Ysabella Osses knows what it’s like to live with the legacy of a dictator. Born in Chile soon after the ouster of Augusto Pinochet, the 28-year-old Floridian heard from family members about the fear they lived in during the Pinochet years and saw firsthand the damage done by Pinochet’s “Chicago School” economic policies.
Coming to the United States as a teenager, Osses saw her mother struggle with discrimination and lack of opportunity. Her identity as a socialist began to take shape, spurred, too, by stories that could finally be told. Her uncle spoke of the U.S. role in the overthrow of the democratically elected socialist president Salvador Allende; she learned of the torture and imprisonment of thousands, the daily terror of not knowing who would be the next to disappear.
College brought a political epiphany: “It wasn’t until I took a post-colonial theory class in college that I put all of the pieces together,” Osses says. After college, she began teaching sixth, eighth, and eventually ninth grade in Florida at a Title I school that serves children from low-income families. Although she loved teaching, she feared backlash from the school administration that her teaching style might be too leftist. “Politically, I didn’t really feel comfortable in the education system,” she says. After three years, she took a job where politics was front and center.
As an organizer for a local political non-profit, Osses has extensive experience with on-the-ground politics. Both she and the organization she works for focus on politically organizing Black and brown Floridians. For Osses, building power by giving Black and brown women a political education is of particular importance. One of her biggest challenges, she believes, is providing this political education for aspiring organizers and political leaders. She has noticed that some events held by left-leaning organizations use extremely inaccessible language—making it difficult for people to join the movement if they don’t understand some of these academic terms. “I have seen people show up to events and they don’t have the political vocabulary to understand terms like ‘socialism’ or ‘praxis.’ We put that political vocabulary into everyday language.”
On the day we spoke, Osses had spent hours trying to convince Latinx voters to vote for Joe Biden. “It’s difficult,” she says, because “many Latinx voters supported Sanders in the primary.”
Long before Osses joined DSA, she collaborated with the organization, and hearing Angela Davis and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talk about DSA spurred her to join. Although Osses is now part of an organization where fellow members share her political views, she admits that there is some fun in trying to organize with people that don’t agree with her.
“I like political conflict; I have learned how to de-escalate in political conversations,” Osses says. De-escalating conflicts, after all, has the potential to win people over to your side—even though it can be extremely difficult. As we end our conversation, Osses tells me she is trying to convert a libertarian.