Six Women Selected as 2015 Women of the Year
By Anna Daniels
On Saturday March 7, State Senator Ben Hueso paid tribute to six women, one posthumously, in his 40th district. The event was held on the grounds of Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center in National City.
Maria Garcia is well known in San Diego as both an educator and Chicana activist. She is a retired elementary school principal with an academic background as a bilingual resource teacher. Maria has received numerous awards in recognition of her community service and contributions to education.
Maria received recognition this past Saturday for yet another contribution– that of a historian recording first person accounts about Neighborhood House and life in Logan Heights and Barrio Logan since Neighborhood House’s inception in the early 1900s. The San Diego Free Press has been running her popular series “The History of Neighborhood House in Logan Heights” every Saturday since May 5, 2014.
Senator Hueso noted that that there are few historical archives that reflect the significance and impact of the Latino community in San Diego. He commended Maria for undertaking the arduous process of gathering her memories and those of so many others to fill this gap.
Through her articles Maria has brought to life not just the social issues from that era and people involved, she’s also highlighted the many contributions that were made by Mexican-Americans to the war effort and the aircraft and fishing industries of our region.
It was clear to the audience that Senator Hueso is a history buff. He then revealed his own personal interest in Maria’s series–his father worked for Neighborhood House. He stated “It does something for you to know that your parents were active civically.” The comments left by children and grandchildren of the subjects of Maria’s articles reflect how important those stories are to family members and to the community.
Senator Hueso stressed that it benefits everyone to know about the amazing diversity of our collective history. Maria clearly shares this perception. The Neighborhood House series began as a series of interviews that she completed in the early 70s. They formed the basis of an extensive paper on Chicano history in San Diego which she wrote while she was attending San Diego State University.
Decades later, Maria began to feel that this project was not over and she began thinking about how and where she could introduce this history to a whole new group of readers. Lucky for us, instead of donating her work to the Chicano archives, she decided to find a much broader platform because she believes that Chicano history is all of our history.
The Women of the Year awards event was scheduled at the beginning of Women’s History Month and the day before International Women’s Day. Senator Hueso remarked that “The fight for women’s rights and recognition are part of my public mandate.” The women that he recognized were and are tireless advocates in the fields of health, education, the environment and community engagement. The majority of them quipped that they would be seeing him soon in his legislative offices in Sacramento.
Chris Brown was recognized for her efforts as past board president of the South Bay Union School District and as an active coordinator for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Senior Volunteer Patrol; Fay Crevoshay, Communications and Policy Director of Wildcoast was recognized for her conservation and clean-up efforts in the Tijuana River Valley; Ana Melgoza, Vice President External Affairs, San Ysidro Health Center, has played an instrumental role in the creation of the San Ysidro Maternal and Child Health Center and leads community outreach efforts to promote healthy life styles. Longtime civil rights activist and LGBT advocate Gloria Johnson was honored posthumously. Joanne Climie accepted the award on Gloria’s behalf.
Marcela Luz Valladolid, chef and author, is host of the Food Network television series “Mexican Made Easy” and co-host of the Food Network television series “The Kitchen.” She is also involved in several charities that help at-risk young women (Fundación Luz); support and financial assistance for families with critically ill newborns (Miracle Babies Foundation); Olivewood Gardens, Border Angels, Poppas House and the San Ysidro Health Center. Senator Hueso designated her as Woman of the Year.
Olivewood Gardens was a beautiful and memorable site for the event which was relaxed and filled with the conversations of friends and family members of the honorees. After presenting the women with their awards, Senator Hueso assumed the additional role of gracious host, serving up helpings of a fabulous paella to the attendees. A few of us lingered on the grounds, strolling along paths lined with nasturtiums in bloom, reading about Olivewood Gardens’ history as a major supplier of olive oil in California.
The day’s events were very much about women in San Diego who are making history. Our deepest appreciation and congratulations to Maria Garcia for her commitment to recording history, as well as making it.