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Celebrating Iconic Latinas at Latino Victory's "Latino Talks" by Farah Melendez


It’s empowering to be surrounded by successful and relatable Latina women with powerful stories. From panelists to audience members, Latino Victory’s, Latino Talks 5th Year celebration was inspiring. Topics ranged from personal struggles, , how you get from point “a” to point “b”, and not forgetting where you or your family come from.

Having attended the celebration the past couple years, this year was intentionally different. There were only women speakers. It’s as if “si se puede!” finally turned into “si se pudo!” by seeing Latinas discuss their life’s successes. The political and non-political world should take note that women like these are a force and will continue to make their mark in the world.

The first panel was moderated by Latino Victory’s own trailblazer, Mayra Macias, the now Vice President of the organization. She was joined by Astrid Silva, who is known for her immigrant story and relentless efforts to make hers and other voices heard in any political climate. Naima Coster, author of Hasley Street, talked about her book which depicts the story of a gentrified neighborhood in the streets of Brooklyn. We also heard from filmmaker Karla Luna Cantu, who was featured in the Hollywood Reporter, who has produced award winning shorts and Laura Barron-Lopez, a national reporter for Politico that covers house campaigns and the busy 2020 presidential race.

Just by looking at this panel and the range of generations, it was amazing to see each one be the master of their art and constantly remind us they were the first or the only Latina doing what they do. But the dominos fall when Latinas and women of color push and question the boundaries they are boxed in and these women showed the way. The conversation kept landing on where they each came from and the struggles they had to go through in making their decisions. What was so great was how relatable it all was. Astrid hit on her family values and how that helped her become strong and unapologetic, and heads nodded in agreement that all those lessons of la chancla, we learned something along the way.

The second panel was moderated by (OMG) Maria Elena Salinas who is described as the “Voice of Hispanic America”. She is stunning and demands attention when she walks in the room. The panelists were iconic New Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (a 14th term representative, boricua, New Yorican and the first Hispanic woman to serve as Ranking Member of a full house committee) and actress Justina Machado, (recently known for Netflix’s show One Day At A Time which gives us all the feelings when she is on screen), and iLe Cabra (the voice known from Calle 13 who has launched her first album called iLevitable). This panel’s theme was centered around “Iconic”. These women (again WOMEN) have endured so much to punch through their respective fields. Congresswoman Velazquez reminded us all that you need to speak up and remember the communities you stand for need a voice. Justina reminded us that she grew up in Chicago and never gave up on her gifted talents. iLe also gave us a perspective of what it’s like to be in Puerto Rico during a difficult time and how courageous Puerto Rico is and the treatment they are receiving from the United States especially having lived through hurricane Maria. The conversation on this panel was...iconic and what the word meant to them and what responsibility they felt that gave

them.

Separately during the program, Concha Awards were given to newly elected Congresswoman Veronica Escobar and Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia. Two of the first Latinas ever elected to the congress from their states. SMH guys.

Overall, Latino Talks had an Iconic 5th year celebration followed by, you guessed it, dancing because that’s just what we do. “Que comienza la fiesta!” Well done Latino Victory and thank you for showcasing Latinas that strong and leading the way.

Farah Melendez is the political director for the Democratic Attorneys General Association and a proud Latina.

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