In 2001 U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor gave a speech at the University of California-Berkeley. Addressing the Latino presence in the American Judiciary she said, “I would hope that a wise Latina with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion that a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” The comment, made while still an attorney, later came under fire during her Supreme Court confirmation…and she was called a racist. In her defense she explained her statement was attempting to play off a quote by retired Justice Sandra Day O’Conner who once said “That both men and women were equally capable of being wise and fair judges.” That is all Sotomayor was trying to say: that her breadth of experience navigating different worlds led her to have greater wisdom on certain topics than her white counterparts.
In my opinion, Justice Sotomayor’s observation is a great example of what insight we as Latinas bring to the table, and what we can and should achieve. Her “wise Latina” comment led to the best “stereotype” Latinas have ever experienced. For once we were not being portrayed as maids, prostitutes or described as fiery…no we were described as wise…and Latinas everywhere embraced it. The term “Wise Latina” spread like wild fire becoming a phenomenon. Here in El Paso on May 4, 2010 Wise Latina International,” was born.
Today, our summit “Tapestry of Evolution: Strength, Power & Influence addresses “Redefining the Meaning of Wealth.” Our theme is inspired by our Latina Identity Project’s “Findings and Impact Report” that identified major areas that impact the future and economic security of women and girls in the El Paso Metro area. Hispanics make up 85% of the El Paso population of which women represent 51%. The female poverty rate in El Paso is higher than the entire state of Texas, 71% of jobs in the El Paso metro area pay less than $36,000 a year, which cannot sustain a single mom with one child.
As an organization we are committed to addressing economic opportunities and challenges, education/political attainment and advancement, the need for affordable Housing/Child Care and better access to Health Care. WLI’s intention today is to provide a forum that encourages dialog and free flowing ideas that will help support our efforts to develop programs like our LEAD (Leadership, Engagement, Advocacy Development) Initiative. LEAD is a corroboration with our community partner, The University of Texas at El Paso’s Women & Gender Studies Department that will take a cohort of 8 to 10 women through a culturally relevant curriculum. The initiative will provide participants skills and tools to produce programs that meet the needs of El Paso women and girls as identified in our “Findings and Impact Report.” Furthermore, the first set of participants will serve to establish the WLI/LEAD Fellows Program.
Our mission is to educate and empower Latina and women of all walks of life to overcome barriers, to be self-reliant, to become leaders and to act as agents of change in our communities through arts and entertainment. On behalf of Wise Latina International thank you for attending and we hope you will enjoy today’s activities and walk away feeling motivated and inspired. Come Join Us… We, all of us have a lot of work to do.
Liz Chavez, Wise Latina International, President/Founder