When Irma Herrera gives her name its correct Spanish pronunciation, some people assume she’s not a real American. Her play, Why Would I Mispronounce My Own Name?, is one woman’s journey from a small segregated South Texas town to California’s multicultural mecca.
In this wide-ranging interview we explored many topics, such as the difficulty to access safe spaces for those of us deemed second-class citizens, her Chicana identity, colorism and racism, linguistic isolation, cultural hybridity, internal refugees in the United States, class migration, how her play is relevant to our current socio-political and cultural climate, and we glimpsed into the many reincarnations of Irma—lawyer, director of a social justice organization, journalist, playwright, and more.
For those of you interested in seeing Irma’s play live and you happen to be around San Jose, California, on November 15th and 16th, prepare your Sunday’s best to attend her critically acclaimed show at MACLA (Movimiento de Cultura y Arte Latino Americana) in downtown San Jose. Click HERE for ticket information.
510 South 1st Street, San Jose, CA
The Nasiona Podcast shares stories that explore the spectrum of human experience and glimpse into foreign worlds. We focus on stories based on facts, truth-seeking, human concerns, real events, and real people, with a personal touch. From liminal lives to the marginalized, and everything in between, we believe that the subjective can offer its own reality and reveal truths some facts can’t discover. Hosted, edited, and produced by Julián Esteban Torres López.
Irma Herrera spent 30+ years as a public-interest lawyer advocating on behalf of marginalized communities. Among the positions she held were Staff Attorney and Director of Educational Programs for The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF). As a proud feminist, she was privileged to serve for 15 years as the Executive Director of San Francisco-based Equal Rights Advocates advancing the interests of women and girls. She is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame Law School, and the recipient of numerous awards for her work, most notably the ABA’s Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award.
During a several-year break from practicing law, Irma worked as a journalist with Pacific News Service and New America Media writing about race, class, gender, and culture. While working as a journalist she also served as a part-time visiting professor at The Colorado College and Sacramento State University.
She is now a full-time writer and performer. Her solo play, Why Would I Mispronounce My Own Name? weaves history and comedic insights into stories about names, shedding light and throwing shade on our prejudices and assumptions, including those prevalent in the legal profession. Her one-woman show had a five-month run at The San Francisco and Berkeley Marsh Theaters from October 2018 to May 2019. Irma has performed her play to sold-out audiences in theaters in Las Cruces, New Mexico, San Antonio, Texas, Fresno, California as well as theaters in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Several San Francisco law firms have engaged Irma to present excerpts of her play and to lead discussions on issues of diversity and inclusion.
You can follow Irma on social media at:
Twitter: @irmadherrera (note initial “d” between first and last name)
Instagram: @irmadherrera (note initial “d” between first and last name)
Founder, Executive Director, Editor-in-Chief
Julián Esteban Torres López is a Colombian-born journalist, publisher, podcaster, and editor. Before founding the nonfiction storytelling organization The Nasiona, he ran several cultural and arts organizations, edited journals and books, was a social justice and public history researcher, wrote a column for Colombia Reports, taught university courses, and managed a history museum. He’s a Pushcart Prize and Best Small Fictions nominee and has written two books on social justice. Torres López holds a bachelor’s in philosophy and in communication and a master’s in justice studies from University of New Hampshire and was a Ph.D. candidate at University of British Columbia Okanagan, where he focused on political science and Latin American studies.