Last fall, the Fort Worth Human Relations Commission hired me to make photos for a Women's History Month multimedia exhibit titled Mujeres Poderosas, Legacy of Strong Latinas in Fort Worth. A committee selected twelve women whose activism, volunteerism, community involvement and business acumen represented what it means to be a powerful Latina.
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Tammy Melody Gomez
Tammy is a poet, playwright, performer and activist. She lives her beliefs by living frugally, not owning a car and instead cycling to work every day. Notice that the bandoliers she wears are filled not with ammo, but with lipsticks and pencils, tools of her trades.
Esperanza Padilla Ayala
Well into her eighties, Esperanza has seen many changes in Fort Worth's north side where she was born, grew up and continues to live. But what hasn't changed is her community involvement. She continues to be a volunteer at her church and with the Good Fellows organization.
She grew up near this park as a child, and in adulthood, she and her husband built a house in the same neighborhood. She continues to advocate for this community, and the park where she's pictured here is named after her father.
She put herself through Texas Christian University, a private school, by working full time and even taking jobs such as moving lawns. Now she's come full circle and works as a counselor to students at the same school.
She was a social worker with Meals on Wheels when she was diagnosed with macular degeneration. It ended her career but she still volunteers in her community when not spending time with her grandkids.
Sandra owns and runs three different businesses--a roofing company, a waste disposal company, and a commercial real estate firm. And she still makes time for her grandchildren.
She was the first woman to head the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and now she runs her own sub-surface utility engineering company.
As a teen she and her family came into the United States illegally in order to avoid violence in Mexico. Now she's an advocate for immigration reform and for undocumented people.
Susie's family formed a large mariachi group with whom she performed for years. This is one of her four violins--the last one she played with her family. The love of music has been passed on to her kids, and her son performs with his high school band.
Sandra finds tremendous strength and power in motherhood, and in volunteering at her daughters' schools and advocating for the students there. Her vocation now is to see her three girls through school and into adulthood. One of the most important things to her has been breaking the cycle of divorce in her family by maintaining a strong marriage.
As a teen, Sharon nearly committed suicide. What saved her life was an aunt who recognized her sexual orientation and who accepted her as she was. Now Sharon is an advocate for LGBTQ youths and lectures on anti-bullying and sexual orientation issues.
She studied to be an LVN but knew she could do more, so in her late thirties, went to law school. She was one of a handful of Latinas there, which made it even more difficult that it would have otherwise been. Though she's retired now and mostly helps her husband with his antiquarian book business, she still keeps in touch with the group of friends who supported her through law school.