Andrea Beltrami is a first-generation Latina who graduated from California State University, Long Beach with a degree in communications. Both of her parents immigrated from El Salvador and Honduras for an opportunity for a better life.
She is the first to graduate on both her mother and father’s side of the family and considers her degree one of her biggest accomplishments.
Beltrami said that while she was growing up, she found it interesting how she was culturally at home and versus how she was at school. At home, she spoke Spanish. At school, she trained her mind to think and speak in English.
She started making TikTok videos during the start of the pandemic as a way to pass time.
She never imagined that her videos would attract 77.3K followers and 2.8 million Likes and that she would gain so many fans from discussing Latinx issues and posting silly videos. The self-taught online endeavor has since given her the opportunity to voice her opinions to the Latinx community. “We are becoming more aware in the Latino community, let’s use our voices too,” she said.
Because it is important to hear from Latinx influencers and would-be influencers, CALÓ NEWS spent time with Beltrami to discuss the plight of undocumented people, kids in cages and what the community can do to help each other out.
Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO REPRESENT THE LATINX COMMUNITY ON TIKTOK?
I think it’s important because I’m a Central American and we don’t have a lot of representation. It is important not just for me, but for everyone who can relate to me. Starting a platform where we can share our concerns and use our voice and express what it is that we want to see a change in is a start in the right direction. I have days where I’m scrolling through the Latino TikTok and I would see the same things over and over again. I could relate, but I couldn’t really see my culture, and to be honest, I never really did. I would tell myself ‘Wait a minute, where is everyone at,’ and I think that’s why it’s important. I know someone out there wants to feel connected to somebody and relate to the same things.
WHAT IS THE SALVADORAN CORRIDOR?
The Salvadoran Corridor is something similar to the callejones or the swap meet. Everything they sell is Salvadoran, from food to clothes, anything you can think of. I think it’s pretty cool that we have something like this that represents our culture and who we are.
WHY DO SPREAD AWARENESS ABOUT THE SALVADORAN CORRIDOR?
Representation really matters, whether it is on TikTok or helping the community. I have a platform and I know I can use it for good. Especially within our community, street vendors are very important because they’re our tías and tíos, and we see them all the time walking in our neighborhoods. We have to protect street vendors, they are very vulnerable members of the Latino community. Spreading awareness of the Salvadoran Corridor was just another thing to do to help the vendors and the community.
HOW CAN THE COMMUNITY HELP SUPPORT VENDORS BEING PUSHED OUT?
People have met up with council members in the city of LA and there is no media allowed, so a lot of people don’t really know what’s going on. They are kept in the dark. It’s a lot of what-he-said-she-said at the moment. The street vendors are willing to negotiate to be cleaner and follow protocols due to safety hazards. Most of the selling in this place was done on the sidewalk, and I understand their concerns. Many of us can use our platforms to have this place open again by sharing awareness, signing petitions and raising money for them. Another great idea is to find the street vendors another place to sell.
HOW DOES THIS PROBLEM EFFECT LATINO FAMILIES?
This is affecting families because a lot of the street vendors here use this place as their only source of income. These people need to sell [in order] to feed their families and pay their bills. A lot of the time, people don’t think about the outcomes of the situation. People become street vendors not because they genuinely want to be but because when they come to the states they don’t have any type of documentation and it is very hard to find a job for that reason. Many people don’t seem to understand that. If you don’t have any type of documentation when you come here, it’s gonna be hard. I’ve known a lot of people from different parts of Latin America who are doctors or something else and when they come here they are nothing.
WHY WAS THIS PLACE SHUT DOWN? HOW CAN THE VENDORS FIX IT?
The place was shut down for sanitation issues and to clean the streets of Los Angeles. The closure was also part of another beautification project, which is another word for gentrification if we are being honest here. He did the same thing with Avenue 26 and another street marketplace. Most of these places are getting wiped out easily and with no warning. I understand if there were sanitary issues, but there should be someone to help them out with the right process to go about this. I think we should all raise money for them and get them the materials and things that they need.
When I posted that TikTok video, I was surprised to see very few positive things, like “I signed the petition.” Most of the comments I was getting were very negative, like ”This place isn’t sanitary” or “I don’t want this place open again.” I understand. These are reasonable concerns, but I was confused because I thought our thing in the Latino community was to protect the community. I was so conflicted to see this happening, because if they didn’t have nice things to say they shouldn’t be commenting in the first place. Instead of using their voice for negative comments, they should be like ‘Let’s raise money or let’s do this for them.’ I have seen so many people on TikTok do things for others, I thought this would be one of those great opportunities to try to give back. At the end of the day, we just have to do whatever we can to help our people as much as possible.
AS SOMEONE WHO REPRESENTS THE YOUNGER GENERATION, WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE TO OTHERS WHO LOOK UP TO YOU?
My advice would be to have confidence in yourself. I know it sounds like a cliché. It’s something within the Latino community that I struggled with and I know so many of us can relate. I’ve always been very shy and anxious and a lot of it I just got from my parents. Another difficult thing for me was assimilation, my parents wanted me to assimilate so badly. My middle name is Amairani, a funny story that was supposed to be my first name and my dad didn’t want it to be that because he thought kids at school would make fun of me. That’s a great example of how he wanted me to assimilate. When I heard that story, I was so sad because where is the confidence in our culture? People shouldn’t make fun of me because they can’t roll an “R.”. It was heartbreaking to hear that story and I know my dad wasn’t coming from a bad place, but that’s what I mean to have confidence within yourself. I want to let people know that it’s okay to be who you are and to never be ashamed of where you come from.