Big Sis Spotlight: Rachel Jackson


“We are not going to show up on the syllabus. We always have to interrupt and tell our stories.”

Rachel Jackson’s passionate voice could be heard over the Starbucks noise as she explains how modern political theory can intersect with her Latina identity. Having majored in Politics and minored in Spanish, the knowledge that she absorbed in those college classrooms has shaped who she is and how she perceives the world around her.

After Jackson graduated from her local high school with an International Baccalaureate diploma, she was encouraged by her older sister to attend Pomona College, a top liberal arts college in California. Initially unsure of how to navigate in her new environment, the El Paso native struggled in her first year of college.

“In my first year [of Pomona] I was not doing well, I didn’t know what I liked, I was in a bad relationship…I almost transferred,” Jackson recalls.

Jackson is not afraid to admit that she struggled in her freshmen year. With the pressure of trying to find peers to connect with and of adjusting to the college environment and her classes, she began to feel isolated. By talking to the college’s psychologist, Jackson began recuperating from the stress and troubles that affected her. But what really made a significant impact on her was one of her politics classes. She had just finished writing a paper over Calvinism when her professor came to her, impressed by Jackson’s writing skills. She received her first A of the year from that paper and was shocked by both the grade and her professor’s remarks. Telling Jackson that she has an ability to talk intelligently about social contract theory, Jackson realized that this was an avenue to pursue.

Over the course of her college years, Jackson became involved in a variety of different groups and organizations that helped develop her ideas as a student and individual.

Jackson joined the Latino student organizations very early on in her college career, but found that machismo was present in some of these groups. Instead of being discouraged, she ended up joining black student organizations that allowed her to find the discussions and peers that she sought. Through these organization and others, Jackson was able to develop as an intellectual and individual.

Displaying a strong sense of self-awareness and of the society around her, she realized how the El Paso environment was different from Claremont’s. Although Jackson knew that the predominantly Mexican population in El Paso were “similar, but not really” to her as a Columbian, it didn’t bother her. However, she underwent a culture shock in California since the environment was vastly different from her hometown.

She soon realized that for many people, Latinos, regardless of ethnicity, were viewed as solely blue-collared workers. The majority of Latinos in Pomona seemed to be custodian or dining hall workers and this was something that Jackson noted. Driven by what she saw around her, she became involved in projects for marginalized communities.

Under Pomona’s Draper Center for Community Partnership, she was the program coordinator where she was able to reach out to communities the way she wanted to. The first project she did was English as Second Language, a program that paired non-English speaking workers within the university to students that volunteered to help. Another task that Jackson undertook was LEGS (Leadership Engagement in Gender and Sexuality), a project that allowed Pomona’s Career Center to work with a local high school’s Gay and Straight Alliance Club. This project would provide support to those local high school students that wanted to explore any questions they had.

Jackson became involved in the Student Government her senior year where she was elected as president of Senate. The committee changed the conversation on campus by trying to have an ethnic studies class to be a requirement for all incoming Pomona students.  Exposing students to a different perspective about others was something that Jackson believes to be important.

With the realization of the world’s injustices in high school through literature and poems, and the example from her family of helping others, Jackson became driven to help those around her. Jackson states that coming from an immigrant family there is this sense that you have to go to college to achieve the American Dream, but Pomona made her “realize there are other options.” Driven to make a difference, she is now looking for a job that involves legal work to see if she would like law school.

Encouraging Girls in Computing

Daniela Miranda
Young Women in Computing Program Coordinator
Employer: New Mexico State University

Hometown: Chihuahua, Mexico

What are some of your job responsibilities?
I’m focused on outreach to increase the number of students in computer science. Help them find I run after-school programs and summer camps where girls learn about Snap, lego robotics, app inventor for middle school and introduction to Linux, Java Script and HTML. We attend conferences where such as the Grace Hopper conference where college students get good internships. I recruit and find opportunities. We are there for any girls who need us to present to help introduce girls we like to spread the word about computer science.

What is your educational background?
I have an accounting degree from Mexico. When I came from Mexico, I got a business degree. My family was here in Texas, so I came too. There are better opportunities here. My degree gave me all the tools to be able to succeed. I always had a part-time job so that helped me get a job.

What did you do to prepare for this career?
Never give up.

What is your favorite part of your job?
I like getting to know new people and meet young women and connect them with the opportunities that our program offers. We want to recruit more Hispanic young women, but most of the time the Hispanic population doesn’t know about opportunities in computer science. Because there are a lot of job openings. By 2020 there will be a lot of opportunities in computer science.

Career Spotlight: Engineer Libby Howell

Position & Title: Electrical Engineer/ Computer Network Assessor Auditor
Employer: US Army Research Laboratory
City & State: El Paso, Texas

What are some of your job responsibilities?
“We do certifications and accreditation of army systems for the risk management framework. Normally, I am a team lead so we go and access the army systems to make sure that they meet the minimum requirements as far as security poster […] so they don’t get hacked into. The requirements are part of the NISTA: National Institute of Standards of Technology. That’s one area, the other area is that I work for a directorate under the Army Research Laboratory that’s called Survivability Lethality Analysis. So we perform all types of survivability analysis and again, in support of the Army to make sure that they are survivable when they are being built. My area has to do more with information assurance. We test army systems as they are going through a developmental cycle to make sure that they could survive a cyber attack. So we run tests, we do penetration tests, and also […] evaluate the soldiers on how well they can detect, react, and restore their systems if there is a cyber attack.”

What is your educational background?
“I have a Bachelor’s of Science in Electrical Engineering. When I first started working for the Department of Defense, I used to work the modernizing the radars that were used as instruments for testing out in White Sands Missile Range. That was my first job so […] I couldn’t have done that if I didn’t have an engineering degree.”

How did you find your current job?
“I was looking for a job locally […] and really there weren’t a lot of technical jobs. Most people either went to work for Fort Bliss or White Sands [for those who were engineers.] So I applied to White Sands and I got the job. Another interesting thing though, is that back then, I was the first female engineer they ever had. A year later another [woman] got hired. I mean they had females, but as secretaries and they had two female technicians, but was the first female engineer [at that one organization]….It was an organization that was called the Instrumentation Directorate. We basically were involved in modernizing or providing new instruments that were used to collect data.”

What did you do to prepare for this career?
“I studied hard. You know the reason I got into engineer is kind of weird. Math came easy to me and I liked it, but I didn’t know what to do with math [in the beginning]. I didn’t want to be a teacher, that didn’t interest me so I figured that engineering is the application of math. So that’s why I picked it. I didn’t know anything about EE (Electrical Engineering) when I was in high school. When I was in high school, it was very different from your guys went. There wasn’t any AP classes and all these special programs, you just did the basics. I was never really exposed to it.”

What is your favorite part of your job?
“It’s really the people, my coworkers. Nothing that we do is ever one person. We do a lot of test events so we do things as a group.”

What is the most challenging part of your job?
“What’s challenging is keeping up with the changes, especially for computers. Things are changing so rapidly, it’s a lot of stuff you have to know. You need to know the ins and outs because you need to know that in order to try to exploit the weaknesses.

What advice would you give to help a girl prepare for a job like yours?
“It’s a great career…and there are so many applications in the engineering field. You can apply it to so many different things. As a EE you can work with car manufactures, aero-space industry, electronics, there are so many different applications that I think is a very good field.”

What do you do for fun when you aren’t working?
“I take art classes, I’ve always liked art. I read a lot. I like doing things with my hands so I take a lot, what they call continued education classes at the community college, that have to with crafts. I love crafts so I’ve taken mosaic, stained glass, metal embossing…I used to love art in high school. I at one point considered, doing something in that field. At the end of the year [next year], I would’ve retired. I would have had 32 years. I want to take a lot more classes, I want to do faces and people, but that’s a lot harder. I want to do wood working and learn to play the piano again. I also want to volunteer. I haven’t decided if I want to do a nursing home or a shelter for battered women.”

Latina Actresses Making a Difference

Whether they’re famous or not, these women are rising up the Latina pride. These women have achieved incredible things and they should be recognized for everything they’ve done, not just for being a pretty face or for being famous.

Rosario Dawson
Born in the US, Rosario Dawson has Puerto Rican and Afro-Cuban roots; she’s a singer, actress and writer. Rosario started her career at a very young age and has appeared in movies such as Sin City, Men in Black II, Cesar Chavez and many more.

Dawson is the co-founder of Voto Latino, she’s really passionate about promoting Latinos, raising awareness about Latinos; they are a big part of the US population, to promote Latino talent and to make people involved in political issues.

Besides her work with Voto Latino and according to Looktothestars.org, Dawson has worked with different organizations such as, Artists for Peace and Justice, DoSomething.org, Global Cool, Make-A-Wish Foundation and ONE Campaign.

 

Zoe Saldana
She has Dominican and Puerto Rican roots and lived in Dominican Republic for 7 years, then moved back to the States to pursue her dancing dream and her love for theater.

Saldana has worked in movies such as Avatar, Guardians of the Galaxy, Start Trek and many more. In several occasions she has proven to be proud of her Latina roots, and after being on the cover of Glamour magazine she did an interview with Glam Belleza Latina where Saldana stated, “I am proud to be Latina. I will not accept [anyone] telling me that I’m less or whatever, because to me, that is just hysterical. But I don’t like to break and divide myself into all these small little categories like, ‘I’m an American, a woman, a Latina, a black Latina.’’ No. I am Zoe.”

 

Gina Rodriguez
Gina has been recognized majorly for her role on Filly Brown, and now following her big role as the star of the TV show Jane the Virgin. Rodriguez’s success has been thanks to the fact that she’s been working hard at a young age: performing, dancing, acting and studying in different art schools, always trying to improve. In her busy schedule Rodriguez also has managed her time and made space to work with different organizations. Rodriguez is supporter of Inspira, an organization dedicated to give attention to Latino leaders who help in their communities, Rodriguez has worked with the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts.

 

Michelle Rodriguez

Known for always being the tough chick in many roles; the most significant one so far has been being part of the Fast & Furious saga. However, not only that, but Rodriguez has also made a name of herself by being different. Rodriguez has a personal mark and that has made a difference around the Hollywood actresses, she has proven that girls can be strong and still be intelligent and attractive.

Rodriguez has helped Sea Shepherd, an organization dedicated to stop the whale killing, and has also hosted different fundraisers for different organizations.

Karla Souza

Born in Mexico City, Souza has taken many risks to succeed in her acting career. She started with small roles on TV then began participating on big Mexican productions such as “We Are the Nobles” and “Instructions not Included”, which were a big hit in Mexico and got the attention from several other countries. Another of Souza’s dreams was to be a Hollywood actress; her family trusted her but they weren’t sure if she was going to make it, but Souza proved them wrong and made it. Souza is part of the TV show “How to Get Away with Murder” and has worked on many other movies who will be released later.

All of these women have different traits that have made them stand out from the rest, but there’s one thing they share: being Latinas. They have proven that dreams do come true, as long as you work hard and take risks. If one of your goals in life is to become an actress, it’s possible. The road is not easy, but just as these women, you can achieve it too!

Running with Ambition

Behrend-Track-main-resizedA successful athlete and student, Ayla Lopez has worked hard to be where she is today. Entering her senior year of high school this year, she looks forward to another running season and beyond that: college. This is her story.

Often training in the scorching heat of Texas, Alya Lopez has been working hard to reach a new PR (Personal Record, reference to your best time in an event). Determined to break physical and mental barriers, she trains year round to compete in the 800m and 1500m with the hopes of being better than the race before. Training since she was eight years old, Lopez will soon reach the tenth year mark as a runner and athlete.

Lopez wasn’t always a runner; she started off as a cheerleader. Eight-year old Ayla would be practicing her twirls and cheers, but would sometimes watch her older brother train under the guidance of Sam Walker, a legendary track coach of El Paso. Wanting to try it out, Lopez went to a few practices and thought it was “fun.” From there her running career began.

Lopez continued on running even when she was discouraged by others or faced defeat. She was told that running wasn’t “girly enough” and that she should stick with cheerleading. Ignoring these comments  she continued training and in her first race as an eight year old, she got dead last in the 800m race and was told that maybe running wasn’t for her. It was only a year later where she qualified for the opportunity to run at Nationals where she won her first All-American title. Since then Lopez has been going to Nationals across the nation almost every year, visiting Nebraska, Virginia, South Carolina, Texas, Alabama, and most recently Chicago, Illinois where she has earned All-American titles in the 800m and 1500m and PRed almost every year.

When Walker decided to retire from coaching mid-way through Lopez’s running athletic career, her father stepped in and created the running club TexaStrong. Under her father’s guidance, Lopez has able to overcome obstacles as an athlete and achieve the PRs she wanted. Training simultaneously with her high school team and with TexaStrong during the school year, she trains up to 17.5 hours a week with one day off. During the summer, Lopez trains twice a day to become a stronger athlete. However, this can sometimes strain her body, her will, and her spirit.

“Before Nationals [last year], I had bad shin splints and road runs hurt, I was burnt out. But I looked at old pictures and videos of me training [when I was younger] and remembered that [running] is something I love,” says Lopez.

While Lopez is a remarkable runner, she is just as impressive academically and as a community member. She was invited to be a part of the National Hispanic Institute (NHI), an organization geared towards recognizing academically successful Latinos, as a sophomore. Lopez was nominated as All District Academic in Track her sophomore year as well, an award given to a male and female athlete (for every sport) that has the highest GPA within the district.

Lopez volunteers at the local public library, Dorris Van Doren, where she reads to children every Wednesday in the summertime. She has also helped coach the younger kids in father’s running club when she is taking time off or in her off season. Other times she is acts as a volunteer and counselor at Rescue Mission in El Paso or the Yellow Mustard Café (a shelter for the homeless). Lopez has also been involved in the fundraising for donation to a local women’s shelter.

“Don’t compare yourself to others, you know what you can do,” Lopez advices. “Don’t give up, take a moment to look back and ask yourself why it was your passion. You can do so much more. It’s not easy, but doable.”

As Lopez continues her goals as an athlete and student, she hopes to go to a Texas college that will give her an opportunity to run for them. With hard work and dedication, Lopez is a prime example of how it pays off in the end.

Michelle Phan: Remaining True to Your Goals

maxresdefaultThis March during Spring Break I had the opportunity, thanks to Latinitas, to attend SXSW. SXSW is a set of film, interactive and music festivals and conferences that occur annually in Austin, Texas. This year both Latinos and women were prominently featured, and I attended with the goal of learning as much as I could from figures that are inspiring to Latinitas. One figure in particular caught my attention as I know that she is especially popular among preteen and teenage girls. That person is Michelle Phan, the explosively famous YouTuber who performs makeup tutorials on camera, and also runs her own makeup line called Em.

Michelle, along with Lucky Magazine editor-in-chief Eva Chen, headed a panel about how to remain true to ourselves and to our goals. Michelle started out the panel by noting that “right now is such a hard time to be a female because we are judged on so many different platforms.” She’s right: real life, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat…There are dozens of different ways in which who we are and what we say and how we look are analyzed and judged. So what’s a girl to do?

Michelle said that first off it is important to decide who you are. You must ask yourself: “What do you represent? What story do you want to tell?” It is important to ask yourself these questions because without a sense of what you believe and who you want to be you may fall prey to the lies others tell you about yourself.

Speaking of those with unkind things to say, Michelle says to “ignore the bullies and give platform to those speaking and doing good.” Once you have a vision for yourself and have learned to combat negativity you are ready to begin actively achieving your goals. Surround yourself with those who believe in and support those goals.

Michelle knows what she’s taking about. Behind her glamorous image and creative talent is a woman who endured much hardship to get to where she is today. Born to Vietnamese immigrants, her father left the family when she was very young. Her mother, living in poverty, struggled to provide for Michelle and her brother. She dreamed of Michelle becoming a doctor. Michelle, as much as she loved her mother and wanted to make her happy, knew instinctively that medicine was not her calling. So at the last minute she enrolled in art classes instead and paid her way working as a waitress.

She did not begin filming her YouTube videos until she was turned down for a job selling makeup at the Lancôme counter. She knew that, despite what others believed, she had a talent for makeup and could use it to help others. She began discussing and applying makeup herself on camera, and quickly gained followers. Her “Barbie Makeup” tutorial has 6 million views and counting! Major beauty lines soon noticed her success and talent. Lancôme, who had once turned her down for a job, returned to offer Michelle her very own makeup line with them! A while later, she received an offer for a book deal.

Today, Michelle has over 7 million subscribers to her YouTube channel, a makeup line called ‘Em’ and a published book. But even as she works hard to remain successful she remembers the importance of giving back to those most in need. At the SXSW panel she told the audience that she was headed to China the next day to promote a non-profit that foments education on a global scale. Her dedication to both achieving her own dreams and helping others to achieve theirs is an inspiring reminder that when we discover our life purpose we positively affect the lives of others.

Journalist Zita Arocha

Zita Arocha

Zita Arocha

 Zita Arocha is a Cuban-American bilingual journalist and senior lecturer in the University of Texas At El Paso. She is director of Borderzine.com, a multimedia web magazine that prepares Hispanic college journalists for jobs in 21st century newsrooms. For over 20 years, she worked as a reporter for The Washington PostThe Miami Herald, The Miami News and The Tampa Times. She was executive director of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists from 1993-1997, and was training coordinator for the Freedom Forum’s Chips Quinn Scholars Program from 2000-2002. She has also been a freelance contributor to various national publications.

What are your job responsibilities?
Right now, I am the director of an online magazine called Borderzine.com and also, I teach some of the Journalism courses.

What is your educational training?
I always wanted to be a teacher, but life had other things prepared.  My first job was at the Tampa Time and later I went to work at El Nuevo Harold in Miami. In the first newspaper I applied as a secretary, because there weren’t any current positions open. I waited a season. Finally one reporter quit his job, and I applied for it. My boss at that time taught me what I know now. He was my mentor and a big support of my career. I have also worked at the Washington Post and The Miami News.

How did you find your current job?
I was invited to teach at UTEP in 2002. I had come to El Paso years before and I thought that it was a nice place to live. Dr. Weatherspoon had made me the invitation to come to the university and teach communication. I felt so glad, because I studied to be a teacher and that opportunity came to me at the right moment. Also, I am the current director of Borderzine Magazine at UTEP and is for Hispanic journalist pursuing an opportunity in the journalism.

How did you prepare for this career?
Honestly, your daily work prepares you for your career. I earned a master’s degree in English and comparative literature from the University of South Florida, and recently I earned a MFA in bilingual creative writing at UTEP. My most recent job has been a memoir, Leaving Cuba.

What is your favorite part of the job?
My favorite part is seeing bright new students each semester. Also, there is always something new to do, to learn and even to write. I like that my students get engaged in communications. We see them now everywhere and I believe that in the communication area you never will get bored.

What is the most challenging part of the job?
I remember when I used to write stories from the court rooms, I would get chills of the cases I used to hear. It is one of the parts about my job, which I most enjoyed. Being there, in the middle of all those sometime terrible, great and inspiring jury verdicts. Reporting those cases was something that I will always remember. I even enjoy telling them to my students or even to someone that is interviewing me, like you.

What do you do for fun when you aren’t working?
Most of my time I spend it at school. But, like on the weekend I spend the time with my husband at our house. We are common people that do common things.

Social Activist Dolores Huerta

Did you know that…

Activist and labor leader, Dolores Huerta has dedicated her life to working to improve social and economic conditions for farm workers and to fight discrimination. She was born Dolores Fernandez on April 10, 1930, in Dawson, New Mexico. She grew up in Stockton, California in the San Joaquin Valley. In 1960, she co-founded the United Farm Workers (UFW) with Cesar Chavez.

In the early 1950s, she completed a teaching degree at Delta Community College. She worked as an elementary school teacher where she saw that her students living in poverty without enough food or the basic necessities. To help, she became one of the founders of the Stockton chapter of the Community Services Organization (CSO) to improve social and economic conditions for farm workers and to fight discrimination.

To further her cause, Huerta created the Agricultural Workers Association (AWA) in 1960.  In 1962, she co-founded a workers’ union with Cesar Chavez, which was later called the United Farm Workers (UFW). Huerta was instrumental in the union’s successes, including the strikes against California grape growers in the 1960s and 1970s.

She has received many honors for her activism, including the Ellis Island Medal of Freedom Award (1993), the National Women’s Hall of Fame (1993) and the Eleanor Roosevelt Award (1998). In May 2012, President Barack Obama awarded Dolores Huerta with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a civilian can receive.

Huerta is president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, which she founded in 2002.The Dolores Huerta Foundation is a ”community benefit organization that organizes at the grassroots level, engaging and developing natural leaders. DHF creates leadership opportunities for community organizing, leadership development, civic engagement, and policy advocacy in the following priority areas: health & environment, education & youth development, and economic development. Huerta continues to work tirelessly developing leaders and advocating for the working poor, women and children.

10 Latinas in History

It’s Women’s History Month and what better way to celebrate then to learn about some awesome Latinas that have made an impact in the world. From politics to sports to education, there is no shortage of chicas that have made a name for themselves and have proven to be some world-class women. Here is a list of 10 Latinas who have made an impact!

Rosie7Rosemary Casals

Rosemary “Rosie” Casals is a former American professional tennis player. Rosie is a daughter to immigrants from El Salvador. Her parents, discovering that they could not care for her or her sister, gave them up and she lived with her uncle, Manuel Casals, who became her first and only tennis coach. Rosie was known as rebellious and entered tournaments against women two or three years older than her. She was determined to prove herself despite her shorter stature and different background compared to the wealthy White players commonly seen. Rosie was known for fighting for rights of tennis players and women players. She fought for an arrangement for amateur – poorer and nonpaid players – and professional players to play in the same tournament. And most notably, she fought for the right of women to have the same amount of prize money compare to their male counterparts. Rosie and a group of women boycotted tournaments and created an all-female tournament that gained a lot of media attention. Her endeavors helped pave the way for female tennis athletes.

Sylvia Mendez

Sylvia Mendez was 9 years old when her and her sibling were denied enrollment into their local elementary school because they were Mexican. Interestingly enough, her cousins were allowed enrollment because they were half-Mexican, therefore had lighter skin and a French surname that allowed them admission into the “white school.” Mendez’s parents were appalled and filed suit against the school district, bringing forth one of the most groundbreaking cases in Civil Rights. The Mendez vs. Westminster outlawed segregation in California schools and is set as precedent for other cases, such as Brown v. Board of Education. Sylvia Mendez was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 2011 by President Obama and has received several Lifetime Achievement awards and Certificates of Recognition for her role in advocating education.

Rosario Dawson and Maria Theresa Kumar

Rosario Dawson and Maria Theresa Kumar are founders of the organization Voto Latino. Voto Latino is a nonpartisan organization that encourages Latinos to vote in elections.  The organization targets Latino Millennials and hopes to encourage them to take advantage and claim a better future for themselves and their community. Voto Latino’s goal is produce a positive change by engaging youth to be more proactive. This organization has received recognition for their endeavors toward Latinos.

Mari-Luci Jaramillo

Mari-Luci Jaramillo was a pioneer in Bilingual Education. She emphasized collaborative learning, whole language, bilingual/bicultural education, and taught children identity and a self-love for learning. She taught elementary school during the day and attended Masters program at night, as education is an important aspect through out her life. Her classroom, at one of the poorest schools in Albuquerque, became a demonstration site for people across the country. Jaramillo was known as a “master teacher.” In 1977, President Carter appointed her U.S Ambassador of Honduras and became the first Latina ambassador.

Mirabal Sisters

The Mirabal Sister were four Dominican sisters – Patria, Dede, Minerva, and Maria Theresa – who opposed the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. Minerva was the first of the sisters to become active in the overthrow of the dictator and eventually the rest of the sisters joined the efforts. They created a group called The Movement of the Fourteenth of June, which distributed pamphlets detailing of Trujillo’s horrendous actions and acquired bombs and guns for their impending revolt. They were called La Mariposas (The Butterflies). The sisters and their husbands faced multiple incarcerations but it did not discourage their efforts. They continued to oppose Trujillo until he became deeply troubled by their actions causing him to order an assassination. On November 25, 1960, Trujillo’s henchmen killed Patria, Minerva, and Maria– leaving Dede as the last remaining Mirabal sister.  On December 17, 1999 the United Nations General Assembly appointed November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in honor of the sisters.

Adelfa Botello Callejo

Adelfa Botello Callejo is a former Dallas layer and civil rights leader. Callejo was the first Latina to graduate from law school at Southern Methodist University and was one of three women in her graduating class. After law school, this aspiring lawyer had to create her own private practice because she would only be hired as a legal secretary. Her actions included the protest against the fatal police shooting of a Mexican-American 12-year-old boy in 1973, protests against the deportation of immigrants, fighting for City Council redistricting, and frequent encounters with the Dallas school districts to push for better bilingual education. Callejo was sometimes called La Madrina (“The Godmother”).

Aida Alvarez

Aida Alvarez is the first Latina in a United States Cabinet-level position. During Bill Clinton’s presidency, in 1997, Alvarez was appointed as the Administrator of the Small Business Administration. Coming from humble roots, after leaving Puerto Rico, Alvarez attended high school in New York and participated in a program called “ASPIRA.” This program’s goal was to help disadvantage youth and instilled leadership skills and helped them in their endeavors to attend college. From a journalist at the New York Post, to TV news anchor for Metromedia Television, to venturing out into the banking business, Alvarez worked her way up in her career.

Dolores Huerta

Dolores Huerta is well known for co-founding the National Farmworkers Association with Cesar Chavez. The organization is one of the largest and most successful farm workers unions and is currently active in ten states. This labor leader and civil rights activist has been incarcerated approximately twenty-two times for her non-violent civil disobedience, as well as been beaten by Sand Francisco police publicly in 1988 for a peaceful and lawful protest. Huerta has received many awards for her advocacy for women’s rights, worker’s rights, and immigrant’s rights, such as the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights and Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Rita Moreno

Rita Moreno hit the big screen in 1961 when she played the role of Anita in Westside Story. While she had smaller roles prior to this musical, this role is what gave her much recognition. Moreno is one of the few performers, and only Hispanic, to be awarded all four annual major American entertainment awards: an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and the Tony award. Moreno is, also, the second Puerto Rican to receive an Oscar. This actress made a name in the entertainment business and paved the way for later Latina actresses.

Sonia Maria Sotomayor

Sonia Sotomayor was the first justice of Hispanic heritage, as well as one of the youngest. Sotomayor graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University and earned her Juris Doctor from Yale Law School. She is advocate for hiring more Latino faculty at both school, Princeton and Yale. After working as an assistant district attoenty and eneterning private practice, in 1991, President George H.W. Bush nominated her to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York. She served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 1998–2009. President Barack Obama nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on May 26, 2009, and she assumed this role August 8, 2009

 

Latina in the Art World

ArtSuppliesIris Cahill is the Coordinator of Docents and Tours at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas. The museum is well known for its collections of European and Latin American Art, and Iris, who has studied art for most of her life, is well versed in its artwork. She has become a prominent figure at the well-established art institution.

However, her rise to career and personal success was not an easy one. She faced doubts and struggles from the time she was small. She was raised in Puerto Rico by her single mother. Iris’s father had left the family when her little sister was just a few months old. She would never see or speak to him again.

Nonetheless her youth was not an unhappy one. Her mother and grandparents were dedicated to her upbringing, and they encouraged creativity from the time she was small, giving her art supplies like clay and colored pencils and also buying her violin and classical guitar lessons.

As a teen, she moved with her mother and sister to Hawaii, where she volunteered with the local community arts program, helping to design materials and organize events. At 17, while still in high school, she took introductory art classes at a junior college.

Thinking back on those years she says, “high school is about figuring out who you are and building those tools accordingly. I fell in love with being creative. Art is timeless. Art connects all cultures throughout history.”

Cultivating her love for art in her Introduction to Painting and Introduction to Sculpture classes, she decided to pursue a Bachelor in Fine Arts at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She then returned to Puerto Rico as an entrepreneur. There she started her own freelance graphic design business, designing book covers and websites among other things. Though she enjoyed her work, she felt instinctively that she was not yet finished pursuing her love of art. She followed her gut and decided to pursue a Masters in Art History at the prestigious Boston University.

But not everyone was as excited about her decision as she was. Friends and family discouraged her from pursuing a master’s degree. “What are you going to do with a Master’s in Art History?” She was often asked.  Iris entered the program nonetheless. She knew what she loved to do. Looking back she says: “If you are passionate and curious about something you can make it work for you.”

While in school, she worked at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts as a Gallery Lecturer. Once she graduated she secured the position of Coordinator of Docents and Tours at the Blanton Museum of Art where she still works today. She says her favorite part of her job is teaching people about the artwork: creating a personal connection between the viewer and the work, and changing people’s minds about art.

Still Iris dreams about the future, and how to evolve in her pursuit of art. She says that she would like to further explore art’s role in psychology and counseling. She also wants to work to expose more teenagers to art. She has a message for young girls interested in learning more about their own passions: “Opportunity is out there for teenagers.” The Blanton Museum itself welcomes volunteers of all ages. The museum is open free to the public and stays open late with dance and music performances, Spanish tours, and even yoga in the galleries on the third Thursday of the month!

This summer, the museum opens a new exhibition entitled “Impressionism in the Caribbean”, featuring Puerto Rican painter Francisco Oller. Iris encourages Latinitas in the area to check out the exhibit or to just come by and say hello! For those Latinitas outside of Austin, she encourages them to check out art exhibits in their area. Most of all she wants to remind girls of the importance of exploring their passions.

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