“I want to be heard so that I can achieve my goals”.“I am alive to fight every day and to feel useful and happy”.

“I want to be heard so that I can achieve my goals”.“I am alive to fight every day and to feel useful and happy”.

María del Carmen Cisneros Pinazo, a woman with a disability, shows the illusion in her eyes as she tells us about her dreams and the pursuit of her goals. The interview is part of the Ready Women programme, co-funded by Erasmus + of the European Union.

Fotografía Carmen Cisneros, mujer con discapacidad

The Provincial Federation of Associations of People with Physical and Organic Disabilities of Seville (COCEMFE Seville) was able to interview Carmen Cisneros, 40 years old and with 79% cerebral palsy caused by a lack of oxygen during birth. She is a fighter, tireless and constant in the pursuit of her own achievements, the ones she wants, not the ones anyone else wants. In this interview we learn about Carmen’s life of self-improvement.

When she talks about her childhood, she does so with nostalgia, although she remembers situations that were not very pleasant.

“As time went by since I was born, my parents noticed that other children sat down, but I didn’t; instead of holding things with my right hand I held them with my left; I couldn’t put on shoes either because my feet were on the inside and I also had problems with my eyesight. My young parents started to take me to doctors to find out exactly what I had, they even took me to doctors in Barcelona”.

From then on, Carmen divided her life into two stages, that of schooling and that of hospitalisation, not an easy crossroads for a child.

“As far back as I can remember, I did my primary schooling at the Fuente Alegre public school in Málaga, which is my home town. Everything went on as normal, like just another girl in my class. Until the 4th year of EGB when there was a change of teacher and she spoke to the headmaster, because she flatly refused to take me to the toilet due to her back problems. Days before the start of the school year, they called my house and met with my mother to tell her that I was being expelled from school for this reason. You can’t even imagine how I felt when my mother gave me the sad news, when I was looking forward to the start of the school year to see my classmates. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I was studying, playing at recess, participating in all the costume parties with dresses made by my mother, and at no time did I feel different from the others as I was always surrounded by friends.”

However, in spite of this rock in Carmen’s path, it didn’t all go wrong. Her first teacher helped her mother find a school that accepted special education students, and that was CEIP Salvador Allende, where there were people with functional diversity. “They made it easier for me to go to my classes on the ground floor, I had a support person for the subjects I struggled to pass and to accompany me to the bathroom”.

“When I started 4th grade I couldn’t read fluently, but thanks to my teacher and classmates I caught up. The subject I was best at was Maths, unlike the rest of my class; and the worst, History and Geography, but, although I had to work hard, I passed it, and so on until the 8th year of EGB. But it wasn’t all about studying! I also made good friends! We played games, we told each other our secrets, and we even played pranks like taking the teacher’s car keys and hanging them on the blackboard, as he was short he couldn’t see them and he spent a long time looking for them while I was an accomplice. Until he got tired of going from class to class looking for them and he found them”. She laughs.

Carmen managed to get her school-leaving certificate, but not without effort and hours of study.

“I say that in my childhood I have had two homes: one with my parents and the other in the hospital where I have been in winter, summer, birthdays, Christmas, Easter… because of the various operations to improve my mobility, including tendon lengthening, spinal cord lengthening, etc.”.

Carmen tells us that she was operated on twice and on one of these occasions a bone was inserted from another person. In the same year, she was admitted to hospital as an emergency because of severe pain in her spine every time she tried to walk. In the last operation, the doctors found loose screws holding rods that were lodged in her spine. “From that moment on, my life took a 360-degree turn because, although they saved my life, they took away all movement. I stopped sitting on a bed, in a normal chair in the house, on the sofa, showering in a bathtub, as I have no control over my own back… All this makes me sad after so many years, but it’s the fucking reality”.

When asked about her profession, she makes it clear that since she was a child she wanted to work as a clerk and, years later, she discovered that she would also like to be a telephone operator.

Carmen has not seen her childhood dreams cut short because she has had everything a girl at her age usually has. “I’ve celebrated my birthdays with other girls, I’ve gone out to discos, and my friends even helped me when I wanted to go to see the boy I liked.

“I don’t deny that I have felt too protected, but that is a pending subject that we children should teach our parents, because they think that by protecting us they are doing us good, and it is quite the opposite, because the day your parents are gone you won’t know how to face your own life.

At the moment, Carmen has no long-term goals because “you have to enjoy the present”. “I would like to have my job, my house and my partner, but you have to be realistic. There are things that no matter how hard you fight in a thousand ways, if it’s not for you, don’t waste your time and look for something else that’s within your reach”.

Her most immediate goal at the moment is to work as a receptionist. “But the reality is very different. It’s a utopia because there are many barriers, they don’t even give you the opportunity to have experience; and without it they don’t hire you”. Carmen stresses that she has always been training, but “nothing is enough”, she does not get past the job interview because of her nerves and insecurities in herself. “I will not stop fighting for my right to a decent job that suits my needs, because I want to have my own home. Although, realistically, it is very difficult. I can’t afford it and I depend on a person who does a job that I have to pay for out of necessity. But I am alive to fight every day and to feel useful and happy”.

How important is the associative movement for you?

It has helped me to clarify my ideas about my future, both personally and professionally. It has formed me, I have met more people with the same concerns as me, and it has taught me to take life in a more serene way, because if you are anxious to do a lot of things, you don’t achieve anything.

What would you like to express to society?

First of all, that we are people with dreams, goals and a great desire to live. I dare to say that we are more than a person who does not depend on others to live our daily lives. We are not the people with disabilities who have to face society, enough of hearing “where are you going alone” or “poor thing”! Poor people who do not see that the passage of time can lead them to a situation similar to mine.

Do you beat life or does life beat you?

This question depends on the moment and the situation. If things go well for me, I have good self-esteem, but if it’s the other way round, I don’t see a way out of life for a while. I am aware of this and when I feel energetic, I start again or look for something different to motivate me.

In the hardest moments, what do you do to overcome them?

The first thing I do as a stubborn person is to keep quiet and face it on my own. But without finding the right solution. Therefore, I seek help from family, friends or, as a last resort, a specialist such as a psychologist, until I pick myself up and continue my daily struggle.

Do you feel lonely or, on the contrary, do you consider yourself a person surrounded by people who love you and care about you?

I know for a fact that I am not alone because I have my family and many people who know me, thanks to everything I have moved around in my life, both in terms of associations, travel, the different places I have lived… Besides, I am hard to forget… I have a family that has given me love and trust. They have never treated me differently for sitting down. If it wasn’t for my mother I wouldn’t be where I am today.Regarding friendships, some go and others appear. I believe that each stage puts you in front of the right person both to learn and to make mistakes. On the subject of couples, I have lived through the experience of impossible love, a silent love for fear of rejection as he does not have reduced mobility, but I am lucky that, although he knows it, we are still friends. My first partner was when I was 20 years old and he was 29, that’s when I experienced my first kiss, caress, hug… But also the inconveniences of being happy. Her family did not accept me because of my poor mobility and I suffered a lot, but I think it made me mature. I have been very lucky that my mother has not interfered in my relationships while I have been happy. I have had intimate relationships like any other person and even the illusion of getting married and having children, although I rule this out today. I would like to wear white.

What are your goals and achievements?

My goals are to have my own house, being aware of all the difficulties I have to achieve it; and to work to be able to live like anyone else. My achievements are to get up every day with the will to live, to fight against all odds to have the freedom I have today, because unfortunately I know people who are stuck with their parents and don’t know how to fend for themselves. I don’t consider myself the best, but I have faced very tough situations.

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