Cinco de MayoMay 05, 2008
Ethnicity is an interesting topic of discussion, whether you’re comparing presidential candidates, having a heated debate about immigration policies or making dinner table conversation with people you’re meeting for the first time. For example, my English/Irish heritage seems obvious from my appearance, and yet Spanish was my first language.
And speaking of Spanish, one holiday that is recognized on a regional basis in Mexico (mainly in the state of Puebla) has taken on a larger significance here in the United States, where Cinco de Mayo festivities celebrate Mexican heritage and national pride. I’m taking the liberty here of broadening it even further to recognize some of the Hispanic women AAUW has honored for their contributions to the betterment of humanity.
Originally designed to provide Latin American women with opportunities for graduate and postgraduate study in the United States, the AAUW International Fellowships program awarded its first fellowship in 1917 to Virginia Alvarez-Hussey. She studied medicine at the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania and then returned to Venezuela, where she became a specialist in the treatment of leprosy. Another International Fellow was Marina Nunez del Prado (1940), who became one of Bolivia’s premiere artists and whose sculpture Madre y Nino is in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.
In 1997, Antonia Hernandez, former president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, received the AAUW Achievement Award. In 2006, Consuelo Castillo Kickbush received an AAUW Women of Distinction award. Formerly the highest-ranking Hispanic women in the Combat Support Field of the U.S. Army, Kickbush has spent the past 10 years dedicated to empowering a new generation of Hispanic leaders. She has worked with over a million children and their parents across the United States through Educational Achievement Services, a company she founded in 1994.
María Otero, a 2007 AAUW Woman of Distinction, is president and CEO of ACCION International, which pioneered the idea of making small loans to the self-employed poor beginning in 1973 in Recife, Brazil. Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-CA), a 2004 Woman of Distinction, co-sponsored the PACT Act (H.R. 5774), providing financial assistance to state training programs that prepare women for employment in high-wage, high-skill fields where they are often underrepresented. And in 2008 … wait, I’m getting ahead of myself here.
These are just a few of the Hispanic women that AAUW has honored. What Hispanic woman do you wish to honor by sharing her story here? As for me, my father was stationed in Bogota, Columbia, when I was young, and my first year of school was en una escuela. While I may not have any actual Hispanic blood, I honor the heritage I have in my heart.