SACRAMENTO Dolores Huerta made her mark in the fields of the Central Valley. Rita Moreno sang and danced her way to fame in Hollywood. The two women took vastly different life paths but share an important legacy. Both are Latinas who helped shape the history and culture of California.
They and dozens of other women, from politicians and activists to entertainers and artists, are being honored in a new exhibit at the California Museum for History, Women and the Arts in downtown Sacramento.
Latinas: The Spirit of California opened Thursday at the museum at 10th and O streets and will continue through June.
California’s first lady, Maria Shriver, is the force behind the museum and the exhibit.
“All of these women have been told ‘no’ and have beaten down doors,” Shriver said to a crowd of about 400 people who sipped margaritas and munched on Latino foods in the courtyard of the secretary of state’s building, next door to the museum.
“They’ve risen above low expectations, and they have accomplished extraordinary things. None of these women had anything handed to them, and there’s a great lesson in that for girls today,” Shriver said of the honorees.
More than 150 Latinas are featured in the latest exhibit, which showcases the role Latinas played in California’s and the nation’s history from the 1800s until today.
Texts for the exhibit are written in both Spanish and English. It includes the story of Huerta, who was born in a mining town in northern New Mexico and raised by her mother in Stockton, and became one of the century’s most powerful and respected leaders of the labor movement. Huerta co-founded the United Farm Workers (UFW) with César Chávez in 1962.
Also prominently featured is Moreno, who was born Rosa Dolores Alverio in Humacao, Puerto Rico, into a family of small, independent farmers. In 1961, Moreno won an Academy Award for best supporting actress in the film “West Side Story.” The exhibit includes one of the dresses she wore in the movie, as well as her Oscar statue.
Dora the Explorer, the sassy, 7-year-old Latina cartoon character, has a display devoted to her. So does singer Vikki Carr, who was born Florencia Biscenta de Casillas Martinez Cardona in El Paso, Texas. Author Isabel Allende’s typewriter is on display.
But not all the honorees are household names. Crystl Bustos and Lisa Fernandez are notable for their feats on the softball field, helping the United States capture a gold medal in the 2004 Olympic Games. Their gloves and uniform jerseys are displayed. Ellen Ochoa was the first Latina astronaut, blasting off aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993. The exhibit also showcases the story of Felicitas Mendez, who stood up in court for the right of her children to attend nonsegregated schools in Southern California.
One section of the exhibit is devoted to mothers who helped shape Latino leaders, including Eleanor Olmos, mother of actor Edward James Olmos, and Soledad Núñez, mother of California Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez.
Each of the honorees, Shriver said, is inspiring in her own way. The first lady said she hopes the exhibit will play a small part in motivating others to “dream their own California dream, and make their own mark, on our state’s history.”
“Only in California,” she said, surrounded by some of the honorees, “would you have these women, this museum, and this much fun.”
Latinas: The Spirit of California
• WHERE: California Museum for History, Women and the Arts, 10th and O streets, in the California State Archives building
• WHEN: Through June 2006. HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays; noon to 5 p.m. Sundays
• ADMISSION: $5 general, $4 seniors, $3.50 for ages 6 to 13; free for ages 5 and under
For more information, call: (916) 653-5864.
Reprinted from the Sacramento Bee