Meet the Latina Leadership Council Co-Chairs

Meet the Latina Leadership Council Co-Chairs

This month I had the opportunity to interview the co-chairs of the Chicago Foundation For Women’s Latina Leadership Council. These ladies are on the move impacting our community. This Friday, October 16th they will be having an evening of theatre and reception for their annual fall event to raise funds for Latina women and girls. Above is a photo of Silvia Rivera on the left, center Dolores Huerta and Lilliana De Santiago. Here is what they had to say about philanthropy, leadership and the work the Latina Leadership Council is doing:

Diana Pando: What is the Latina Leadership Council and how is it impacting Latina women and girls in Chicago?

Lilliana De Santiago: The LLC is a network of women committed to improving the lives of Latina women and girls in the Chicago area. Each woman who joins the council is a volunteer and comes from a variety of professional backgrounds. Our work within the LLC is to raise awareness of the issues impacting the Latina community and find the resources to support those organizations that are doing great work to address them. Our main goal is to raise funds by encouraging our peers, family and colleagues to participate actively in philanthropy.

Diana Pando: How did both you and Silvia get interested in philanthropy?

Lilliana De Santiago: I became interested in philanthropy through my desire to have a much more global and at substantial impact on the communities and causes that I am passionate about. I volunteer as often as I can, but that can often be limited by life. I find that by giving and educating others about causes and encouraging them to give is incredibly fulfilling and I am often able to do much more with those dollars than I can at times with my own hands.

Silvia Rivera: My parents were ones who never hesitated in giving, if it wasn’t financially, it was by offering their home, food, or helping hand. I think that the example they set for me, is one that most Latinos live by. We are philanthropists by culture. As a young adult these cultural values were strengthened through my involvement with the National Museum of Mexican Art. Working for a Latino-led cultural institution inculcated in me the importance of supporting and strengthening the cornerstones of our community.

Diana Pando: How has being on the Latina Leadership Council impacted both you?

Lilliana De Santiago: Being on the LLC has helped me to connect with a strong network of passionate Latina women and also has given me confidence in my own personal strength. It is a truly a blessing to be among women who have so much life and passion. These women make things happen in their lives, but are humble and caring and will go out of their way to help their community. It has been a very positive experience.

Silvia Rivera: I have made it a life’s mission to connect with those women that inspire me and to inspire others. There is an indescribable sense of pride that I feel whenever I am surrounded by the women of the Latina Leadership Council. These are women that have triumphed over a variety of life’s challenges, and are a constant reminder that wise Latinas are all around us.

Diana Pando: How is the money you raise at your benefit be used? Who are past recipients?

Lilliana De Santiago: The LLC takes the funds that it raises and conducts yearly grant making efforts to support community organizations. Our past grantees have included: Mujeres Latina en Accion,Pilsen Alliance,Centro Romero,Centro San Bonifacio,Teatro Luna.

Diana Pando: What have you learned about yourself and others from being on the council?

Lilliana De Santiago: There are many things that I have learned as a member of the council and my involvement with the foundation. My sense of commitment to a cause has grown as well as my sense of social reasonability. I truly feel that I am making a difference working with and committing myself to the LLC.

Silvia Rivera: Being on the council has strengthened my belief that Latina’s should be the driver’s of this generations political, cultural, and social agendas. There is no doubt in my mind that Latina’s have the talent and the know-how needed to change our society for the better.

Diana Pando: Who are the other women on the council?

Lilliana De Santiago: The Latina Leadership Council includes: Carla Agostinelli,Michelle Garcia,Nora Garcia, Lynae Maciel and Dr. Yolanda Cardenas

Diana Pando: What trends are you seeing with Latinas in Philanthropy in the middle of this economic downturn?

Lilliana De Santiago: The trends that I see are working collaboratively with the arts and/or leadership events. The arts are an amazing venue where culture, opinions, passions, and current events are voiced in a multitude of ways that can relate to the masses. The LLC has partnered with the arts for their annual fundraiser for the last 3 years and they have proven to be highly successful. The goals with our events are to expose people the many elements of the Latino cultures, entertain them and educate them to the issues of Latina women. We have been fortunate enough to accomplish that and be recognized as an organization that does that on a yearly basis. We hope to continue that trend.

Silvia Rivera: Now, more than ever, we have to be united in supplementing the losses community organizations have experienced due to the economic downturn. Cut backs have negatively affected Latina agencies, many of which are being forced to decrease the services they provide. The good news is that our ability to partner with arts organizations, has proven to be a wonderful formula in reaching out to a diverse cadre of financial contributors. It is true that when times are tough, the comadres come through.

Diana Pando: What plans do you and Silvia, the new co-chair, have for the Latina Leadership Council in the coming months?

Lilliana De Santiago: Grow bigger, better, and wiser. We continue to look for amazing women who are willing to make a commitment to service, education, and philanthropy. We also will be working on a fundraising strategic plan to map out our philanthropic goals and events for the next year or two. We have an amazing group of women with a million great ideas and we nee to harness those ideas and see how we can make them realities.

Silvia Rivera: I hope that we increase the visibility of the Latina Leadership Council amongst organizations that might benefit from our fundraising efforts. Likewise, I hope that we can continue on our upward fundraising momentum.

About the benefit performance

Chicago Foundation for Women’s Latina Leadership Council is proud to announce a special one-night benefit performance of The House on Mango Street at the Steppenwolf Theatre. This is generously cosponsored by Steppenwolf Theatre. Profits from the event will go toward the Council’s Maria Mangual Unidas Fund, which awards grants to nonprofit programs in the Chicago area working with the Latina community. Join us for a pre-show reception with wine and hors d’oeuvres, where you can meet council members and learn how you can get involved.

About The House on Mango Street

Based on the novel by celebrated Chicago writer Sandra Cisneros and adapted by Tanya Saracho, The House on Mango Street is the touching and humorous story of a young girl growing up in one of Chicago’s culturally diverse neighborhoods. Esperanza Cordero dreams of a new life far away from her tiny home on rundown Mango Street in this classic coming-of-age story about those defining experiences that shape our beliefs and help us discover who we are.

Tickets: $40. Buy through Chicago Foundation for Women’s website:

Got questions about this event? Call Marisol Ybarra: 312-577-2801

House On Mango Street Takes To The Stage

House On Mango Street Takes To The Stage

They will not know I have gone away to come back. For the ones I left behind. For the ones that cannot out.
– Esperanza Cordero, The House On Mango Street

Front to back: Sandra Delgado, Belinda Cervantes and Christina Nieves
photo by Saverio Truglia

The world premiere for the musical adaptation of The House on Mango Street opens this fall. The cast of the new play features: Belinda Cervantes, Gina Cornejo, Sandra Delgado as Esperanza, Liza Fernandez, Ricardo Gutierrez, Christina Nieves, Tony Sancho and Mari Stratton. Earlier this year Proyecto Latina had the opportunity to talk to some of the ladies that are now involved with this production.

Check out our interview archive to learn more about them:

The House On Mango Street by Chicago writer Sandra Cisneros has been adapted by playwright Tanya Saracho, who took on the challenge of bringing Esperanza and the people on Mango Street to the stage. Saracho also recently received two Jeff Nominations for her play Our Lady of the Underpass.

The House on Mango Street is a coming of age story of Esperanza, a Mexican-American girl, growing up in Chicago. The book gives voice to Esperanza and her working class family, as well as, the people that live on Mango Street. The book is not only a Chicago story but an American story.

Proyecto Latina congratulates all of these ladies for their artistic achievements and contributions to the arts in Chicago.

This World Premiere production opens October 13 – November 1. In the Steppenwolf Upstairs Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted St., in Chicago. For information on reservation and performance times visit or call (312) 335-1650.

Sandra Cisneros: Compost your rage & fuel your art

Sandra Cisneros: Compost your rage & fuel your art

That’s Jorge Valdivia with Sandra Cisneros in the photograph above, it was taken moments before I got to sit down and interview her last Wednesday. Jorge is the Director of Performing arts at the National Museum of Mexican Art and we will be posting an interview with him later this week, so make sure to come back and check for it, he talks to us about the 15th annual Sor Juana Festival.

I owe Jorge, Annie Tully, and Diana Pando, a HUGE shout out and THANK YOU in getting this interview done. It was such an amazing opportunity, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Part I: Interview with Sandra Cisneros, 3:50

Part II: Interview with Sandra Cisneros, 9:10

Part III: Interview with Minerva who writes poems, 2:53

interview by Irasema Gonzalez

Mangos, Chismes y Mucho Más

Mangos, Chismes y Mucho Más

This month’s Proyecto Latina honors Sandra Cisneros and includes a sneak peak at Tanya Saracho’s adaptation of The House on Mango Street. We encourage you to bring your Mango themed poems, stories and chisme! As always it’s FREE and we look forward to seeing you!

Join us on Monday, April 20, 2009 @ 7 p.m. Held at Radio Arte, 1401 W. 18th Street.

Proyecto Latina welcomes Tanya Saracho back this April, we will be featuring a sampling of the full-length play and her adaptatation of the Sandra Cisnero’s book The House on Mango Street. Tanya will also share the art process of how she took a lyrical narrative and modified it for the stage.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is celebrating its 25th anniversary in print. This Spring its been chosen as the One Book One Chicago for the city to read.

Tanya Saracho was born in Sinaloa, México and moved to Texas in the late 80′s . She is the Co-Founding Artistic Director of Teatro Luna: Chicago’s All-Latina Theatre, and a resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists and Teatro Vista. Tanya’s writing has been featured in most of Teatro Luna’s ensemble-built works including “Generic Latina,” “Dejame Contarte,” “The Maria Chronicles,” “SOLO Latinas,” “SOLO Tú,” “S-E-X-Oh!” and “Lunatic(a)s.” Her plays include: “Our Lady of The Underpass” with Teatro Vista (2009), “Surface Day” with Chicago Children’s Humanity Festival (2008 ), and “Jarred (A Hoodoo Comedy)” with Teatro Luna (2008). Tanya’s play “Kita y Fernanda,” a finalist for the 2003 Nuestras Voces playwrighting competition, received productions at Teatro Luna (2003) and 16th Street Theatre (2008). Other Awards include: The Ofner Prize given by the Goodman Theatre, Finalist for the Christopher B. Wolk Award at Abingdon Theatre in NYC, nominee for the Wasserstein Prize and winner of the Khan Award. Saracho’s solo play “Quita Mitos” received a world premier with Teatro Luna in November of 2006 and has toured colleges and festivals, including the International Hispanic Theatre Festival and the Goodman’s Latino Theatre Festival. Tanya is working on a fellowship in a collaboration between The Goodman Theatre and the Institute for Women and Gender Studies at Columbia College on an interview-based piece titled “27″ where she will interview one woman from each of the 27 countries that make up the Latin Diaspora. She is also under commission from Steppenwolf Theatre to craft a musical adaptation Sandra Cisnero’s “The House on Mango Street” slated to open in the fall of 2009. Directing/co-directing credits include: “SOLO Tú,” “S-E-X-Oh!” and “Lunatic(a)s.” the remount of “Generic Latina,”The Maria Chronicles,” “Jarred (A Hoodoo Comdey)” and “SÓLO Latinas.” Tanya’s performing credits include: Neil Labutte’s Fat Pig” with Renaissance Theatreworks in Milwaukee, Migdalia Cruz’ “Another Part of the House” with Teatro Vista, “Living Out” with American Theatre Co./Teatro Vista, “Electricidad” at Goodman Theatre and “La Casa De Bernarda Alba” with Aguijon Theater. Tanya’s voice can be heard around the country in radio and television commercials.

Check out our interview with Tanya here.

Proyecto Latina provides a platform to showcase work by Latinas. In it’s fourth year, the reading series takes place the third Monday of every month, it includes a feature, an open mic and a a chisme box! Proyecto Latina Radio Airs Sundays @ 6 p.m. on WRTE, 90.5 F.M.

One Book, One Chicago-House On Mango Street

One Book, One Chicago-House On Mango Street

This week the Mayor announced the One Book, One Chicago selection. Felicidades to Sandra Cisneros and her book The House On Mango Street! The book is in its 25th Anniversary and still delighting readers of all ages.

The House On Mango Street was published in 1984 and traces Esperanza Cordero’s coming-of-age through a series of vignettes about her family, neighborhood, and secret dreams. Esperanza’s character shows us her self-empowerment and will to overcome obstacles of poverty, gender, and race. I got a copy of the book in Spanish and I’m so excited to send it to my 11 year-old niece Aylín in Mexico City.

Sandra Cisneros was born in Chicago in l954, the third child and only daughter in a family of seven children. I studied at Loyola University of Chicago (B.A. English 1976) and the University of Iowa (M.F.A. Creative Writing 1978). She worked as a teacher and counselor to high-school dropouts, as an artist-in-the schools where I taught creative writing at every level except first grade and pre-school, a college recruiter, an arts administrator, and as a visiting writer at a number of universities including the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Read more about Sandra’s books here!

One Book, One Chicago was inaugurated in the fall of 2001, the One Book, One Chicago program is launched each spring and fall to cultivate a culture of reading and discussion in Chicago by bringing our diverse city together around one great book. Past winners include, one of my favorites, Tell It To The Mountain by James Baldwin. The Press Conference: When I arrived at the Harold Washington Library I found an army of cameramen shooting footage of the press conference and people flipping through pages of the book. Proyecto Latina Radio Co-Producer Irasema Gonzalez was already there and lurking between book aisles I spotted Radio Arte’s General Manager Silvia Rivera and made my way towards them. I always find myself greatly entertained when I’m in the company of these two women. The press conference took a weird turn when the Mayor went from talking about The House On Mango Street to drugs in Mexico. I think it took away from the focus of the book and hope no one associates the book with drugs in Mexico. While he said things I agreed with it was definitely a different press conference. A couple of years ago… I remember Irasema dragging me all the way to Loyola University one cold March day to see a special reading by Sandra Cisneros. I was resisting because it was early in the morning. I am so thankful I went because not only was her reading amazing something unexpected happened. When it was our turn at the book signing we asked her about writing and she said, “Start a writing group and she pointed to other women in the room that had asked the same question. Sandra doesn’t know this but she is our writing group Madrina and we’ve been writing ever since. Her suggestion brought me together with other wonderful writers like Professor Lizann Acosta, Dr. Yolanda Cardenas, PhD. Candidate Magda Banda and Tianguis Book Store Owner Irasema Gonzalez and together we form the Maravilla Writing Collective. Click on this link for a video interview with Sandra Cisneros. Also Irasema will be interviewing Sandra and scheduled to air on Sunday, April 18 at 6 p.m. on 90.5 FM WRTE. Proyecto Latina extends un ABRAZOTE FUERTE to Sandra Cisneros for her wonderful writing and for opening puertas for the rest of us!