In 1995 Almendra Perez Cardenas, wife of Manuel Perez Cardenas, former Counsel General of Mexico in Houston, Leticia Fallick, a psychologist, and Cecilia De La Rosa, wife of a cardiologist, were moved by their desire to improve the lives of Mexican women in Houston to form what we now know as Latin Women’s Initiative.
These three civic-minded women proposed a plan to develop an organization consisting of Mexican women of means to help Mexican women to understand the language, style of life, culture and values of the lower socio-economic society. This organization could then engage these women to help raise money and provide assistance to their fellow Mexican women who were less fortunate.
With the assistance of many other educated and successful Mexican women who lived in Houston for many years they joined together to form the Mexican Women’s Initiative. They clarified both their objectives and necessary actions in the house and offices of Juan and Monica Alonso. Susana Vidal designed the logo and Alma Salman wrote the mission and proposal of objectives. Attorney Paul Baseladiz and accountant Paul Aaronson helped provide a functional and working set of by-laws, and to register with the State of Texas as a non-profit organization. All these dedicated individuals helped the dream become reality.
Once the organization started, word spread and many other women joined and further strengthened the cause, just to mention some: Valentina Vial, Amalia Kazilas, Betty Baz Baz, Esther Benrey, Monica Altamirano, Maricela Calderon, Nancy Moreno, Leticia Anderson, Cynthia Thomas, Lucia Valdez and Cristina Pineyro, Mary Tere Perusquia and Ana Matamoros.
Mexican Women’s Initiative organized lunches in the Junior League of Houston and Las Alamedas, inviting different Mexican personalities and writers such as: German Dehesa, Gaby Vargas and Jessica Kreigerman, to help raise funds which were used to both develop health fairs (with some local hospitals offering support and information along with exams of children and adults to diagnose cholesterol, diabetes, etc.) and direct funds to the community for culturally appropriate educational, abuse treatment programs, and psycho educational education.
Other participants included Lydia Cantu from Radio 13, Dr. Isabel (a national radio personality), former Univision TV on-air personality Beatriz de Alvarado, and television community affairs executive Grace Olivares with Univision and Telefutura.
The organization quickly garnered the support from Latin American businessman who donated money, services and expertise, and many Latin American women that started to volunteer in Houston, including University of Houston professors Rodolfo and Lynn Cortina, physician Maria Ferris, travel agent executive and business owner Patricia Herrera, attorney and former city council member Gracie Saenz, Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce president Dr. Laura Murillo, Linda Gonzalez CPA, magazine publisher Carla Valencia, business executive and philanthropist Patty Dominguez, airline executive Chriselda Barrientes, sports marketing and sponsorship executive, Rosi Hernandez and community affairs executive Cyndy Garza Roberts, just to name a few.
The increased interest and desire to carry on the core mission of Mexican Women’s Initiative was attracting women of other parts of Latin America, as well as Hispanic Americans. In order to reflect the global community that was now part of this emerging non-profit, the organization changed its name to Latin Women’s Initiative.
The efforts of all those who have supported LWI crystallized in a pioneering organization that is an example in both the United States, Mexico and Latin America.
Throughout the past 18 years, and for years to come, the efforts of the founding members of LWI has been and will be sustained and amplified, offering Latin American women of Houston a platform to be heard and take action that can be of significance to their community. Houston volunteerism has been changed for the better.