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Latinas in Leadership conference highlights a universal message



Conferences of all shapes and sizes, representing all sorts of groups, are prolific in the U.S., but there is one right here in Las Cruces that is far more timely and important than the organizers even know.

The Latinas in Leadership Conference, which made its debut Sept. 16, spotlights the accomplishments of Latina women in our community and presents a message of unity, support and success that transcends gender and race. The event was described as a “luncheon and young women’s conference”, which serves as a platform for Latinas and women entrepreneurs and professionals, providing support at every stage of their careers.

The conference sessions, offered young women ages 15-25 the chance to participate in panel discussions with area leaders on topics such as health and wellness, self-empowerment and career building. Speaking at the conference luncheon was Dr. Guillermina (Gina) G. Nuñez-Mchiri who spoke with passion about how Latina women must be kind, encouraging and supporting to one another, and ask “Why am I here”? Women can no longer be concerned about being liked by everyone, but instead should say, “Someone doesn’t like me? I’m ok with that.” And everyone must self teach and pass knowledge on to others. The conference luncheon also was an awards ceremony for 5 outstanding Latina women from this area.

Sophia Sanchez-Maes transcends her youth

One of those recipients is a driven young woman who has accomplished more at 17 than most people do twice her age. Sophia Sanchez-Maes graduated from Mayfield High School in May 2015 as Valedictorian with a GPA of 4.8; the highest in Mayfield history.

Sophia has already received extensive awards and recognition for her work in the engineering, mathematics, and technology fields and even met President Barack Obama during the 2015 White House Science Fair last March in Washington, DC. She had a lengthy discussion with the President about her extensive research on algae as a biofuel and as a wastewater treatment option.

She wants to make a real difference in the world.

“In the future, I would like to become a powerful force for innovation,” she confirms.

As a role model, Sophia’s message for the youth of our generation is: “Be passionate, and be kind. Those two things will get you far. Above all, try and make the world better for having had you in it. I think Mother Teresa said it best: ‘Do small things with


Photo by Las Cruces Bulletin The Las Cruces Hispanic Chamber of Commerce presented five Latina in Leadership Awards at its Young Women’s Conference. Pictured are Cristina Perez, award winner; Sofia Sanchez-Maes, award winner, represented by her mother, Margaret; Dolores Connor, award winner; Beatriz Valdez Ferreira, award winner; Eldelisa Nava, event organizer; Gloria Vaquera, award winner; Gina Nuñez-Mchiri, keynote speaker; and Caroline Zamora, event organizer.

The Building Your Career & Becoming a Leader panel discussion explored career opportunities for women and tips to help the young ladies achieve their goals. Pictured are the presenters: Gloria Vaquera, owner of Tu Media Group and publisher of Tu Revista Latina magazine; FBI agent Ida D’Antonio-Hangen; Carmona’s Urban Spa and Salon owner Sandra Carmona- Mount; and Doña Ana Community College’s Center for Career and Student Success director Rosa De La Torre-Burmeister

“You are my other me. If I do well, you do well.”

— Dr. Guillermina G. Nuñez-Mchiri MESSAGE


great love.’” She’s just one of five impressive honorees, all of whom are role models for not just Latina women, but for men and women of all races and walks of life. The other award recipients were Dolores Connor, Beatriz Valdez Ferreira, Gloria Vaquera, and

Dr. Cristina Perez.

Dolores Connor just plain gets things done

From teacher’s aide to Mayor Pro-Tem, Dolores Connor has served the greater Las Cruces area for more than 30 years. Connor has served on a number of boards including Mesilla Valley Hospice, Las Cruces Homebuilders Association, Jardin de los Niños, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Mesilla Valley Regional Dispatch Center, MVEDA, and NM Municipal League.

Later, in an interview, Connor admitted to being proud of the fact that two of her pet political projects, a new police station and a 911 call center are actually coming to fruition.

Her can-do attitude may be the result of having a progressive grandmother, who lived to be 100 years and six months old. This woman, who went from covered wagons to seeing a man on the moon always said, “There’s nothing you can’t do.”

Politically speaking, Connor’s mentor was Delia Barncastle who influenced Las Cruces politics in the 70s and 80s. Now in retirement, Connor enjoys being on a number of boards and volunteering because, she said, “Mine is an ever-changing life.”

Beatriz V. Ferreira, a champion for unity, equality, and justice

Beatriz Valadez Ferreira, the oldest of five daughters, was born to migrant farm workers, in a time when equality and justice were unattainable for many people. Ms. Ferreira earned a Sociology Degree at New Mexico State University, Master of Science in Education from University of Southern California, a Juris Doctorate at University of New Mexico, School of Law and graduate credits toward a Ph.D. in Community Economic Development at Southern New Hampshire University.

In 1980, she became the first Hispanic woman lawyer hired at the U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, D.C. From 1985 -1999, she operated the Ferreira Law Firm, P.A., focusing on social justice and economic equality. She served as Chair of the NM Commission on Human Rights, as 3rd Judicial District Special Commissioner for Domestic Violence, NM State Bar Commissioner and legal advisor to the Mexican Consulate. ShealsoservedtheBoard of Directors for Planned Parenthood, Rio Grande Girls Scouts, United Way, Southwest Theatre Company, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Hispanic Bar Association, Las Cruces Planning and Zoning Commission. She was a Board member, Legal Advisor, President-elect and President of the Hispano Chamber of Commerce of Las Cruces, during which it was the recipient of the Best Small Hispanic Chamber in the nation.

Through her current associations, Ms. Ferreira continues to advance unity, equality, and JUSTICE!

Gloria Vaquera, celebrating the Latino culture

Gloria Vaquera, the co-owner of Tu Media Group, runs a marketing firm that has developed content across a variety of media including digital, audio, video, online and print, since 1998. Along with her husband Isidoro, or Junior as he is most commonly known, Gloria is also the owner and Editor of, Tu Revista Latina. In 2008, they had a vision to produce a magazine that showcases the richness of our culture, in a truthful yet tactful manner, and celebrates Latino achievements and contributions. Tu Revista Latina is the first-ever bilingual lifestyle magazine in the region that focuses on the many interests of Latinos as well as explores every side of our multi-cultural life.

She is a proud 1991 graduate of Gadsden High School and also attended NMSU. However, her most important role and achievement to date is being the proud mother of two beautiful daughters, Christina and Evelyn Vaquera.

Dr. Cristina Perez saves lives

Dr. Cristina Perez came from the Dominican Republic and, like her husband, is an internal medicine physician.

She completed her training at Mount Sinai school of Medicine. Dr. Perez has a background in psychiatry. She is the eldest of three siblings and after losing her mother at an early age, she has been the cornerstone of her family.

“I can’t think of anything more rewarding than saving someone’s life,” said Perez. They have both been associated with New Mexico Primary Care Group here in Las Cruces since 2011.

Determination and hard work has helped her thrive in Las Cruces where she is able to exercise her medical expertise without giving up her native language and culture.

During the luncheon keynote, Nuñez-Mchiri also stressed that to be a leader is to be humble and supportive of other women, and to start by thanking those around us. Her message was that as women, we can do anything with support from each other. She said, “You are my other me. If I do well, you do well.”

These are tenets that are true not just for Latina women, but for men and women of all races and backgrounds. Good leadership is universal.

Moderated by the Honorable Susana Chaparro of Susana Chaparro Interpreting (far right), the Panel Discussion: At the Table allowed professionals and students explore leadership opportunities and barriers and what the community and current leaders can do to pave the way for future generations. The panelists included: Sitel director John Munoz,Aprendamos Intervention Team CEO Abel Covarrubias, Beasley, Mitchell & Co. partner Christine Esquibel Wright, and NMSU regents professor Cynthia Bejarano, Ph.D.

Family therapist and yoga instructor Jane Bloom presented the Your Health and Wellness session which discussed the importance of taking care of ourselves using a triangle of balance that includes the mind, body, and soul. “Balance makes an effective leader,” she said.

Luncheon keynote Dr. Guillermina (Gina) G. Nuñez-Mchiri with Rosa De La Torre-Burmeister of Doña Ana Community College


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