Nonprofit organization helps Latinas have their voices heard through storytelling – The San Diego Union-Tribune

SAN DIEGO — 

One year ago, nine women came together to brainstorm a way to share the unheard voices of Latinas in their community and share what it means to be Latina in today’s world.

After two hours of their first meeting, they formed a mission statement and started to create coaches to support others. The idea of a book was also brought up, and six months later Latinas With Purpose was born, a nonprofit organization of women who aspire to influence other Latinas through storytelling.

The group was created to foster a space for the Latino community in San Diego, Mexico and across the globe through different forms of self-expression.

On Nov. 14, Latinas With Purpose will host their first public event, “With Purpose: Latino Art and Cultural Festival” in Centro Cultural de la Raza in Balboa Park from noon to 5 p.m. to help fundraise for publication of a bilingual book, “Cuéntame: Tell Me Your Story.”

The book is based on the stories of 20 women. The stories range from women who were forced into human trafficking to women who overcame substance abuse. The founders believe this is a powerful way to share stories that could potentially inspire and help others.

Martha González Barraza, a founder and vice president of LWP show women they are not alone. Others are going through these challenges, and they can move forward.

“What we are trying to accomplish with this book is to be the voice of many women that don’t have the possibility to express what they are going through,” Barraza said.

Once the book is published, the organization’s goal is to send copies of the book to women’s shelters and jails to help women in those institutions through personal and professional growth.

“We are creating a book by telling our stories, to inspire other women and the vision that we have our communities around the world to connect us and also be a catalyst for unity,” said Luz María Villanueva, founder and president of LWP.

Villanueva says storytelling is part of who she is as a Latina because she is reminded of how her aunts, grandfather and mother would share stories with her and how they affected her. She wants to continue this tradition with stories that are not just hers but from strangers she meets, because, she adds, everyone has a story to tell.

The group wants to create workshops to produce a volume 2 book to share more stories from women across the U.S and Latin America, such as stories from indigenous women and from incarcerated women.

“Once the book is published, that’s going to be a big feature in terms of what we can actually do,” said Ana Ituarte, a founder and business developer of LWP.

The founders are all Latina professionals with backgrounds in counseling, psychology, health and communications. They say that even though they are not paid for their work in this organization, they hope they can inspire others with their skills.

“If anything, we’ve all been putting money into it because our heart feels that this is really the right thing to do,” Ituarte said. “We all have an ‘abuelita’ story, a daughter story, a mother story, a husband story and a widow story.”

Along with the 20 stories, 20 artists ages 16 to 96 volunteered to illustrate the book. Many of the artists who contributed are amateurs from San Diego and Tijuana who were inspired by the stories and offered to make some of the illustrations.

Organizations, such as HACEMOS, a nonprofit that provides scholarships to Latinos, will be at Sunday’s event, providing information for students who are interested in a higher education. In addition, GIGI, another nonprofit, will provide information for women struggling with substance abuse.

There will be a $10 optional donation to enter the event. Hosts are encouraging donations.

The organization hopes to raise $7,000 to $10,000 to help finish the book and have it published by the end of 2021 or the beginning of 2022.

The hardcover book is estimated to cost between $30 to $50 and the electronic book (e-book), $10.

More information about Latinas With Purpose and “With Purpose: Latino Art and Cultural Festival” is available on the nonprofit’s website.

López is a freelance writer.