Indira López. Star

Photo by Richard Ybarra

Indira López was born in Oaxaca, Mexico on March 30th, 1967. The first years of her life she lived in different areas of the Mixtec region where her father is from. She finished elementary and secondary education in Huajuapan de Leon, Oaxaca.

Soon after graduation as a kindergarten teacher in Oaxaca, Indira immigrated to the US where she has lived ever since. Indira alike many immigrants, faced many difficulties and work really hard in order to survive in a different country. She struggled to learn English, but primarily learned to live with the pain of leaving her loved ones behind. She performed different jobs including farm, factory and hotel worker. She worked for more than eight years at San Francisco International Airport as a security supervisor and airline agent. During this time Indira pursued her education at San Francisco City College and obtained employment with San Francisco Unified School District’s Early Childhood Education Department. Indira have studies at Napa Valley College and Pacific Union College.

Indira resides in Calistoga, in the viniculture region of Napa County, north of San Francisco. She works as a Program Director at Calistoga Family Center where she has helped develop programs that benefit the immigrant community in the valley. One of these programs is Plaza Comunitaria, an adult literacy, elementary and secondary education completion program for Spanish speaking adults –collaboration between the Mexican Adult Education Department (INEA), the Mexican Consulate and the Calistoga Joint Unified School District.

Indira has actively participated in different civic committees that promote programs that benefit the Latino community, such as “Casa de la Cultura” an art enrichment program focused on serving students after school. She also served as vice chair of the former Calistoga Community Resources Committee. The CRC committee was in charge of making recommendations to the City Council about recreation, housing, environment issues, etc. that affected the Calistoga community. She also served in the Hand’s and Hearts Preschool (formerly known as St. Luke’s)

Indira is the first “elected Latino female Board member” at the Calistoga Joint Unified School District. She is also currently serving on Napa Valley Community Foundation’s External Affairs Committee.

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“I am deeply honored and humbled to have been selected for this exhibit, and I like to express my sincere gratitude to the Napa Valley Latino Heritage Month Planning Committee. I firmly believe of what Indian Poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote, ‘I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy’. I would like to dedicate his words and this honor to all the people who devote their life to serve others, Thank you”

Hope Lugo. Legendary Star

Photo by Richard Ybarra

Maria Esperanza Reyes Lugo, the eldest of twelve children, was born in San Bernardino, California, to a farm worker family. From the third grade on, her teachers called her Hope. Esperanza was too tough for them to pronounce.
Hope married Ernest Lugo and with two children they moved to Napa in 1958, from a small town in the San Joaquin Valley. Five more children were born into the family by 1965. Farm worker wages weren’t enough to care for the growing family. Hope took on housekeeping and did whatever else she could to help support the family.
In 1964, Hope began participation in the O.E.O. Head Start program. She enrolled her children as they became eligible, joined the parent policy council, and was elected to the N.C.C.E.O. Board of Directors, representing low income Napa residents. She connected with others from the Napa Hispanic community who shared the goal of making life better for farm workers and other poor people.
Others saw in Hope a leader and recruited her to apply for the job of executive director of the Napa County Council for Economic Opportunity, a position she held for thirty years. As her parents, along with other farm worker families, joined Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers union and organized for better pay and working conditions, Hope and N.C.C.E.O pursued improving the lives of poor people in health care, education, and housing. They sought those changes with vision, persuasion, partnership and persistence.

Quote:

I feel proud and humbled to be selected as an honoree for the first Latino Heritage Month photo exhibition. My story is only one of many stories from proud Hispanic families who have lived in this valley for many, many years and who have contributed so much to the making of this world renowned place we call home. It is important for all of us, especially the young people, not to forget our place in the history of the Napa Valley. I continue to be motivated and involved, because I believe I still have something to offer. It keeps me connected to my community.

Connie Moreno-Peraza. Star

Photo by Ignacio Colmenares

Connie Moreno-Peraza is the Deputy Director/Administrator of Napa County Alcohol and Drug Programs. She has an Associate’s Degree in Behavioral Science, a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. She is also a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, bilingual, with 26 years of combined experience in alcohol and drug, mental health, co-occurring disorders, integrated services, prevention services, working with children, youth and families, adults and older adults, disaster preparedness, response and planning, policy development, community development, and cultural competence.

She has extensive experience in county government; she has worked in multiple counties throughout California and has held multiple roles as supervisor, manager, administrator, and deputy director. In her leadership roles, Mrs. Moreno-Peraza has been developing programs and services that are linguistically and culturally competent to meet the needs of diverse populations, in particular for Spanish speaking clients and their families. She has also been instrumental in developing and improving policies to ensure services are easily accessible, timely, and appropriate for those in need of alcohol and drug, mental health, and co-occurring disorder services. In her former positions, and in her current position with Napa County, she has also been instrumental in ensuring educational campaigns, related to the risks and dangers of using or abusing alcohol and drugs, and other simultaneous disorders, are designed to reach the Hispanic community and the monolingual Spanish speaking community.

Mrs. Moreno-Peraza continues to remain focused in making services easily accessible for individuals and families in need of services. She is also a strong believer in recovery of alcohol and drug addictions and in health and wellness. Throughout her career, Mrs. Moreno-Peraza has helped develop and implement best practices and evidence based programs that are coordinated and integrated such as “One Stop Shops”, “Multi-service Centers”, “Community Corrections Service Center”, “Comprehensive Alcohol and Drug Continuum of Care Model”; and “Integrated Substance Use Disorders, Mental Health, and Primary Care Model”; so that, clients and their families can go to one place and get all the services they need. Mrs. Moreno-Peraza has also been a professor at California State University, Fresno, where she taught Social Work courses to undergraduate and graduate students. She also trained bilingual MSW Interns and helped develop leaders for the field of mental health and other disorders. She was also a small business owner of her clinical private practice and consultation services, where she focused on the provision of bilingual, bicultural counseling and parenting, plus provided trainings on cultural competence throughout California and in some parts of the United States.

She has also traveled to Mexico and did some work with DIF, “Desarollo Integral Familiar”, where there was an international exchange of clinical practices and programming for the Hispanic population in California. Throughout her career, Mrs. Moreno-Peraza has also planned and lead multiple Cultural Competence statewide conferences, has participated in several expert panels on alcohol and drug, co-occurring disorders, mental health, prevention, and service model, has participated on radio and television shows to educate the community on addictions and services, and has published information on mental health for consumers and families for the Mental Health Association, “Reaching for the Light”. Mrs. Moreno-Peraza has served as President, Vice President, and chaired multiple committees in her statewide association, CADPAAC (County Alcohol and Drug Program Administrators Association of California). Mrs. Moreno-Peraza is married to Mr. Jose Peraza. She has two children, Melissa, age 25, and Jose, age 17. She was born in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico. She has a big family and is very proud of each of her siblings for their accomplishments and for remaining true to our roots. She is proud of her Mexican heritage, family, language, and culture. She is fluent in Spanish and strongly believes in retaining her cultural values as part of maintaining a solid foundation and strong ethnic identity. Knowing who she is and where she comes from has been critical to her success and her healthy development, mentally, psychologically, and spiritually. Never forget who you are!

I have been blessed with awards and recognitions during in my career; however, this one is very special because I am being recognized during Hispanic Heritage Month. Our culture, our history, our heroes are being celebrated during this important month. This is a great honor. To be part of a group of fifteen women in Napa County representing the Hispanic community as leaders making a difference in our communities is an amazing, yet humbling experience. I cannot believe I am one of the fifteen women nominated and selected for a once in lifetime event! This recognition means that the community values my contributions which I think are small in comparison to all the work ahead of us. We need to continue helping our community with all the challenges being faced by them.

This nomination means that I need to continue doing the work that I have been doing and continue serving as a role model for our Hispanic/Latina women. It means that I need to continue reaching out to them and help develop the leaders of today and tomorrow! It means that I need to continue transferring my Hispanic cultural values and traditions so they can pass them on to future generations. It means that I need to continue showing pride for who I am so it can help break the barriers and help Hispanic/Latina women get their education and select careers where women are not traditionally not represented such as careers in politics, management, technology, engineering, and so forth. It means that I am responsible for continuing “las tradiciones, los valores, la famiila, y la fe en que si vamos a sobresalir y a superar como Hispanos”.

Why motivates you be involved in the community?

The thing that motivate me to be involved in the community is that I want to help change the history. A professor I had at Fresno State, Dr. Lea Ybarra, told me “History will repeat itself if you don’t change it”. I have never forgotten her advice. This is a big motivator for me. When I continue to see that in 2013 our Hispanic people are still suffering from serious health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, lung cancer, tobacco and alcohol and drug addictions, mental health conditions, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and being arrested and put in jail or sent to prison, gang involvement and crime, poor academic achievement, etc., it tells me that we still have a lot of work to do and need to work together, with a united front, and a united voice to change history so it does not repeat itself.

We cannot afford for our people to die at younger ages due to lack of medical coverage or lack of access to appropriate health care. We need to work together and develop policies and ordinances that will help improve the environment we live in. We need to work with our educational system to hire teachers that know the culture, the language, and know the teaching methods to engage our young students and our college students as well. We need to help create jobs that match the skills sets of our people so they can afford afford to buy nutritious and healthy food. We need to build more parks so children can play in safe and clean places, have access to health clubs to exercise, use alternative modes of transportation to reduce the smog, develop more bike routes. Our environment is very important.

We also need to develop programs for our youth so they can be active and productive. They are the leaders of tomorrow. I get motivated when I talk to my colleagues, partners, and community leaders so we can help reduce the challenges that our Hispanic poeple are experiencing and help come up with solutions together . This is what motivates me to get involved in the community: I want to help change history, so it does not repeat itself. I want to continue to help make difference!

Lilia Navarro. Legendary Star

Photo by Ignacio Colmenares

I growing up with a lawyer father and artistic mother. I was exposed to two very different worlds that together influenced and shaped my into person I am today.
I gained my passion for education and civil rights from my father. While my love for the Mexican folkloric arts came from my mother.
I spent my early years in La Piedad,Michoacan de Ocampo,Mexico before emigrating to the U.S. with my family in the late 70’s.
Upon arriving, I immediately integrated myself into my new community and began to seek ways to contribute. With a passion for the Mexican Folkloric arts and dance and a growing Latino community in the Napa Valley. I took it upon myself to begin a movement to increase the practice of Mexican Ballet Folkloric. I have been one of the art’s greatest promoters and I have been managing my own folkloric group for over 28 years.
As well, I having grown up watching my father fight for people’s rights and with his stern voice ringing in my head about the importance of education, I have spent the last 34 years working with numerous community organizations, including the Unified School District, to improve education as well as, further advance civil rights such as immigration reform.
I spent my free time traveling through Mexico with my husband of 47 years as well as spending time with my four daughters and grandchildren.

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“Mi Raza y mi Cultura siempre hablarán por mi.”

Melissa Rodezno. Rising Star

Photo by Israel Valencia

Melissa Rodezno was born in El Salvador, and migrated to the U.S. at the age of eight, along with her mother. They left El Salvador due to the civil war which was at its most violent. They migrated to Suisun City in Solano County, and shortly thereafter moved to Napa for a job her mother had found.
While in school, Melissa participated in nourishing programs such as Talent Search, Upward Bound, and Summer Search. It was these programs that provided opened the gates for Melissa, and through advice and assistance from Summer Search, she was able to attend Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. At Brandeis University she double majored in Politics and Anthropology. Politics had always resonated with Melissa, and a year after graduating an opportunity to work for Congressman Thompson appeared. She has been working for him since, initially as a Constituent Representative, specializing in immigration policy, and currently as a Field Representative.
She has also volunteered her time and efforts on two local city council races; Belia Ramos-Bennett American Canyon City Councilmember and Alfredo Pedroza Napa City Councilmember. Councilmember Pedroza was the first Latino to be elected in the city of Napa. In 2009 she participated in the Hispanas Organized for Political Equality Leadership Institute, a program which trains Latina professionals who are committed to making their communities a better to live for a future in politics. Also in 2009 she was approached to participate on the board of directors for the Napa Valley Community Foundation which grants $1.3 million dollars annually to local non-profits.
In the spring of 2012 she decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Political Management with George Washington University, in Washington D.C.
What this nomination means to you?
Being nominated for the First Latino Heritage Month Photo Exhibit for the exhibit of “Ellas. Latinas making a difference in the Napa Valley,” is a tremendous honor. There are many that paved the way for us to be here, and there is still a lot of work to be done. I would like to thank my mom and the countless number of women I have seen through my job, who never give up and work from sunrise to sunset in order to provide a better future for their families. My mom left the world she knew behind, this honor means her sacrifice was not in vain.
Why motivates you to be involved in our community?
Growing up in Napa as a Latina was difficult due to the lack of expectations that are placed on us. This compelled me to return to Napa after college and really get involved, specifically in politics. I wanted to be involved in the decision making process instead of feeling powerless over decisions that were being made for my community. Also, seeing an individual being empowered by the information our office provides continues to inspire me. Education, whether in a classroom or just being informed about an immigration issue, is a way to steer your own ship. I hope to continue working towards empowering our community.

Laura Valencia. Rising Star

Photo by Adriana Arriaga

“UNCENSORED ~ SIN CENSURA”

I left behind the city where I was born, Guadalajara, México at the age of 7. With nothing but a small backpack, I was brought across the Tijuana border at the age of 7 by mother after my father had been assassinated by Mexican authorities. The first of many borders and barriers since my arrival. As a first generation, Mexican immigrant I did not learn about the immigrant struggle in a Chicano/Latino Studies class, I’ve lived it.

My passion to serve was awakened as a freshmen in high school when I was introduced to human rights. The idea that a human rights activist had been abducted, tortured and incarcerated in a prison for defending human rights in some remote part of the world and that I had the power to put pressure on their government to free this individual by writing a letter was very powerful to me. A challenge facing the family forced me to find the power and compassion within to assist my brother who had been diagnosed with leukemia. Peeling the layers, growing into myself, desperately seeking support and resources, becoming familiar with the systems, accessing health and social services to support my brother and later in life my mother, a stroke survivor while struggling to obtain higher education as an undocumented student, has given me a better scope, compassion and understanding of the various challenges and struggles our Latino community faces.

As a result, I feel a deep commitment to serving and supporting the community with the same determination and principles as I did and continue to do for my own family. I seek depth and passion in both my personal and professional life and the reality is that I get more back from those I come across with than I will be able to give. I refuse to live on the surface… and I am truly enjoying this journey.

Karla Gómez-Pelayo. Rising Star

Photo by Adriana Arriaga

Karla’s roots are in Jalisco, México but she was raised in the Napa Valley since the age of three. She is the oldest child of four, and the first person in her family to graduate high school. After graduating high school, Karla enrolled at Napa Valley College (NVC) where her passion for education, community and social justice was cultivated.

In 2010, she co-founded the Napa Valley Dream Team (NVDT), where she led the development and coordination of the first and second “Dreamers Conferences” at NVC to support undocumented students and families. Additionally, Karla co-founded the Napa Valley Ethnic Studies Advocates to ensure the perseverance of culture and implementation ethnic studies courses to reflect the student demographics in the Napa Valley. Consecutively, she was named the Napa Valley College Outstanding Student of the Year in 2011 for her community involvement and academic accomplishments. Last year, Karla transferred to the University of California, Berkeley, where she is now a fourth year student pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Ethnic Studies. Karla aspires to become a public interest civil rights attorney and one day, be an ethnic studies law professor.

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First off, I want to thank the Napa Valley Latino Heritage Month Planning Committee for selecting me for such recognition. I am humbled and honored to be an ella amongst my fellow my maestras and inspiring mujeres. I extend this honor to my familia and community for all the love, nurture, trust, opportunities of growth and mentorship they have collectively given me.

My feelings are conceptualized by the phenomenal Chicana scholar Gloria E. Anzaldúa, whose research and literature has helped me make sense of my experiences as a first generation Mexicana living in living in the borderland(s). In her book, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, Anzaldúa says, “I am a turtle, where I go I carry ‘home’ on my back.” Like a turtle in between worlds, I carry my mama’s journey through El Rio Grande for the “American Dream,” my curiosity about the world, knowledge fostered in and out of the classroom, consciousness of social issues, and the courage of my ancestors who sacrificed their lives for me. I carry my community on my back and my deep-rooted commitment to creating a better world. Simultaneously, like Ernesto “Che” Guevarra once said, “at the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.’ My work is guided by love for my community and social justice.