Rosa Navejar is the final of the 12 woman from the Mujeres Poderosas project.. As a girl she was told that she would be a housewife and mother, and nothing more. When she was working in banking, her boss told her that she had three strikes against her--she was a woman, Hispanic and Catholic. Despite all of that, she worked to break the limitations others imposed on her and went on to become the first woman president of the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. It took a while for others to get used to a woman at the help of the organization. After 11 years with the chamber, she bought The Rios Group, a sub-surface utility engineering company where she heads a team comprised mostly of men.
Irma Perez was working for Meals on Wheels as a social worker when she was diagnosed with macular degeneration. The loss of vision led to her retirement. Nonetheless, she remains involved in Fort Worth community life with volunteer activities. One of the pieces of advice she has for young women is to "not allow others to define who you are." And, "Always respect yourself and others and you will be respected."
Esperanza "Hope" Padilla Ayala was born and grew up on Fort Worth's north side, where she still lives. In her mind, a strong Latina "embraces her community, gives back to that community ... understands her responsibility to promote hope, idealisms and assist others in defining their future." Well into her eighties, she still lives by those tenets; she remains involved as a volunteer at her church and with an organization called The Goodfellows. She's passed on those ideals of community activism to her three children, who are also deeply involved in their community. She has nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Sandra Tovar and her family entered the U.S. illegally to escape threats on their lives in Mexico. They were lucky. An aunt who also tried to enter the U.S. ended up dying in the process. Now Sandra has deferred action status that she must renew every two years, but there's no legal path to citizenship or permanent residency for her. As someone who knows what it's like to be in this limbo status, she's a big advocate for immigration policy change, and for those who seek a better life in the United States.
Rita Rodriguez-Utt recalls a childhood of poverty. Not just financial poverty, she says, but "poverty of opportunities, expectations, language and role models. ... It was being told in Junior High School that you were not college material and sent to the technical school. It was the lack of counseling in high school to prepare you for college. It was the desperation to pull myself out of the cycle of poverty without any bootstraps."
In spite of all that, this mujer poderosa graduated from high school and became a licensed vocational nurse. At the age of 38, she went to law school. She practiced for 25 years, and is now retired. Among the things she enjoys doing is helping her husband with his antiquarian book business and watching over her great-grandson.
Eva Bonilla grew up as the daughter of two activist parents who cared very much about the Linwood neighborhood in Fort Worth. Her father, Jesse Sandoval, was president of the neighborhood association until he died. Her mother, Elena, was also an advocate for the families who lived there. Since their deaths, the neighborhood park has been renamed Linwood - Jesse Sandoval Park, and the playground area there named after her mother. Eva carries her parents' legacy forward by continuing to live in and advocate for the neighborhood where she grew up. You can learn more about her and the rest of the women in this project by visiting the Mujeres Poderosas exhibit at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History through the end of March.