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As we come to the close of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we asked Carolina Siliceo Perez to share a little about her life story and how her heritage plays a part in her current role as Assistant PIO/Communication and Outreach Coordinator for the Sheriff’s Office.
Tell us a little about your history with the County. "I was hired by Drew Reisinger and the Register of Deeds Office in 2016 to serve in the Vital Records Department. In my time working in Vital Records we navigated many barriers in my process to become a notary, while also having to explain and educate various stakeholders about my DACA status. My ability to communicate with our Spanish speaking community helped us dive into the importance of understanding naming conventions and double last names. This led us to work on various projects with the state in hopes of improving errors on birth certificates and other vital records.
In 2019, I joined the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office to support Communications and Community Engagement. My ability to leverage my insight and lived experiences informed my understanding of the unique challenges many communities had in response to COVID-19. Having a voice at the table that was directly responding to this crisis, has really been a hallmark for my time with the Sheriff’s Office. Helping drive the conversation around language justice and equity is my way of ensuring children can be children without the additional burden of interpreting in often difficult and challenging circumstances for their age.
In addition to having the opportunity to facilitate conversations about COVID-19 completely in Spanish, I have gained a broader understanding of public safety and in the last years I have witnessed how these partnerships lead to more community members reaching out and asking for assistance when it comes to law enforcement and other related issues."
The Sheriff's Office PIO Aaron Sarver notes, "It's hard to capture all that Carolina brings to the Sheriff's Office and our community. Our work is fast-paced and often stressful and she thrives in this environment. She has also served as a bridge between our Latinx community and law enforcement. Carolina’s sharp mind and a kind heart has significantly aided our work by navigating many difficult situations with a community that has been traditionally underserved. Diversity is a strength and Carolina is living proof of that." Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger shares, “Carolina helped expand access to the Register of Deeds office for many in our community who had substantial barriers to our services. Her commitment to making our community better for everyone has made her an incredible public servant and has made Buncombe County Government stronger for it.”
How does your heritage and life experience shape how you show up in your role? "My family first immigrated to the US as agricultural laborers in the early nineties, I grew up migrating through different agricultural based tight-knit communities. These communities were also largely undocumented, and the barriers to accessing vital services were intrinsically challenging. I also navigated my undergraduate studies as an undocumented student. I have advocated for in-state tuition for students like me. I understand first-hand the complexities and vulnerabilities that accompany navigating a different culture, language, health care and judicial system. No one should ever have to live in fear or with limited access to support and safety."
What do you hope to accomplish? "There’s so much I still hope to accomplish, it’s been a long journey of truth sharing in spaces and places many sometimes take for granted. I have so many anecdotes, some positive and unfortunately also many negative experiences, like being told by a guidance counselor that undocumented students like me didn’t go to college."
What’s the most important thing you want people to know? "Representation matters, I have often been the only person in a room that looks or sounds like me, and having those around me to validate my experiences, and the communities I am part of is one step toward achieving meaningful growth and improvements for all of our community.
There have often been times, when a system, a process, a law, or a path didn’t exist to accommodate my experiences and needs. I have often been, the first, the only, a bridge, an interpreter, an advocate in spaces that required me to inform and expand what we believe is possible and who we believe it is possible for.
I am incredibly grateful for those that have held a door wide open for me and I hope anywhere I go, I can do the same for others.
More importantly, my hope is that I'm creating a path that ensures I won’t be the last."
“Caminante, no hay puentes, se hacen puentes al andar.
(Voyager, there are no bridges, one builds them as one walks.) ”
-Gloria Anzaldúa- This Bridge Called My Back
and “When you leave you must remember to come back for the others. A circle, understand? You will always be Esperanza. You will always be Mango Street. You can’t erase what you know. You can’t forget who you are.”
-Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street