Frontera Fund News

4 Latina Trailblazers Who Are Role Models for Arizonans

Rebecca Rios

Here’s a challenge: Name four Latina role models in Arizona, past or present. Drawing a blank? That’s why the Raul H. Castro Institute at Phoenix College launched the Arizona Latina Trailblazers project.

Every year since 2009, they’ve honored four female civil rights activists, politicians, and other mavericks whose moxie, grit, and idealism have transformed the Grand Canyon State.

On February 12, the Institute announced the 2015 Arizona Latina Trailblazers:

ElviraEspinozaElvira Espinoza, publisher of online newspaper Mixed Voces, and former publisher of  La Voz and CAMBIO magazine.



NancyGonzalesDr. Nancy A. Gonzales, director of the ASU Prevention Center and an esteemed psychologist who advocates for policies affecting Latino youth.



PatriciaMartinPatricia Preciado Martin, award-winning author of six books celebrating the history and culture of the Mexican-American community.



RebeccaRiosRebecca Rios, the highest-ranking Latina in the Arizona House of Representatives.



The women will be celebrated during an event at the Phoenix Art Museum on April 29. Like their predecessors, their courage will be preserved forever through video documentaries and booklets in the Arizona Memory Project, as well as in school curriculum that teaches students about pioneering Latina role models.

“If you look at the history books, there seems to be an absence of Latinas,” says Institute director Dr. Trino Sandoval. “The women that we select are true trailblazers. But you cannot find much information about them.”

Take past honorees Mary Rose Wilcox (nee Garrido), an avid recreational boxer who fought her way from a segregated school in Superior to become the first Mexican-American woman elected to the Phoenix City Council, later elected to the Maricopa Board of Supervisors – and was once shot for her politics. Or Guadalupe Verdugo Huerta, who never got beyond 7th grade but managed to repair airplanes, rally Latina coworkers to negotiate for higher wages, develop housing for the elderly and disabled, and preserve the Golden Gate barrio’s Sacred Heart Church as a historic landmark.

“In honor of their pioneering spirit, we commit to passing the stories of these inspirational women on to future generations with the hope that they will be inspired to forge paths that will lead to a better community and a better society for all,” says Dr. Anna Solley, president of Phoenix College.

The Raul H. Castro Institute has also launched the Arizona Latina Trailblazer Scholarship, funded in part by the Lacey & Larkin Frontera Fund, to assist students with tuition at Phoenix College. The scholarship will be awarded to Latina students who “embody the spirit of a trailblazer in leadership, civic participation and community involvement,” Sandoval says.