The Houston organization Latinas Rising plans to usher in the era of the Latina with LatinaCon, an event that will address Latinx topics ranging from education and mental health to advocacy, legal issues, and the Afro-Latina identity.
Latinas Rising was founded by Edna Mojica, Tasha James, and Sol in 2017 to create spaces and social change that reflect the issues facing Latinx communities. The inaugural LatinaCon will provide Latinas of all backgrounds with a public platform to discuss these issues on Saturday, November 9, at Warehouse 72.
“We hope to inspire attendees to stand up, speak out, and do more for their communities,” says board president Sol. “We want to speak on subjects that are taboo to our own communities so that we can destigmatize them and break generational cycles.”
Latinas Rising advocates for all Latinas (including those belonging to the LGBTQ community) and educates on social-justice issues within the community—including sensitive topics like domestic violence, sexual assault, and suicide prevention. The group’s belief is that all women have the right to be heard, celebrated, and highlighted.
Melissa Allala, a Mexican-American lesbian and Houston GLBT Political Caucus board member, serves as Latinas Rising’s director of diversity and inclusion. She uses her leadership roles to ensure LGBTQ Latinx people feel empowered to join conversations around community issues. In September, Allala helped facilitate and organize Latinas Rising: Queer Latinx, a panel featuring six LGBTQ Houston Latinas discussing their identities at Houston’s Montrose Center.
“We hope to inspire attendees to stand up, speak out, and do more for their communities. We want to speak on subjects that are taboo to our own communities so that we can destigmatize them and break generational cycles.”
“Latinx folks in general make up 44.5% of the Houston population, but LGBTQ+ Latinx make up a much smaller portion of that percentage,” Allala says. “I want to make sure that we, as queer Latinx Houstonians, have a seat at the table.”
A featured panelist for Latinas Rising: Queer Latinx was Houston GLBT Political Caucus communications director Maria Treviño-Rodriguez, a bisexual Latina. “Working with [Latinas Rising] was definitely a breath of fresh air,” Treviño-Rodriguez says. “I had never worked with an all-Latina group who was so willing to prioritize intersectionality and uplift the voices of Latinas who don’t get heard.”
As two of the few queer Latinas in the GLBT Political Caucus, Allala and Treviño-Rodriguez say they are all too aware of the difficulties Latinx people face in having their voices heard.
“I think the queer Latina community is one of the most overlooked portions of the LGBTQIA+ community,” Treviño-Rodriguez admits, “because I think it comes with a lot of cultural barriers when speaking about not just our gender expressions, but our sexual orientions as well.”
With the Latina population in Houston growing across a multitude of economic and social arenas, Allala believes it is crucial that we address the increasing concerns within the community through LatinaCon. “Mujeres (women) are starting to dominate different occupations in numbers, but as Latinas, we still need to have a seat in those spaces,” she says. “I hope that this event resonates with those that attend it and motivates them to continue pushing through with advocating issues that affect Latinas.”
The conference comes at an important time in our history, according to Sol. “Due to the [socio-political] climate Latinx people are experiencing, it is important to create safe spaces and build community for our jente,” she says. “We need to speak on our experiences, our struggles, and our triumphs so that others know they are not alone. Most importantly, we need to create spaces and platforms for those that have been marginalized. We must continue to highlight the many women on the ground doing the work for our community.”
Rosie Castro—a Mexican-American civil- rights activist, educator, poet, community organizer, and mother to Texas congressman Joaquin Castro and Democratic presidential nominee Julián Castro—is the keynote speaker for LatinaCon 2019. Castro, who has been involved in numerous community activist organizations, including the Young Democrats, the Committee for Barrio Betterment, the Raza Unida Party, the Texas Organizing Project, and AARP, will discuss her experiences with community engagement and how others can do the same.
“Rosie Castro was someone that we know has been doing [Latinx] equity work for many years,” Sol says. “She is a prime example of what we are celebrating at LatinaCon.”
There will be three panels at the conference: one on destigmatizing Latinx mental health, one on law, advocacy, and education, and one on the Afro-Latinx identity. These panels will be facilitated by numerous Latinx activists and individuals with backgrounds in mental health, law and law enforcement, social work, education, civil rights, and education.
Treviño-Rodriguez says the event will fill a void that currently exists in Houston. “I think there’s a lot of Latinas who have been looking for a space where we can all share our cultures and values and just celebrate each other,” she says. “I don’t think anything like this has existed [in Houston] before.”
At the moment, Latinas Rising is organizing to become a nonprofit group. “We want to continue to bring inspiring and educating events to our communities,” Sol says. “Next year we are focusing on creating more research-based programs to tackle Latinx mental-health issues for our youth.”
In the future, the organization also plans on expanding its networks by opening chapters across the country. Latinas Rising also has its eye on a larger conference venue, citing the George R. Brown Convention Center as an ideal location for future LatinaCons. “The ultimate goal is to make LatinaCon a worldwide destination that thousands of women will look forward to,” Allala says. “I’d like to be able to offer a bigger variety of workshops that will be [even more] inclusive of the Latina community.”
Tickets for the event are $40, and include breakfast, lunch, and snacks served by Warehouse 72. The conference welcomes people of all gender identities and sexual orientations, and hopes to educate and build community with those both inside and outside of Latina backgrounds.
“One of the most important things for us is to see ourselves in other people, [in order to] humanize and accept ourselves,” Treviño-Rodriguez says. “I think we’re going to find a nice sense of community in that space, and I don’t think anyone will regret attending.”
Sol says LatinaCon is for anyone that wants to learn more about a variety of issues affecting the Latinx community. As she puts it, “We simply want people to step away from the conference thinking, ‘My voice matters. I belong here. What I have to contribute is important to my community.”
What: LatinaCon 2019
When: Saturday, Nov. 9, 8:30 a.m–3:30 p.m.
Where: Warehouse 72 (7620 Katy Fwy. #305)