We had the good fortune of connecting with Kathleen Hoyos and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kathleen, do you have a favorite quote or affirmation?
“You are the architect of your own destiny.” My mom would say this to me every day in the morning for as far back as I can remember. I don’t know where this quote originated, and I don’t think she knew its origin either. She is a single mother who emigrated here from Colombia and balanced three jobs at a time to raise me by herself and also take care of my grandmother. It is a quote that reminds me of how hard she worked and all that she sacrificed, so it always motivated me to make sure she saw that it had paid off. At the same time it empowered me, it made me an active participant in raising myself. It made me conscious of my choices even when she was working because ultimately I would be the one most affected by any choice I made. Today it reminds me to be patient. Architects take their time planning, designing and redesigning, calculating everything while remaining flexible to work with the materials at hand. So somedays I just have to close my eyes and remind myself that no matter what is happening, ultimately, I am the architect.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I strive to live a wholehearted life, so I lovingly put one hundred percent of myself into the things that I choose to do. Advocating for immigrant communities is something I am passionate about especially because my mother and most of my family lacked status in this country well into my adult life. The fears of my clients, their families, their children, resonate with me on a very personal level. I am able to channel that personal experience into my work. More importantly, working in an area of law that is so close to my lived experience ensures that my whole heart is in the work that I do.
Through my profession I’m able to help families stay together. I am very proud of that work. Outside of my work as an immigration attorney, I am passionate about linking immigrant communities with resources beyond the legal field. Irregular status affects access to healthcare, education and mentorship, housing, and food. There are many great organizations throughout the state that help provide these resources.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
The National Center for Civil and Human Rights is a must see! It is one of my favorite places in Atlanta, I’ve probably been over a dozen times and take anyone who comes to visit straight there. All the exhibits are beautifully done, informative, and emotional, both for adults and children it is a great experience.
I have a notorious sweet tooth so luckily Sublime Donut is open 24/7, I highly recommend their Dulce de Leche donut. Since one can’t survive on dessert alone, a trip down Buford Highway will cover any cravings. El Potro is one of my favorite places, the chori-queso, carnitas and margaritas are great. Las Delicias de la Abuela, a Colombian restaurant and a home away from home for me, is also on Buford Highway. The food is amazing and my favorite thing is that they walk around with trays of almojabanas (Colombian cheese bread) straight out of the oven, a temptation that is hard to resist. Desta for Ethiopian food and Food Terminal for Malaysian are great, too.
Eclipse di Luna would be my recommendation for an evening out. The tapas are great, the ambiance is jovial and they have a fantastic live Latin band on some week nights.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’ve been lucky enough to have many angels in my life, it is difficult to name them all. Carolina Antonini- partner at Antonini and Cohen- is definitely at the top of that list. She took a chance on me when I walked into her office, handed her my resume and told her I’d love to work at a law firm even though I had no experience. I had barely been in Atlanta a month and all I knew was I wanted to go to law school. She believed in me (and didn’t fire me) when, after only two weeks at reception, I told her I wanted to be a paralegal instead. She encouraged me and gave me the space to continue working and learning from her while I finished law school and took the bar exam. More than all that she has taught me about this field, she showed me that there was a place for a Latina in this line of work. Not a watered down version to fit into a legal world where we are the minority, but unapologetically and authentically ourselves in this field. She was the first Latina attorney that I had ever met and I was in my twenties. Now I work to mentor students from high school through law school, so hopefully it doesn’t take the next generation of WOC that long to see themselves reflected here. I owe much to her example, as well as to the unconditional love, support and encouragement of my amazing family and friends who believed in me every step of the way, even in the moments I doubted myself.
Venita Bell Shaw, VBS photography