Immigrant is Only One Label
Partnering with Mamás Con Poder for Women’s History Month to feature Latina Immigrant stories was such an honor. Immigrant women make contributions in our communities. Their stories make an impact in our lives.
Texas Latina Immigrant Women
Throughout Women’s History Month, I interviewed three immigrant women from Texas to learn more about their stories and their work. First, Ángeles Valenciano, CEO of Texas Diversity Council reminds us how important it is to tell our own stories. Ángeles came to the United States from San Luis Potosi, Mexico to study engineering via an internship in Louisville, KY. She transitioned to a career in advocating for diversity, equity and inclusion and is most proud of being able to see leaders around her today that look like her. She acknowledges that she is not done yet and will soon reinvent her career once again.
“We should be the one to share our stories. They do not belong to anyone else.” - Ángeles Valenciano
Second, Bessy Martinez arrived in the United States with her parents from El Salvador fleeing the war in the 1980s. Arriving in the U.S. and crossing the Rio Grande was challenging as they were separated and held in detention centers along the border. Thanks to community advocacy, her family was eventually granted immunity. Bessy is now an entrepreneur committed to supporting women in her business The Everyday Jefa. She is following her mom’s example of paying it back by supporting immigrants who need to be heard and supported.
Finally, Sandra Garcia, State Chair of Hispanic Women’s Network of Texas, shared how her family came to the United States from Durango, Mexico and faced challenges in obtaining an education due to their undocumented status. As policy changed and because she persisted, Sandra completed her education but not without challenges. Sandra now works to support Latinas going to college through the Latinas in Progress program.
Honoring Immigrant Women Event - San Antonio, TX
Mamás Con Poder’s first Texas in-person event was in San Antonio, TX to wrap up Women’s History Month. I invited two Latina immigrant leaders to share their stories with an audience of local community leaders, business owners and advocates. The two special guests were Paulina Sandoval, Co-Owner/Co-Founder of First Assured Quality Systems – Quality Control and Risk Management Solutions; and Yorka Valesco-Caballero, Key Account Manager at Staples, Inc.
The event was held at the Latino Bookstore’s Progreso Community Center, a part of the historic Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. We began with networking time to encourage attendees to meet one another and enjoy refreshments from immigrant-owned caterer, Vida Mia Mexican Cuisine. Before the panel discussion started, the attendees were greeted by Cristina Balli, Executive Director of The Guadalupe. We also heard from Bexar County Judge Rosie Speedlin-Gonzalez who offered words of encouragement to get involved with issues that are important to us like immigration.
The conversation began with Paulina and Yorka sharing their immigration journey with the attendees. Paulina crossed the border from Mexico with her mom following a coyote. Yorka and her family immigrated to the U.S. when she was a teenager from Bolivia. Upon arriving, they both faced unique challenges. Paulina faced heart health challenges including needing a life saving surgery. Yorka’s challenges included adjusting to life in a small town compared to big city life in La Paz, Bolivia.
The attendees were able to ask questions after the panel discussion and learn from the two Latina leaders. For many attendees, they were able to see parts of their own stories in the featured guests and in each other. The conversation opened up and the women in the room were offering resources and advice to help each other out. In addition to the conversations, many attendees offered support to DACA recipients by signing a Mamá Con Poder petition asking Congress to take action to protect DACA recipients and their families.
Latina Immigrant Contributions
What I learned is that the term “immigrant” is only one identifier for these women. Latina immigrant women are leaders, business owners, caretakers, innovators, community-builders and much more. As a business owner, Paulina Sandoval employs hundreds across the country. Yorka Velasco-Caballero trains leaders not just in her professional organization but also in her nonprofit iEmpower.org. Now more than ever, it is important to share their stories.
Immigrants contribute so much to our communities. Those contributions must continue to be uplifted and honored. As a proud Tejana, it is an honor to play a small part in sharing these women’s stories with you. Please share them with others.
If you are interested in supporting immigrants and their progress, visit mamasconpoder.org and sign up for their newsletter to learn how to take action.
*Photos courtesy of Joel Marcos Pena, Illumé Lens
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