Author and feminist activist Gloria Steinem, left, speaks with actress Eva Longoria in the program segment, "The Face of Feminism" during the Women In The World Texas Forum, presented by Tina Brown Live Media, Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014, at the Charline McCombs Empire Theatre in San Antonio, Texas. (Robin Jerstad/DA Media for Women in the World)
Being in the Alamo City, we know their names well: Eva Longoria. Rosie Castro. Joaquin Castro. But when they're all on stage together, alongside Dolores Huerta, who co-founded United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez, talking about the power of the Latino voice in American politics and policymaking, it's hard not to want to jump up and go vote immediately.
The four participated in one of several panels at Tina Brown's Women in the World Texas event at the Charline McCombs Empire Theatre, which featured superstars like Dr. Jill Biden and Gloria Steinem as well as international and local activists, journalists, and advocates working tirelessly to uplift the voices, stories, and experiences of women around the world. Topics covered throughout the day ranged from politics to feminism to honor killings to challenges military families face to cruelty against women and girls in Africa to the Ebola crisis in Liberia.
Huerta, whose organization fought for higher wages, health care, and fair working conditions for California's agricultural farmers, said that what most people overlook about UFW's work is the group's voter registration and outreach efforts that ultimately led to the policy changes.
"A lot of the work that we did was register people to vote, we went back and got them out to vote ... they’re the ones who passed the laws in California," she said. "The political work is what made the difference in California, and it can make the difference in Texas, New York, and other states."
According to Mi Familia Vota, there are more than 4.3 million Latino citizen of voting age in Texas and just under 3 million are registered, making up 23 percent of Texas’ registered voters.
Rosie Castro, one of the founders of La Raza Unida political party, community activist and mother to San Antonio's Julián and Joaquin Castro, remembers life for Latinos in San Antonio as being "atrocious" when she was young. She also remembers an 80 percent high school dropout rate among Latinos and poor infrastructure on the east, west and south sides of San Antonio. At 23, she founded La Raza Unida, the nation's first Latino political party and ran for local office.
"Something had to be done," she said. "There were a lot of young people, like there are today, that said 'enough is enough.'"
Longoria, actress, philanthropist, producer and activist who rose to national political prominence after serving as national co-chair of President Barack Obama's reelection campaign in 2012, remembers meeting Huerta for the first time more than 10 years ago. Huerta, who Longoria considers her personal hero, shared with Longoria the plight of farm workers in California at a local rally where both appeared on stage.
"She goes, 'ya know, you’re an actor?'" Longoria recalled on stage. "'One day you’re going to have a voice, so be sure you have something to say.'"
Castro, Longoria, and Huerta are also participating in a Get Out the Vote rally for Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, the Democratic candidate for Texas lieutenant governor.
Along with this panel, Deeyah Khan, a filmmaker and founder of Fuuse, shared the stage with Xoel Pamos, executive producer of the documentary The Price of Honor to discuss their work documenting stories of young women killed by their families in so-called "honor" killings. Betty Easley with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and Janet Sanchez of Esposas Militares Hispanas USA, shared their work with military wives and spouses, and Robi Damelin with Parents Circle-Families Forum told her profound story of losing her son to a Palestinian sniper.