“I didn’t say you were going,” Ysabel Durón recalled her mother saying when she learned her daughter planned to attend San Jose State University. Durón graduated from college and in the 1970’s became one of the nation’s first Latina television journalists. She has since been an active advocate for Latina representation in mainstream American media. Durón was one of five speakers who spoke at the 13th annual Dia de la Mujer banquet, a signature dinner organized by the organization Latinas Unidas.
Durón, currently an anchorwoman for KRON 4 in San Francisco, spoke on her personal experiences with breaking into the world of mainstream television journalism during a time where Latina anchors were nearly non-existent in the ‘70’s.
“We can’t have a voice if we don’t sit at the table,” she remembered telling her superiors, who called her a “sellout” for her advocacy of an increased Latino presence in mainstream journalism.
The theme of this year’s Latinas Unidas dinner, which took place on March 2 centered on “la belleza de la fuerza femenil”—the beauty of feminine strength. Some of the other event speakers included Ana Valencia, Miss California Latina 2011; Gena Castro-Rodriguez, a USF alumna who heads a nonprofit for at-risk Latina youth and Dr. Elena Flores, a Chicana USF professor who was the keynote. Doña Julia, a veteran Bon Appétit employee and Doña Ofelia, an Able worker at USF for seven years, were also featured on a short documentary produced by Latinas Unidas. With the goal to recognize women from all multiple professions, the video highlighted the contribution these Latina women make to the USF campus.
“This year, we wanted to focus on the strength of women,” said Latinas Unidas vice president, Genesis Ibarra, “Latinas like to be talked about in terms of their beauty and grace, but we want to highlight feminine strength as a part of who we are.”
Freshman student Hector Martinez, who attended the event, said, “It’s tough for women, especially in our culture, and we need to be able to recognize that Latina women are strong in their own right.”
Dr. Elena Flores, professor of psychology at USF’s School of Education, spoke about the need to advance the cause of Latinas in higher education using her personal story as an example during her keynote address. She described her own difficult journey as a schoolgirl from Wyoming where she was told she “would maybe make a good secretary.” After moving to California after high school, Flores tried her best to prepare herself for university coursework in community college. Currently, holding a doctorate in clinical psychology with research experience in Latino mental health and Latino adolescent sexuality, Professor Flores is also a Co-investigator on obesity among Mexican American children at UCSF.
Offering advice based on her experience Flores said, “Always maintain your connections with the Latino and Chicano family.” She added, “Look to non-Latinos as well as Latinos to mentor you through your journey.”
Miss California Latina 2011 Ana Valencia, a Mexican-born resident, spoke about her role in providing national exposure on an incident where a Mexican-themed party included attendees dressing up as negative stereotypes of Mexican workers. The incident brought forth an issue of prejudice against Latinos at a college level.
USF alumna Gena Castro-Rodriguez talked about her efforts in founding the Youth Justice Institute and serving Latina youth in the context of juvenile justice where most counseling services seem to be geared toward young Latin American men. Her personal experience of growing up in the Central Valley, which she said was an environment beset with poor educational opportunities, violence, and vice, motivated her to pursue a bachelor’s in psychology at Sacramento State University and a Master’s in Counseling Psychology at USF. With 18 years experience in working with adolescents in the juvenile and foster care system, Castro-Rodriguez has built a network of counseling and juvenile intervention specifically for young Latinas thereby addressing an underserved demographic.