Telling Stories Through The Vagina Monologues

“To say women’s stories out loud solidifies your commitment to advocate for women.” – Norma Seledon, Director of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues

Ensemble of the Vagina Monologues

Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Norma Seledon, Director of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues presented by Mujeres Latinas en Acción. Norma started off as one of the actors in the show and then moved on to direct it. What struck me about the monologues was when she mentioned Mujeres Latinas en Acción is the only organization in the city presenting The Vagina Monologues in Spanish.

Norma has been working with a group of women on the monologues and guiding them through the rehearsal process. The ensemble includes friends, sisters, mothers and daughters from the community. “The Vagina Monologues are a transformational experience for the audience but especially the women that perform the monologues.

“We get few women that have any acting experience and most of the women are fearful of doing anything on stage but something inside them brings them and they are excited to be there.” While the audience that comes to see the show is primarily women there are men who come to the show also to learn and try to understand these issue because, “you can’t do this type of advocacy without male participation,” says Norma.

The Vagina Monologues are powerful stories that connect and create conversation between the women in the audience and those performing the monologues. According to Norma, “I think women already have a notion that they have something say but I think many don’t realize is that they also have something to learn about themselves because when you personalize these issues it kind of becomes a part of you especially when you act things out to say out loud women’s stories is transformational and solidifies your commitment to advocate for women.

Norma is no stranger to working with women. She is a former domestic violence counselor and also developed a leadership program at Mujeres Latinas en Acción and a recipient of a Vagina Warrior award for her work with women. Professionally, Norma has moved away from directly working with women but she still does a lot of volunteer work with women in the community. When asked why she does the work she does with women Norma says, “It’s always gratifying and a privilege to witness women’s transformations whether they are participating in a leadership program or rehearsing for The Vagina Monologues.

The Vagina Monologues will be performed this Thursday, April 26, In Spanish and Friday, April 27th in English. For more information Mujeres Latinas en Accion The Vagina Monologues 773.890.7656

Ensemble in photo includes:  Front row (L to R):  Samantha Caballero, Queli Tellez, Madelynn Martinez Second Row (L to R): Vanessa Robledo, Rocio Robledo, Selene Gonzalez, Eva Tellez, Liz Villarreal Back Row (L to R):  Norma Seledon, Nancy Martinez, Alheli Herrera, Kendy OlaguezNot pictured:  Maria Martinez

Ciudadanía 2012

Citizenship Workshop at Mujeres Latinas en Acción where volunteers assist legal permanent residents on the citizenship application process.

I have a very hazy memory of my parents becoming United States citizens since it happened when I was pretty young.  What is easy to recall is the feeling that it was something big and that they worked hard towards accomplishing.  My mother recounted the nerve wrecking experience of preparing and taking her citizenship test.

I don’t know if anyone helped my parents navigate that path but I do remember their oath ceremonies where as big a deal as school graduations and they took days off work to attend.  Afterward they both  beamed with satisfaction and pride–perhaps a sense of relief. And once they had this social capital they paid it forward, I often heard my mom pointing friends–that like her were also immigrants–toward  resources and offering much needed encouragement on obtaining their ciudadanía.

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website in the last decade 6.8 million individuals became U.S. citizens.  With over 800,000 new citizens in 2000 that number dropped by almost half by 2003 and didn’t see a significant increase until 2008 at over one million.  That is an average of 680,000 new U.S. citizens per year that gain the ability to fully participate in the country they now call home and that can begin flexing their voting muscle. It was my parents who modeled this civic duty and by the time I turned 18 I understood the value of registering and showing up to vote on election day.

So when Maria León, Latina Leadership Coordinator at Mujeres Latinas en Acción recently told me about an opportunity to train to assist legal permanent residents fill out their applications for citizenship I didn’t have to think too much about it–its definitely something I want to do.

Below is information on the training workshop and dates that the citizenship workshops will take place in 2012.

When:  Wednesday, January 18th from 6pm to 9pm
Where:  Instituto del Progreso Latino,
2520 S. Western Ave.
If you are interested in participating contact Maria Leon at

All workshops take place Saturdays from 9 am – 1 pm but volunteers usually stay until 2 pm if the turnout is great.

January 21 @ Daley College, 7500 South Pulaski
February 25 @ Benito Juarez High School,
1450-1510 W. Cermak Road  (Parking is on 21st and Loomis)
March 10 @
Benito Juarez High School, 1450-1510 W. Cermak Road (Parking is on 21st and Loomis)
March 24 @ Location TBD
May 12 @ Location TBD
June 23 @ Location TBD

And as Maria says, “In the spirit of giving back: feel free to spread the word.”

This project is supported by the Local Reporting Awards, The Chicago Community Trust , Community News Matter initiative.  Get the full scoop on The Reportera Series here.


10.10.10 Domingo Newsbytes

Hard to focus on the news today, my friend Anita ran the Chicago Marathon and I was much too excited about tracking her progress.  Running is her passion and in addition to family and work commitments, in the last year she carved out time to train for today.  She’s definitely inspired me to indulge in my own artistic interests, set some goals and pursue some creative marathons of my own–these also happen to align with an ongoing dialogue I’ve been having recently with Diana and Coya about creative goals for 2011.  I will be sure to keep you posted.

Creative marathons are not new to me.  In 2010 I was honored to partake in hours of collaboration with the wonderful El Stitch y Bitch for the creation of a knitted and crocheted altar dedicated to our crafty ancestors.  The groups collaboration is the cover story of the November issue of Cafe–the story is not linkable yet so if you want to read it you have to pick up a hard copy of the magazine.  I usually find a free copy at Pilsen restaurants and/or cafe’s.

I was pleasantly surprised to see another Proyecto Latina favorite, Monique Frausto in that issue, she’s part of a story about Latinos reconnecting with their language and heritage.  And there is also a wonderful article on Concha Buika, that recounts a childhood memory that still haunts her, but taught her to seize the moment each and every time she takes the stage.

A random an interesting tid-bit about Google and the word Latina.  I know I’ve turned up questionable searches that include the word Latina in their name.

Seriously? Dear JLO, I’m going to tune-in but for the record I’m uncomfortable and resisting the Latina nanny concept.

Perhaps the life of Alicia Amador, could one day inspire a leading character on prime time tv.  According to Windy City Times, Amador passed away last Thursday of cancer–”her greatest legacy was the impact she had on children and families in the Pilsen community.”  Amador was a staff member at Mujeres Latinas en Accion and founding member of Amigas Latinas.

Finally, I’m counting down for the next Proyecto Latina on Monday, October 18th.  Kansas City poet, Linda Rodriguez will be sharing poetry and a piece title, We’ve Been Here All Along: 13 Ways of Looking at Latinos in the Midwest. I’ve gotten a sneak peek at the work she is sharing and I have to tell you its going to be a special treat. Plan to join us!

I leave you with a first in a series of short films, a project by Proyecto Latina friend and fellow artist extraordinaire, Ricardo Gamboa–who is always on creative marathons.  His most recent project focuses on concerns over immigration issues.

09.05.10: Doming Newsbytes

09.05.10: Doming Newsbytes

We hope you are unwinding and indulging on a lazy Labor Day weekend!

This week I had the opportunity to sit down and lunch with Sylvia Puente, Executive Director of Latino Policy Forum, at the Park City Grill in beautiful Millennium Park. We took a moment for ourselves and over iced tea reflected how hectic the year has been.  Slowing down requires extra effort to squeeze it into busy schedules and sometimes you need to bring everything to a screeching halt to maintain your sanity.

If you are a hyper-busy Latina what do you do to catch your breath?

Speaking of Latinas that are on a roll…

  • Performance artist Jenny Priego is getting ready for Adelita Pata de Perro on Saturday, September 11 at the Carlos & Dominguez Gallery in Pilsen and YOU’RE INVITED! Read more…

A voting initiative we came across that we really like is Mujeres Latinas en Acción is now part of a project to register and mobilize new citizen voters. They  are also reaching out to young women through Proyecto Juventud to educate girls about the history of women’s struggle to vote, the voting process and how they can make a difference in their communities when they are of voting age.  Voting is a luxury. Make sure during the next elections that you and your comadres head to the polls.

Other Latinas on the move include:

Our prayers and good vibes are with 24-year-old Gabriela Cedillo from the Little Village neighborhood. She was an extra in the filming of Transformers 3 when she was hit in the head while filming the scene in Hammond, Indiana. She is listed in critical but stable condition at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood.

Remember to tell your hermanas and comadres about Proyecto Latina! You can follow us on Twitter @proyectolatina or sign up for the RSS feed.

As always we are open to story ideas or if you come across news stories about Latinas email us the link at

05.09.10 Domingo Newsbytes

05.09.10 Domingo Newsbytes

Last night was The Great Collaboration: creative justice roundtable and celebration benefit.  What an amazing vibe, we met  an army of enlightened creatives, there was a scrumptious spread of food, and it was a great honor to be included in the talent line-up.  We brought the chisme box with us and got a head-start on chisme’s for May’s Proyecto Latina.

SPEAK UP & SPEAK OUT! is our theme for this month’s Proyecto Latina, which is only a week away on Monday, May 17th. Speaking up and the importance of sharing our opinions was a discussion that came up between members of the Proyecto Latina family recently, when we thought about how to respond to the Arizona law.  We have invited some special guests to join us that evening and will be featuring our community’s collective voice–you are invited to chime in.

This week we spotlighted two women that are doing an exceptional job of speaking up through virtual platforms: Cindy Mosqueda is the author of her blog Loteria Chicana and Monique Frausto is the creator of the online directory Blogs by Latinas.   Check out our interviews with them and let us know what you think.

Its also mother’s day this weekend. Did you know that our generation of mujeres is mixing it up a little? So, the next time familia inquires about when you plan to have that baby, calm their fears and let them know that according to a study by the Pew Research Center there are distinct shifts in the U.S. mommy demographic.  While there is a significant jump in the number of Latina mommy’s–13% increase since 1990– more women from all race/ethnic categories are waiting until their late thirties and early forties for a stork delivery.  Something else to consider if you are of child-bearing age, a different study finds that Latinas are at a higher risk for gestational diabetes.

Cultural attitudes about sex also place Latinas at high risk for something else, over 15 years ago Claudia Moreno was asked to create an HIV prevention intervention program for Latinas.  And something else we kinda already know about, but feel its worth repeating: poor Latina and Black women obtain abortions at a disproportionate level.

Kinda leaves you wondering: What is the real status of Latinas’ health today? A May 10th event in Pilsen, that is also open to the public, and sponsored by the Chicago Foundation for Women and Mujeres Latinas en Accion will tackle that question.

Have a great week!