Building a World Defined by Our Shared Humanity

I never imagined myself in philanthropy. 

When my family immigrated to the US, my mother fled and escaped a domestically violent marriage and took me and my siblings on a bus down to Orlando, Florida. That’s when my family became undocumented. I was three years old.  We experienced homelessness as a family in Orlando. I lost my younger brother to deportation. I reached the point where I lost all hope in my life here, went through deep depressions and was on the brink of self deporting. Those were my realities.

It was undocumented young latina women and other undocuqueer organizers in Florida that introduced me to the movement. That’s where I found my voice and power.  I am here today because my undocumented youth movement family invested in my leadership and encouraged me every step of the way to live in my full authentic truth as a queer undocumented person of color.

The Pulse tragedy was very personal for me. The shooting targetted queer young Latinx and Black folks, undocumented immigrants, and other people of color. Pulse was actually the place I built a chosen family when I was experiencing homelessness as a teen when I first came out as queer. I had numerous friends that were hospitalized and directly impacted. I was tapped to lead a local community needs assessment. The assessment identified a need for a vehicle for long-term change and Contigo Fund was born.

That’s where my journey in philanthropy started. I serve as the founding Executive Director. I believe at that time I was the first and only out ‘undocuqueer’ person in philanthropy. That was five years ago. I am happy to say I am not the only one anymore…though there are still only a handful.

The philanthropic sector wasn’t built for people like me to be in.

I was not identified through a headhunters firm and I did not go through an extensive formal interview and selection process.

I was just the right person to do the work.

As we observe Pride Month and Immigrant Heritage Month in June and reflect on the 5-year mark of the Pulse national tragedy and the multiple mass shootings that took place across our nation that same weekend, especially escalating violence against marginalized people in the South, let us recommit to taking meaningful action. People like me, folks with lived undocumented experience and Black and Brown, Trans and Queer identity, particuarly those living at the intersections, with deep roots in communities and movements, are also the right people to do this work and we all have a role in intentionally making space for them to do so.

As the article asserts:

“In recent years, the world seems to move from crisis to crisis… In a world where democracy, the climate, and basic humanity are under siege, it is vital that we help people recovering from trauma while also placing them in leadership roles to effect long-term change. Ultimately that is how we build a world that is defined not by crises of violence and division, but by our shared humanity.”


Click here to read Marco’s entire article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy.