LULAC’s Army Of Empowered Women Show They Are Ready And Rising Together
Nation’s Largest and Oldest Latino Civil Rights Organization Highlights Energized Latinas at N.Y.C. National Women’s Conference
Washington, DC - LULAC Institute’s National Women’s Conference climaxed its historic two-day event this weekend in New York City to the rousing cheers and applause of a standing-room-only audience of hundreds of women leaders from across the United States and Puerto Rico.
“Make no mistake about it,” exclaimed Elsie Valdes-Ramos, LULAC National Board Officer and National Vice-President for Women, “we are here today because we are strong, organized, and mobilized. We are ready to confront the challenges facing us. Today is the moment to stand up, take action, and shout; I am present! Nothing or no one is going to deter me. I will continue to stand on my own, fighting for the principles of civil rights for all and equality for women all across our nation, from Hawaii to Puerto Rico. Women are blessed to be the life-givers, something no one else can say," she added.
Affirming that spirit of female empowerment and its intersecting moment with history was Sindy Benavides. She is the first woman and youngest Chief Executive Officer ever to lead LULAC in its 92-year history. "Regardless of what your American story is, know that it matters and that a great woman made it happen and uplifted and protected your family along the way," said Benavides. "For me, it was mi Mami who brought me to the U.S. from Honduras as a one-year-old undocumented infant. And my Abuelita, Soila America, taught me the courage and love and never to shy away from doing what is right. Today, I find myself waking up every single day to protect and defend our beloved community," Benavides added.
New York State Lt. Governor Brian Benjamin was one of the event’s guest speakers. He thanked Governor Kathy Hochul, the state's first-ever female governor, for allowing him to serve. Benjamin's opening statement drew immediate, spontaneous, and loud agreement from the audience. “Women run the world!” declared Benjamin. “And it’s important that we as men, of any race, but particularly men of black and Latin descent, that we stand up for our women, that we support our women, and that we let you know every single day that we thank the Lord that He sent you here. We will work with you and work with everyone to make things happen," added Benjamin.
Benjamin said his responsibility is “...to make sure that this state, the State of New York, has a seat for everyone to be a part of our economy, and a part of our future. Also, to make sure that everyone is part of the conversation, not only those of us who are of color in New York but Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, Latin America. When we're talking about commerce, economic development, housing, issues of pay equity, we must be doing the right thing."
That view resonated with a large delegation from Puerto Rico listening to Benjamin and who shares his more equitable vision to make things happen. "I believe there is a great deal of enthusiasm for us to find new ways of moving forward,” says Gloria Escobedo Morales, president of San Juan, Puerto Rico’s municipal governing body. San Juan will serve as the host city for the 2022 LULAC National Convention and Expo. "The spirit of LULAC's motto, all for one and one for all, is evident among all the people I have met and reminds us that as women, we must support one another to help serve our communities," says Morales.
That service to communities was the central message from LULAC First Lady, Dr. Elba Garcia, who reminded attendees that the pandemic has shown how Latinas are at every step of the economy. “We are in the fields picking up fruits and vegetables, and we are in the packing industry, we are in the transportation industry, in the distribution industry, in the grocery store industry, in the service industry, serving in restaurants, cooking for everything you can imagine. Even more, we are the teachers, the nurses, the doctors that helped during this pandemic. Yes, they were women, and there were a lot of Latina women. Add to that, during the pandemic, we not only handled our jobs out of the house, we also became full-time teachers at home, the caregivers to our elderly parents and our grandkids so others in the family could work. Yes, we have been through a great deal," she added.
Among those impacted by these firsthand accounts were the scores of young adult Latinas, many joining with LULAC for the first time. Four female students came from George Washington University after DC LULAC helped underwrite some of their expenses. One of them is Frida Cortez, a self-described low-income student from Atlanta, Georgia. In her junior year of study, Cortez is a political science major, the oldest daughter of immigrant parents, and the first to attend college. "I am not ashamed to say that my mother cleaned houses and now works in dry cleaners, while my father is a construction worker," says Cortez. "They say they're proud of me, but I'm the one who is proud of what they do. These are the workers who truly help sustain our country and keep our communities going," she added.
“The LULAC Women’s Commission was founded by the organization’s first female president, Belen Robles at a time when women were being excluded in so many different ways in our society,” said Valdes-Ramos. “The challenges women face today may be different but inequity and inequality still exist. This is why I am so proud of LULAC’s army of women here today. The work we are doing together at the 2021 National Women’s Conference marks an historic milestone that tells the world, we braved a pandemic, confronted adversity, persevered and overcame the barriers. This is what Latinas do, not only for ourselves, but for our families and the community we love. It is an honor to serve with them,” she added.
The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is the nation’s largest and oldest Hispanic civil rights volunteer-based organization that empowers Hispanic Americans and builds strong Latino communities. Headquartered in Washington, DC, with 1,000 councils around the United States and Puerto Rico, LULAC’s programs, services, and advocacy address the most important issues for Latinos, meeting the critical needs of today and the future. For more information, visit https://lulac.org/