Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month Despite Myself

“Anthing that’s really great is gonna cost you, and you’re gonna have to fight for it. And the more you fight, the better it’s gonna be.”    Carla Morrison, from an NPR interview with Rachel Martin.

Meet Carla Morrison. I Just Did. And Now I’m in Love.

I admit that, for better or worse, this post started out as a way to connect my project to Hispanic Heritage Month 2021. My protagonist Lyssa Gabriel is of hispanic heritage. She lives with her Cuban grandmother after her White mother abandons her. Despite my arguably nefarious intent, my research uncovered a gem I’ll value long after this post or my book are forgotten.

I discovered a Latina artist named Carla Morrison, and now I’m a fan. Carla is a three-time Grammy winner with two Grammy nominations and three studio albums. Latin beats have always stirred my core, but Carla’s music stirs my soul. Her themes about relationship highs and lows and self discovery along the way resonate, not only from a personal perspective, but from an artistic one. I feel like I’ve found a kindred spirit.

Latina Women Overcoming Obstacles

My protagonist, like Carla, is a musical artist. Lyssa struggles with inner voices that tell her she doesn’t belong, doesn’t deserve and is intrinsically worthless anyway in a mid-20th century culture that promoted that kind of thinking toward people of color. These feelings intensify after an horrific rape and it’s very public aftermath, turning up the volume on those self-sabotaging whispers to a screaming pitch.

Now, Carla hasn’t, thank God, had to go down a road nearly as rough as my protagonist. (A novel must have higher stakes.) But her music indicates that she has heard the same whispers.

Shunning any ugly inner dialogue, Carla’s strength refuses to play by the rules the music business or society set up long ago.

She protects her songs from labels that would make them unrecognizable to her. She embraces her full figure, which American culture still punishes, and her tatoos, for which her Mexican culture judges harshly when worn on a woman.

I

Survival Is Universal

Carla did suffer a mild breakdown after years of relentless work and touring, but was smart enough to take a break before she ended up on the floor in the fetal position. And that break lasted for as long as it needed to. She listened to her heart. Not some handler. And she emerged triumphant.

Carla shares her experiences using lyrics every bit as raw as the experiences themselves. Not to prostitute them in the music marketplace, but with a sincere open heartedness that allows other people to identify with them. She makes it okay to be vulnerable enough to face the unfaceable. 

Carla simply rocks. And I love her for it. I would like to think Lyssa would, too.

Published by Missy Kavanaugh-Carryer

Missy Kavanaugh-Carryer is a content writer and author of two children's books and a board book series for young children. She's currently working on her first novel.

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