Christine Marin, Ph.D.

Making their mark

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As educators, social workers, labor leaders, entrepreneurs, scholars, judicial representatives, homemakers, nurses, ranch wives, or as political representatives, Hispanas/Latinas have not been strangers in Arizona’s history. It is important that their stories be recalled and remembered as we approach Arizona’s 100th anniversary of statehood in 2012. It is also important to maintain an awareness of the historical and cultural heritage of Arizona’s women of Hispanic origin, and to recognize their longstanding contributions to the development of our state. After all, they are among the state’s “trailblazers” – women who established a strong social, cultural and political presence prior to Arizona’s statehood. Women from the Hispanic families of Tomás de Belderrain, Mariano Urrera, Manuel de León, and Manuel Ygnacio de Arvizu, men who served as military officers in their Spanish presidio in Tubac in the 1750s. And let us recall the Mexican women whose families established large ranches as early as 1821 in southern Arizona, families like those of Manuel Amado and the Carillo brothers, Francisco and Leopoldo. We should know about women like Pancha Acuña and her young daughter Faustina, who were already in Arizona Territory in 1863, accompanied by family members who came to the Prescott area to join in the gold rush. Not far behind her was 19-year-old Juanita Bachichia, who established a boarding house for gold miners in 1864 on Lynx Creek at the heart of central Arizona’s gold district. We know about Mexican women like Trinidad Mejia Escalante Swilling, the “mother of Phoenix,” who came to the Salt River Valley in 1867 with her husband and made her first home in Wickenburg. And we know the third governor of Arizona Territory, Anson P. K. Safford, who served from 1869 to 1877, met and married Mexican women and made them his territorial representatives who ran and oversaw the governor’s official home: Margarita Grijalva of Tucson, who died in 1880, and Soledad Bonillas. And we must not overlook the mujeres and their families who settled in the rough and tumultuous copper mining areas like Clifton-Morenci, Globe-Miami, and in the Bisbee area by the early 1900s.

The Latina trailblazers whom we honor in 2010 have established their own unique presence and place in Arizona’s modern history. Their collective voices give meaning to our lives because their own lives shed light on the power of women’s work and value. These Latina trailblazers were born with a political and social consciousness that makes our lives better. The power of their actions resolved matters of injustice, racism, poverty, inequality; school segregation, and unionism. And so we honor them and all that they represent as women, as heroines, as leaders, and as Latina sisters. We must not forget the names of Barbara Rodriguez Mundell, Anna Marie Ochoa O’Leary, Dora Ocampo Quesada, Alicia Ocampo Quesada, Carmela Ramirez, Plácida García Smith, and Julia Cuesta Soto Zozaya – Latina trailblazers.

Latino Perspectives Magazine and the Raúl H. Castro Institute have partnered again to co-publish Arizona Latina Trailblazers: Stories of Courage, Hope and Determination, Vol. II. Written by Dr. Christine Marín, the booklet pays tribute to women who have left their mark in our communities and highlights the lives of these remarkable individuals. This year we are proud to welcome Girl Scouts—Arizona Cactus-Pine Council, Inc. as a project partner.

Join us for a family-friendly celebration in honor of these trailblazers on Wednesday, April 28 at Phoenix Art Museum from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. This project is made possible thanks to the generous support of: SRP, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Allstate Insurance.

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