His View: Continuing a Legacy
By Robert E. Bard
It was 25 years ago that in the living room of a tiny Alexandria apartment in Virginia, Anna Maria Arias put the finishing touches to the first LATINA Style magazine. It was a bold adventure, no Latina magazine existed at that time and the feedback she was receiving was telling her not to do it, that the magazine would not succeed. It was particularly difficult because she had been offered a great job in the new administration.
Her supporters could be counted on one hand; her mom Rita Arias, Congresswoman Iliana Ros-Lehtinen, the only Latina Member of Congress at the time, and a handful of corporate visionaries. No matter what, it was going to be an incredible challenge.
You see, in 1994 professional Latinas “did not exist” according to the “powers that be”. Well, said the naysayers, “If they are born in the United States, educated here, if they are English speakers, if they work in corporate America, they are assimilated, they are part of the mainstream, why would they want to be singled out as different, they are Americans!” we were told.
Yes, Latinas are part of the mainstream, they most likely work in an English dominant corporate environment, they are business owners, they are doctors, professors, they are leaders in their communities but guess what? They also are Latinas. They have retained a clear cultural identity that they are not going to let go of. They are mostly bilingual, bicultural and hold great respect for the culture of their parents, their ancestors, they are LATINAS!
And yes, “they are Americans” we responded. “Well, good luck with that,” we were told. They predicted no more than two editions would publish and our money under the bridge.
Well, guess what? It has been 25 years of hard work, climbing mountains, fighting prejudices, and continued face-offs with the naysayers. But we are still here. Now Latinas are the talk of the country and even the world. We have profiled thousands of Latina success stories, engineers, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs like Nina Vaca and Rosa Santana, elected and appointed officials, astronauts, generals, ambassadors, scientists, teachers, dancers, opera stars, movie producers, actresses, Olympic stars, inventors, musicians and even a Supreme Court Associate Justice, the Honorable Sonia Sotomayor.
Latina success is everywhere, Anna Maria’s vision was not too far off. Even after her untimely passing in 2001, we were able to not only keep the flame alive but receive prestigious awards as well. I would like to thank all the mentors, friends and champions who have made our continuing journey possible. You are too many to list in these pages but you know who you are. Today LATINA Style serves our community through its different initiatives such as the LATINA Style 50, the LATINA StyleBusiness Series, the National LATINA Symposium, the Distinguished Military Service Awards, the LATINA Style Hero Initiative, and our partner non-profit Parents Step Ahead. The challenges are still here but with your help and support, we are ready to face the future. LATINA Style and the Latina community will continue to succeed.
Gracias a todas nuestras amigas y amigos. God bless.