Women leaders of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) are holding a milestone two-day national gathering of Latinas from across the United States and Puerto Rico, November 12-13 in New York City. This is LULAC’s first major in-person event since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 marking the longest period in modern times for the country’s chief Latino advocacy organization without a national assembly.
“The journey to this point has been long and difficult given the uncertainty of our times, but we are ready and committed to making this a tremendous success,” says Elsie Valdes-Ramos, LULAC National Board Officer and Vice-President for Women. “This event matters because it is about the empowerment through the action of hundreds of women leaders who are coming together and tens of thousands more linked through social media. These are the women we want and need, to support each other, learn from one another, and make us even stronger in unity,” adds Valdes-Ramos.
The two-day LULAC Women’s Conference program includes plenary sessions, specialized panels, and interactive workshops that cover a wide range of timely topics including technology, mental health, general health equity, inclusion and diversity, federal careers, and women’s empowerment and leadership. Attendees confirmed included elected and appointed officials, community leaders, LULAC Women’s Commission members, and guests.
“As we look ahead, the growth of the Latino community will double in just three decades. Latinas are at the heart of that growth and transformation,” says Sindy Benavides, LULAC National Chief Executive Officer. “The purpose of the LULAC Women’s Conference is to empower women by exchanging experiences so that we identify the most critical challenges we are all confronting daily, and the actions we need to take to overcome them.”
Latinas are “America’s CEOs”
Two of the event’s principal organizers are Ralina Cardona, LULAC National Board Officer, and Sylvia Mata, LULAC Women’s Commissioner for the Northeast. Both are veteran social justice advocates in their communities who have served in elected and appointed positions. Also, they are staunch champions for Latinas, whom they call America’s CEOs, a fact borne out during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were the hardest region early on, and the unknown of what was in the air, New York emerged almost like the Phoenix rising out of the ashes,” says Cardona. “We are looking forward to the women just sharing their best practices. We all know that Latina women already know how we are. I think now the world and country have seen how we are; multi-generational families, and CEOs of our households, and just taking care of everyone,” she adds.
Cardona says the pandemic taught America a new phrase, essential workers. The country quickly saw how important people of color were in our vital industries and roles, especially women. Every day, Latinas ventured to their jobs in hotels to transportation and health care. They never quit or gave up.
Mata says the focus now is on women’s empowerment and the significant impact on their families and communities. “I am very proud to be a part of LULAC because of its power for good and how respected the name is in many areas. This event will give us a greater presence here because I know of many successful professionals like attorneys who are now judges, and they tell me their first scholarship came from LULAC. This is the impact we are making,” adds Mata.
Mata has worked on educational programs related to health, immigration, finances, art, and small business. She co-produced an art, science, and technology (STEM) program for grades 10-12. Her goal was to reduce the school dropout rate in Queens, New York. Also, she owns and leads her small business. Today, she focuses on education from the perspective of inter-American business relations with a specialized focus on art and art investments.
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Mata sees a growing power for Latinas in America. “Women represent a significant part of the population, and we are moving the economy through our small businesses. We are advancing in federal jobs and leading important community groups, so, significantly, we are celebrating the LULAC National Women’s Conference here. I invite all Latinas who can join LULAC or collaborate with us. We are hopeful for the future.”
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 prominent issues for Latinos, meeting the critical needs of today and the future. For more information, visit https://lulac.org/.