ENMU WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH WEBINAR HONORS ADELA SLOSS-VENTO
In honor of Women’s History Month, Eastern New Mexico University hosted a webinar to discuss the accomplishments of activist and feminist Adela Sloss-Vento.
The guest speakers at the webinar were Diana Cordova, Director of Multicultural Affairs at ENMU Portales and Dr. Cynthia Orozco Professor of History & Humanities at ENMU Ruidoso.
Besides being an activist and feminist, Vento was also considered a public intellectual, democrat, and being gender ambivalent. She was Tejano born in 1901 and lived along the U.S. Mexico border in south Texas. Dr. Orozco stated that the political status of the Mexican descent in 1910 was “only one person of Mexican descent in the entire Texas state legislature.” Therefore, Mexican descendants weren’t nearly as involved, and didn’t have as much of a say in their communities.
In 1948, segregation was still a problem in schools for Mexicans and Mexican Americans. This meant that the Mexican communities lacked resources such as funding and proper building conditions for students. Vento was one of few Latinos to graduate from her high school. This was considered an important accomplishment because during this time a high school education was equivalent to a college degree today.
As a feminist, Vento was one of two prominent women in the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a civil rights organization, states Dr. Orozco. LULAC was founded by four men and later a ladies LULAC was created. Vento did not join the Ladies LULAC, but she did support it.
“Adela Sloss-Vento really was an independent woman she rarely joined organizations, but nonetheless she was able to do quite a lot,” stated Dr. Orozco.
As a civil rights activist, Vento was active in the DEL RIO ISD v. SALVATIERRA lawsuit for desegregation, where she helped to raise funds in the 1930s. Vento wrote several letters and made phone calls to state legislatures in the 1940s, where she lobbied for a couple of anti-discrimination bills.
Vento also wrote and protested a pamphlet from the University of Texas in Austin regarding the Bracero program, where the U.S. would bring in Mexican workers to work short term agricultural labor, the pamphlet was called The Wetback in the Lower Rio Grande. “As a result, it looked like the University of Texas was saying that the wetbacks were dirty, the women had lice, and that they were unwanted people,” said Dr. Orozco.
Vento was also part of the Chicano Movement, a movement that advocated for social and political empowerment. She supported the Raza Unida Party, a third-party organization that protested both democrats and republicans for not doing anything for the Hispanic community.
Vento was also involved with the United Farm Workers and the Texas Farm Workers, which was aimed to empower migrant farmworkers and improve their wages and working conditions, as well as promoting nonviolence and to educate members on political and social issues.
As a public intellectual, Vento would write in both Spanish and English between 1927 and 1978. She wrote for La Prensa, a Spanish-language daily newspaper, from 1913 to 1960. Dr. Orozco describes a public intellectual as “somebody who is a critical commentator and is able to address serious critical issues but can do so and that appeals to a broader audience.” Vento wrote letters and actively supported several U.S. Presidents, a rare occasion according to Dr. Orozco, who stated that only about 10 percent of Americans ever write a public official.
Vento was in a league of her own according to Dr. Orozco, who said she never gave credit to herself. She stated that Vento was an example of a wise Latina woman with a sustained civil rights record from the 1920s to the 1990s.
Dr. Orozco finished with a quote from Dolores Huerta, another civil rights activist.
“You must always stand up for the work you do so that other people don’t steal your thunder, it’s hard for women to do this sometimes because we can be so accommodating. We want to be helpful; we want to be supportive of others, but when it comes to ideas, we must make good decisions. We must take credit even if people think we are being egotistical. I always say to women it is important that we honor ourselves in our work.”