As Maribel Corbett guided a group of Latina students through the exhibitors’ tables at the Latinas & Power Symposium in Hartford last week, she could only wish she had the chance to connect with successful Latina women when she was their age.
Corbett, a social worker at Bulkely High School said, “I graduated from Bulkely, I wish I had had an opportunity to experience something like this.”
As she observed her students speaking with the vendors, picking up resume tips during the workshops and becoming inspired, she said the experience gives them invaluable life experience and something to aspire to.
CTLatinoNews.com was one of about 40 vendors that participated in the exhibitor marketplace.
The banquet hall of the Hilton Hotel was filled with hundreds of Latina career women promoting their businesses, sharing their professional experiences and learning about and sharing in each others’ hard work and success.
The event, in its 10th year, featured exhibitors, workshops and an award ceremony honoring influential women in the Latino community.
For exhibitors like Julia Douk, the symposium is an opportunity to make that one-on-one connection with other Latinas.
“It’s important to talk face to face,” Douk, of New York Life Insurance Company, said. “It helps us promote ourselves, but we also get to learn about each other.”
Volunteers Shari DeLuca and Jammy Diaz-Davies said the turnout is the best they have seen in recent years. For DeLuca, seeing young Latinas connect and identify with successful Latina businesswomen was “awe-inspiring.”
“The commitment to Latina females. . . it’s awesome to watch,” she said.
The opportunity the students who visited the symposium had to learn from other women’s experiences is of critical importance to their success in the future, she said.
Diaz-Davies said while it was great to see younger people be inspired, the mix of ages of the attendees at the sold out symposium was “perfect.”
Students have not been the only people to leave Latinas & Power event inspired. Ada Rios attended one year as a visitor with an idea to sell homemade soaps and lotions inspired by her grandmother’s traditional Guatemalan recipes. She returned the next year with a table full of her own products.
“I’ve been here many years. I saw the conference, and the next year I came back as a vendor,” Rios said.
Since then, Rios has recently opened her own store in West Hartford and sells her products through Whole Foods. This year, she was named the Latinas & Power’s Entrepreneur of the Year.
Keynote speaker and singing legend Vikki Carr was honored with the Latina Legends award and Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Carmen Espinosa was honored with the Progreso award.
But, in a room of hundreds of successful women, it was a 92-year-old woman who had asked her daughter to bring her to the event, because Vikki Carr was her idol, who stole the show.
Carmen Mariñez, joined by her daughter Carolyn Mariñez, of New Haven, gushed when Carr pointed her out in the audience and called her up on stage.
As the elder Mariñez slowly made her way to the front, she said in Spanish that she had never seen anything like the symposium in her life.
She then proceeded to take a seat on the stage, where Carr began to serenade her with her song “Por Amor.” When Mariñez began to join in, her face beaming with joy upon meeting and performing a duet with her favorite singer, many audience members stood up and cheered and fought back tears. Others let them flow freely.
Even Carr shed some tears after the performance and asked for a video copy of the moment. Many said the moment captured the vitality of Latinas, young and old, and the greatness that can be achieved when Latinas come together and support each other.
Espinosa summed that feeling up, saying, “Inside of you, you are who you are. . . that feeling is here today.”