Once upon a time, I was sitting in the Burge cafeteria (The University of Iowa, Burge Residence Hall) eating dinner and two people who I hadn’t met before came up to me and asked if I would be interested in attending a meeting about possibly starting a sorority for Latina women. The two people who can up to me were Danell Riojas (Founder) and Maria Pineda (Founder). They took my number and said they would call me with the exact day and time of the meeting.
I went to the first meeting to see if it would be something I would be interested in doing. There were a lot of women at the meeting from a lot of different places. I went to the next meeting and then the next. There were discussions on whether to create a student organization for Latina women or a sorority. We all decided that starting a sorority was the best idea because there was an established structure for a sorority to grow from campus to campus.
I thought the sorority was a good idea because it would provide support for Latina women and provide a group that new students could become part of that would make the transition from high school and moving away from home and family easier, and this in turn would make it more likely that they would stay in school and graduate. My hope was that we would encourage each other to be successful and create a connection that would last even after graduation; this connection has lasted 25 years.
For me the greatest support, I received was from Esther Materon-Arum, Advisor Special Support Services, The University of Iowa (1989-1998). Esther and I are probably the most alike in our emphasis on hard core academics. I think Esther is an excellent example of a Latina overcoming the patriarchal system of both South America and North America and building a life on her own terms and helping others to do the same. “You are not what people say you should be. You are whatever you dream to become and the sky is the limit!”
Photo: The five founders: first row Danell Riojas, Lupita Temiquel second row Maria Pineda, Julieta Miller, Gloria Cuevas (First Formal Founders Ball at the Highlander Inn 1992 Iowa City, Iowa)