Latinitas honors pioneers with mosaics at Austin Central Library

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Earlier this year, Laura Donnelly, Founder and CEO of Latinitas, an association dedicated to the empowerment of girls, was looking for a way to tell how women today acquired their identity.

“What was the legacy of the times before ‘Me too’, ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Time’s Up’?” Donnelly said Thursday. “There were the amazing, original, and courageous women who have come before. Latinitas is there because they broke down barriers.”

Her group led the effort to permanently and publicly honor the Austin women of color who led the way. These efforts took the form of mosaic portraits, six of them now embedded on plinths in the landscaped plaza of Austin’s Central Public Library.

Peggy Vasquez, right, chats with city council member Vanessa Fuentes during the Latinitas ceremony on Thursday.  She was one of the winners.  Vasquez created "Hispanic today," a TV show that introduced Austin to many leaders in the Hispanic community.

The art was unveiled under clear skies during a ceremony Thursday morning. Dignitaries joined two of the living award winners, as well as the families and friends of others celebrated on the day.

“This is another great tribute to a lady who has led a fantastic life,” said Janet Means Scott, a resident of San Antonio. daughter of the late honored Bertha Sadler Means.

The mosaics – which could move to other Austin libraries – unveiled the honor on Thursday:

  • Teresa lozano long: A revolutionary leader, especially in education and the arts, Long hails from a small town in South Texas and earned his doctorate. in Kinesiology at the University of Texas. Her name adorns the Teresa Lozano Long Institute for Latin American Studies at UT, the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Center for Performing Arts and the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine at UT Health Science Center in San Antonio. She died in March at the age of 92.
  • Sylvie Orozco: Co-founder of the Mexic-Arte Museum, Orozco has led this artistic group since its founding in 1984. As Executive Director, she has built the museum’s Mexican and Mexican American art collection while expanding its programs to the community. She was present for the ceremony.
  • Bertha Sadler means: An educator and advocate for social justice, Means was among the leaders, many of whom were women, who led the fight against segregation in Austin. Matriarch of a large and accomplished family, Means was a passionate businesswoman and activist as well. The Bertha Sadler Means Young Women’s Leadership Academy bears her name. She died in March at the age of 100.
  • Cathy Vasquez-Revilla: La Prensa newspaper founder Vasquez-Revilla co-founded the Olé Mexico Business District Association. For years, she crusaded industrial sites in East Austin and served on the city’s planning commission. She was unable to attend the ceremony.
  • Peggy Vasquez: Producer, journalist and social justice advocate, Vasquez – sister of Vasquez-Revilla – created “Hispanic Today,” a television show that introduced Austin to many leaders in the Hispanic community. His father founded the iconic Tamale House. She was also present at the ceremony.
  • Martha Cotera: Founding memory of the Chicana Caucus, Cotera played a decisive role in the construction of the American cultural center Emma S. Barrientos. She is now working to preserve the historic Palm School and make it an asset to the Hispanic community. She is the author of “Diosa y Hembra: The History and Heritage of Chicanas in the US” and “The Chicana Feminist”. She was unable to attend the ceremony.
Sylvia Orozco, in the middle, is applauded during Thursday's ceremony.  She is co-founder of the Mexic-Arte Museum.

Among the mosaicists were Carmen Rangel, Lys Santamaria, Litzy Valdez, Lola Rodriguez and Veronica Cela.

An additional amount of Latinitas mosaic by activist Ana Sisnett, who lobbied for free internet access in Austin libraries and technology for all, was revealed to Holly Commons in East Austin in June. Sisnett died in 2009.

“These women of color have been the backbone of this great city,” said Roosevelt Weeks, president of the Austin Public Library, “and I am delighted their stories continue at the Austin Public Library.”

Among the sponsors who made this project a reality was the nonprofit Austin Public Library Foundation.

“It’s a place of inspiration,” Tim Staley, executive director of the foundation, told the crowd of around 50 guests.

Austin City Council members Natasha Harper-Madison, Greg Casar and Vanessa Fuentes read aloud the achievements of the winners. They rivaled the noise of traffic and construction among the towers that rose on both sides of Waller Creek, in what is now an artificial echo chamber.

“It’s a great honor,” said Peggy Vasquez. “And a good opportunity both to learn more about the women who have worked hard in the community, while also caring for future generations.”

Michael Barnes writes about the people, places, culture and history of Austin and Texas. He can be contacted at [email protected]


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