KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Music came into Flor Lizbeth Cruz Longoria's life during a turbulent time as a young immigrant.
"I was old enough to see the differences from when we lived in Mexico to when we came to the U.S.," Longoria said. "It was a very lonely time because now my parents had to overwork just because of their status. They were actually not allowed to use their college studies from Mexico in the States, so it was very frustrating and I could see that with them, on them."
Longoria spent much of her young childhood in Mexico.
"I was born in Texas, spent a week there, went back to Mexico," she said. "I spent most of my time in Mexico with my extended family, which is something I'm really thankful for that I got to grow up with my aunts and uncles."
Even after moving to a bordering town, Longoria and her family spent their weekends in Mexico with extended family.
In 2008, Longoria's eigth-grade year, she and her family moved permanently to the U.S.
"We spent 12 years not being able to go back to Mexico because of how long and expensive the residency and citizenship are, and my parents couldn't travel — that meant we couldn't travel," Longoria said. "It was very tough because not only was I in a different country, but I was around people that I didn't know at all. I didn't speak English, we moved a lot those first couple of years because just the financial security."
Moving, learning a new language and culture, and seeing her parents' sacrifices took a toll on her mental health.
"It resulted in a lot of anxiety, that and a lot of depression," Longoria said. "I was in a very dark space, and flute changed all of that for me."
The instrument that provided a therapeutic release turned into a career.
"If sixth-grade me could see everything that I've done and where I've played and with whom I've played, she would be really excited," Longoria said.
Longoria now holds private lessons and leads two programs at Harmony Project KC: Path to College and Care Services, which aligns with her passion for music and making sure those who come after her are well-represented with the resources they need to succeed.
"In graduate school, I was the only Latina, and I was one of three in the conservatory when I got there that spoke Spanish," she said. "And so that has also been part of the fight is making sure we accomplish these goals so that others can see us and can say, 'Well if they did it, I can do it.'"
She's also making sure her roots are amplified through the music she plays.
"The past three to five years, I've been focusing on just playing music by musicians of color, which is still very underrepresented in music, so that has brought new joy," Longoria said. "It finally feels like I'm bringing myself into the music."
Reflecting on how she used to escape dark times, Longoria serves as a light to others following in her footsteps.
"I think it's extremely important for BIPOC kids to see themselves reflected in those who are leading them," she said.
Longoria put together a number of different events highlighting and advocating for minorities in music, including a free festival where the focus was on exploring, advocating and exulting the contributions of minorities in music.
She also founded an organization called Colectiva Huēhuecoyōtl, which focuses on the advancement of Black, Indigenous and people of color in the music industry.