have a family and are successful in their careers; they are the epitome of “living life to the fullest.”
I have learned through my experiences the importance of being an advocate and fighting for what you believe in. With my motorized scooter in tow, I have traveled around big cities such as Seattle, WA for two summer internships at a disability rights non-profit called Disability Rights Washington to work with their communications team, Rooted in Rights. While I was working with them, I learned the value of video advocacy and how videos can really spike a change on different rights issues. I had a chance to make a few videos with them while in Seattle, and when I went back to school. I now work part-time for Rooted in Rights as their Storytellers Project Coordinator where I network with people with disabilities around the world who may be interested in creating their own disability that are important to them.
My goal for this website is that you find hope in life. We all have our struggles in life and it may feel like the world is against us sometimes. But I hope my story can show that it is important to fight for what you believe in. We all have our purpose in the world and we all have a voice that needs to be heard. My hope is that my story and my advocacy videos can show you how to fight for what you believe in no matter the cause and that you can also be a storyteller for your life.