Natalicía, the executive director of the Brazilian Immigrant Center and the coordinator of the Massachusetts Domestic Workers Congress, is a tireless advocate for immigrant women and low-wage workers. Natalicía has overcome tremendous personal challenges as a first-generation immigrant and now dedicates her life to empowering other immigrant woman and mothers.
At the age of 19, Natalicía came to the United States from a rural part of Brazil, with no ability to speak English and no more than an eighth grade education, to work as a domestic for a family of two doctors. Their promise of opportunity and income met a grinding reality when Natalicía was paid $25 for over 70 hours of work a week, not allowed access to the telephone or mail and made to sleep in a three-season porch, even in the winter.
Drawing strength from her own story, Natalicía is an extremely organized advocate and a resilient, strategic thinker. Natalicía has worked as a powerful coalition-builder across racial lines and has effectively united labor and faith leaders to support the Massachusetts statewide immigrant rights and domestic workers movement. Natalicía’s leadership is remarkable on many levels, particularly the way in which she uses her abilities to empower other women, making space for them to rise with confidence and for their leadership to emerge.
As the director of Boston’s Brazilian Immigrant Center which serves 3,000 Latino immigrants annually around issues of labor, immigration, housing, consumer, civil and human rights—providing direct relief services as well as training and advocacy for the rights of the community through policy and research—Natalicía has helped spearhead projects like a pro bono legal mediation clinic and legal manual, both of which aim to improve domestic workers’ outcomes and relationships with their employers and are having a distinctly transformative effect. All the while, Natalicía is in the process of completing her doctorate in sociology at Boston University on the impact of immigration policy on mixed-status families.