Laughter rings out of the cozy meeting space at the Manatee Women’s Resource Center (WRC). It’s Monday night and the women who make up the Latina’s of WRC are trickling in. There is wonderful energy and a blend of Spanish and English as they greet each other like old friends. It is music to our ears.
14 years ago, Maria V. Zavala came through these very doors of the Manatee WRC with a vision: To start a support group for Latina women in the area, and to hold it at the WRC. Maria believed in the power of bringing women together to discover new skills, build confidence and find their path to success. The premise was, and remains to this day, to explore the question; how do you respect your culture as you are navigating life in a new country and finding your place in the community? At its core, Latinas is about inclusivity and building bridges that connect us all.
As the group grew, it attracted women from across Manatee and Sarasota counties. The women who participate in this group tend to stay involved. In fact, there are women who were part of the first session that still attend the group. Through this connectivity, they began to seek guidance from one another on how to develop strong, healthy relationships with their daughters and the importance of passing on Latina culture and identity.
In order to help bridge the generations, Maria and the Latinas created Roots and Wings. A bilingual, bicultural series for Latina mothers and daughters, between the ages 11 to 15. Roots and Wings is intended to open lines of communication and help facilitate a larger conversation between the generations about Latina culture and identity.
The first series was held in 2013 at WRC with Girl Scouts of the Gulf Coast. Five mother-daughter duos participated in the original four-part communication workshop. Response to the session was great; at the end of the series, all of the mothers felt more connected to their daughters and more comfortable communicating and sharing with each other. This original group stayed together for years. The mothers joined the Monday night Latina’s Self-Empowerment and Identity Group at the WRC and the daughters formed Mission Sisterhood, Girl Scout Troop 494.
The most recent session was held in October when Girl Scouts of the Gulf Coast hosted a session of Roots and Wings at Honi Hanta Girl Scout Camp. The weekend focused on cultural legacy and the role of family and community in identity; the importance of individualism and authenticity; making healthy, wise life choices; and becoming the best woman you can be by incorporating the best parts of your home culture and American culture.
Reverse role-playing, hands-on activities, and frank discussions were interspersed with Girl Scouting’s traditional outdoor activities like camping, canoeing, archery, and a low-ropes challenge course, mothers and daughters felt encouraged to work as a team while overcoming fears and conquering new challenges.
“It was beautiful to spend quality time with my daughter”, said one very happy mother. “Sleeping in the cabin together, eat together and have fun, was a very special gift for me.”
By participating in Roots and Wings, daughters and mothers can connect with each other as individuals, and most importantly, strengthen their relationship. Each will learn to see the value in each other’s life experiences and increased respect for each other’s feelings.
If you are interested in learning more about Roots and Wings, the Latinas Empowerment Group or WRC, please call at 941-747-6797 or visit us online at mywrc.org.