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The house our mothers built

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Photo Illustration by Flor Alexandra Barajas

Texas State prides itself on diversity. The university’s designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution gives it a unique opportunity to impact current and future LatinX leaders. As the demographics of the university and the state of Texas change holistically, there has never been a better time to speak out for diversity.

Just before school let out, the State Hispanic Policy Network chapter, asked a question that should be echoed across all HSIs: “How do we empower and encourage Latinas to lead?”

“Raise your hand if you know a Latina that you absolutely love and admire,” said HPN Treasurer Gerardo at the event’s opening remarks.

Every hand in the room was raised.

“Our women in the LatinX community often do not receive a lot of recognition,” Altamirano said.

The Latina women’s hard work ethic is almost expected from the entirety of the race.

The roles of Latinas include—but are not limited to—community organizers and activists who have sought to resist oppression and affirm their identities for opportunity, self-expression, self-determination and liberation in society.

From religion, the military, politics or otherwise, women are seldom leading men—and minority women have an even slower horse in the race.

“Let’s be honest, Cesar (Chavez) was late to the game,” said one HPN member at a general meeting prior to the symposium. These words illustrate many of the movements and happenings in the Chicano movement during the mid-to-late ‘60s were built on the backs of LatinX women. Fifty years later, the same work ethic and leadership role is being fulfilled by the contemporary LatinX woman.

“In the last 15 years, there has been an increase in the number of women of color in leadership positions,” Gloria P. Martinez, sociology associate professor, said. “There is this phenomenal wave of women of color at the grassroots level, organizing and becoming involved in leadership roles. So, you see this major transformation that is going on in California, Texas and the rest of the United States.”

These “contested transformations,” are further explained in a book by the same title. In it, authors Carol Hardy-Fanta, Pei-te Lien, Dianne Pinderhughes and Christine Sierra, conduct the first comprehensive study of racial and ethnic minorities holding elected office in the United States at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

In one of the symposium’s panels, Dr. Martinez recognized many of the “Mujeres valientes,” or brave women, whose legacy helped shape the Chicano rights movement and more, leading to present-day protests and grassroots campaigns with Latinas at the helm.

Texas State is beginning to realize the role it plays as an HSI through the creation of Latino studies minors. Professors, student leaders and faculty should realize none of this would be possible if it were not for the women in command—at home, or at the forefront of the struggle.

Once an institution attains the designation as an HSI, not all problems are solved. There is no federal entity that regulates what or how the institution does with its designation.

We as a university community need to identify gaps in enrollment, degree attainment and retention and others, then brainstorm strategies for bridging those gaps. These difficult dialogues need to occur and cannot start in a vacuum. Everyone at the institution needs to become involved—especially the students.

Jakob R. Rodriguez is a journalism sophomore

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