Peña Femenina Flourishing

Leila Flores-Dueñas of Peña Femenina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The space is there; we either take it or we don’t and someone will speak for us. All we have to do is produce; the rest will take care of itself.” – Leila Flores-Dueñas, Singer/Writer

While in New Mexico at the National Latino Writer’s Conference I had the opportunity to do mini-interviews with some of the fabulous women I met out there. All of them are doing wonderful work and I wanted to introduce them to you. One of my goals for going to the conference was to connect and build bridges for our Proyecto Latina family. The ladies profiled this week are creative, inspiring and impacting our community.

I hope you enjoy this next interview as much as I did!

During the banquet dinner I wandered away into the lobby. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye I see this woman coming towards me like a tornado with turquoise earrings and a smile from here to the moon. She introduced herself as Leila Flores-Dueñas from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Little did I know she would be something creatively fierce and someone you need to know.  Right away I could tell Leila had sangre liviana and we started chatting right away.

Leila is a professor of education at the University of New Mexico, a children’s book writer, a singer of corridos with Las Flores del Valle, member of the Hispanic Women’s Council and Peña Femenina. By the time she got to that last part I was drooling! Her creative spirit is contagious and it was clear to me that she’s just as passionate as I am about impacting Latinas in the arts in her community.

Peña Femenina is a group of New Mexican women in the arts. They participate as part of the Women & Creativity annual, month-long series celebrating women’s creativity in all genres organized by National Hispanic Cultural Center.

According to Leila, Peña Femenina is important to her because “first of all we are multi-talented women. We have incredible power in that spirit of our grandmothers, tías y las mujeres de nuestros antepasados. They did incredible stuff and now we have access to get it out there and to let people know about our talents. I would just like to up it and want people know how incredibly talented we are. We are the ones that maintain language, culture, values, morals and stories in our community.”

One of the things that struck me about Leila was her commitment to the arts and I wondered what type of impact she wanted to make on Latinas in the arts? When I asked her she smiled and said, ”I want more women to start bringing out their talents; we need to stop hiding behind the Latino men writers and Latino men composers. We need to do it ourselves and make sure we get credit for it.”

She mentioned some popular corridos, were originally written by women, who were literate, but never got credit for them. Another example she gave was that Dolores Huerta. She was a big part of the Farm Workers movement negotiating contracts, lobbying for and against several California and Federal laws and there is no Dolores Huerta Street in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“With technology and globalism we have opportunity and we should seize the moment. We need to make people understand that there is strength in the women of our communities. That’s my goal whatever form that takes whether it’s putting on a show to say here we are”, says Leila.

At Proyecto Latina we spend a lot of time cultivating and encouraging Latinas to tell their story with an emphasis that if you don’t tell your story someone will tell it for you. It’s a quote I first heard from Sandra Cisneros that has been my mantra ever since.

During dinner I had even mentioned it to writer Lorena Hughes so when Leila said, “it’s time to recognize who we are and whether we are writing books or blogging we are recording our history. If we don’t tell it someone else will do it for us” it gave me goose bumps and was the twilight zone moment of the interview.

We both laughed because we were on the same wave-length and that’s when she said, “The space is there; we either take it or we don’t and someone will speak for us. All we have to do is produce; the rest will take care of itself.

Personally, I’m looking forward to building bridges between Proyecto Latina and our hermanas of Peña Femenina to work and continue to advance Latinas in the arts.

Finally, as Leila would say “we need to step it up y Horale.”

If you enjoyed this profile let us know in the comment section.

Connect with Leila Flores Dueñas at lflores@unm.edu

Listen to an audio interview that we did with Sandra Cisneros

Become a fan of Flores Del Valle

Listen to an interview that we did with Dolores Huerta

Learn more about the Women and Creativity Series

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