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CT group celebrates Hispanic women who shatter stereotypes and build thriving careers

Yanina Cuentas, leader of Mujer Hispana Connecticut speaks as 13 Hispanic women were recognized for their resilience and community contributions across Connecticut at Casa Mia at the Hawthorne in Berlin Connecticut May 19, 2024.
Maricarmen Cajahuaringa
/
Connecticut Public
Yanina Cuentas, leader of Mujer Hispana Connecticut speaks as 13 Hispanic women were recognized for their resilience and community contributions across Connecticut at Casa Mia at the Hawthorne in Berlin Connecticut May 19, 2024.

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Mujer Hispana Connecticut recognized 13 Hispanic women for their resilience and community contributions across Connecticut on Sunday.

Yanina Cuentas arrived in Connecticut almost 30 years ago from Lima, Peru, with a heart full of dreams. After witnessing the struggles of people in the Hispanic community, she started Mujer Hispana Connecticut in 2009 as a movement dedicated to empowering Latina women.

“Immigrants suffer a lot,” Cuentas said. “I see how some immigrants fall ill, others pass away because they don't have health insurance, and others can't even pay their rent. Job opportunities are limited.”

Over the past 13 years, Mujer Hispana Connecticut has acknowledged Hispanic women in various sectors such as health care, education, mental health, social work, communications, and more. Cuentas said these women are leaders who demonstrate daily the incredible resilience and potential of the Latina community.

“This is an event by the community and for the community,” she said. “It is not just a recognition party. It has a purpose for Hispanic women, which is to keep moving forward. We are doing well, but still have more work to do.”

A dynamic and ever-changing committee supports Cuentas each year, bringing new energy and perspectives. While the initiative is not focused on fundraising, the annual event organized by Mujer Hispana relies on the support of the community.

Maria Ortiz, program manager for the Domestic Violence Program at the Hispanic Health Council, was one of the awardees. Ortiz, who has Puerto Rican heritage, said that traditional roles imposed on Hispanic women do not align with the strength and abilities of contemporary women.

“We're reprogramming their minds and telling them women are very strong,” Ortiz said. “Don’t underestimate women, especially women who are immigrants, because they're very hard working and they're really resilient, valiant, intelligent, courageous, all of those things. A lot of them are going back to school, they're starting their own businesses. Whatever they have to do to survive, they're gonna do it. They're survivors.”

Ortiz has created a women's empowerment group so they can become advocates for their communities and families.

Nancy Carrasco Obregón, originally from Lima, Peru, was awarded for her outstanding efforts in promoting cultural exchange and sharing her heritage through Marinera dancing lessons.

“I'm very excited when people learn our culture; they get very excited to see our different types of dances, especially people from other cultures because they appreciate it,” Carrasco said.

Carrasco said this recognition is important because Hispanic women can feel isolated due to biases related to gender, language, or immigration status. She hopes it will remind everyone that “we have to leave a legacy for our children.”

Cuentas said more resources and support are necessary to expand the initiative and provide support to a broader audience of women.

"As women, we need to stick together and empower each other because we are very resourceful,” Ortiz said. “Each of us has our own talents and strengths, and if we come together, we can do so much. We can rule the world," she said with a smile. "Women are at the heart of the family, and if we put our minds to it, there’s nothing we can’t do."

Maricarmen Cajahuaringa is a journalist with extensive experience in Latino communities' politics, social issues, and culture. She founded Boceto Media, a digital Spanish-language newspaper based in Connecticut. Maricarmen holds a Bachelor's in Social Work from Springfield College, and a Master's in Journalism and Media Production from Sacred Heart University. As a reporter for Connecticut Public, she is dedicated to delivering accurate and informative coverage of the Hispanic/Latino population in the region. Maricarmen is an experienced and passionate journalist who strives to bring a voice to the stories of her community.

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