Mujeres Latinas en Accion working for Chicago's Latino community

Forty years ago, Mujeres Latinas en Accion was such a tiny operation that it held monthly “rent parties” to raise funds to pay the rent on its storefront location in Chicago. Back in 1973, Mujeres’ mission was limited to helping runaway teens. Today, Mujeres serves more than 8000 residents every year from its 14,000 square foot facility, and two satellite offices. Mujeres provides the community with after-school programs, domestic violence counseling and parent support programs among other services. Along the way, Mujeres has become one of the longest-running Latina organizations in the country.

Mujeres has grown along with Chicago’s Latino community. As the community grew, its needs grew and became more diverse. Mujeres worked to empower those whom they serve, in order to help them to live a better life.

“We want each individual to walk out of our doors with a sense of self-worth, dignity, and leadership skills that enable them to make a difference in their own lives, as well as in the community,” said Maria Socorro Pesquiera, Mujeres’ CEO.
Pesquiera was named President and CEO of Mujeres in 2000, after serving as the Director of Development for the Museum of Mexican Art. A graduate of DePaul and Harvard’s JFK School of Government, she led Mujeres to a national award for nonprofit financial management excellence as it expanded its outreach efforts in the community. Pesquiera has become known nationally as an advocate for Latino civil rights. She serves on the Illinois Human Services Commission and the Mayor of Chicago’s Advisory Council on Domestic Violence.
In naming her one of the Chicagoans of the Year in 2006, Chicago magazine points out that her middle name, Socorro, is Spanish for aid – an apt metaphor for a career of service to those in need.
Meanwhile, Mujeres continues its work. The House Republican caucus’ director of external affairs Anayanzi Mendez was privileged to participate last week in a Mujeres panel on issues facing young Latinas; part of the organization’s ongoing efforts to find new and better ways to address the needs of the community.
Forty years after its founding, Mujeres Latinas en Accion still holds true to the words of one of its founders, Maria Mangual. “Our fighting days are not behind us – but once again ahead of us. It will require cross-generational efforts. We need to ensure that we remain vigilant to protect the rights of our daughters and granddaughters.”