In March, fourteen international visitors from Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Spain, and Venezuela came to San Antonio for a program entitled “Women Leaders: Agents of Social Change”. Their program focused on efforts to promote the status of women and encourage their changemaking contributions to society. On March 24th, they attended three meetings with local speakers to learn about this topic from area women leaders.
First, they visited with the staff of the Martinez Street Women’s Center, a non-profit that provides girls and women from low-income San Antonio neighborhoods with access to vital health services. The conversation focused on women as leaders in community development and they had the opportunity to share their stories of success as well.
Next, they went to City Hall to meet with Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran and learn about her experiences as a woman who has run for elected office and risen to a political leadership position. They were impressed with how the top levels of municipal leadership in our city are positions held by women. Councilwoman Viagran discussed challenges she has faced, such as “subtle sexism”, and emphasized strategies to build alliances. Sharing advice to the diverse group of Latin American women, “there is more that unites us then divides us”, she said. “Never be afraid to ask questions. You are representing everyone who elected you and they put their families trust in you…If I can do it, you can do it too!” Visitors were very moved by her stories and enthused by her words of encouragement.
Finally, they met with staff of the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center to learn about their work as a community arts organization focused on promoting civil and economic rights and honoring cultural heritage through many mediums. The center’s representatives disused their programs and events geared towards advocating for women’s & gay rights, racial tolerance & understanding, and promoting peace by facilitating the exchange of ideas as well as encouraging education & empowerment, especially among minorities. They especially loved visiting with the women artists at their Westside project, the Mujer Artes women’s arts collective.
The next day, after a closing evaluation session, they spent their final day in the US enjoying cultural activities. This included a lunch at Los Barrios Mexican Restaurant in which dozens of SACIV members and their friends welcomed the delegation and exchanged in animated and engaging conversation. They women were particularly warmed by this enthusiastic reception and grateful for the hospitality shown by our community. They departed San Antonio as women of like mind helping to transform the landscape for future generations and positive change.