CONFERENCIA DE MUJERES POR LA RAZA
CONFERENCIA DE MUJERES POR LA RAZA. The Conferencia de Mujeres por la Raza, also known as the National Chicana Conference, was the first interstate assembly of Mexican-American feminists organized in the United States. It was held at the Magnolia Park YWCA in Houston on May 28–30, 1971. An estimated 600 women from twenty-three states attended it. Elma Barrera organized the event. Many of the participants were students, social workers, and other progressives, who differed greatly from the women who had declared two years before, at the 1969 Denver, Colorado, Youth Conference, that Chicanas did not want to be liberated. The women at the Houston conference represented the radical elements of Mexican-American women's political movements. Nonetheless, they were linked to earlier, more moderate women's groups, such as Cruz Azul Mexicana and Ladies LULAC. In the new era of Chicano politics, a few women had emerged as leaders of the Mexican American Youth Organization and the newly formed Raza Unida Party. They gathered to organize stronger positions regarding women's roles. Gender discrimination, abortion, and birth control were given as much importance at the conference as inadequate educational opportunities, racism, welfare support, and employment discrimination, issues always at the heart of the Mexican-American civil-rights agenda. In addition, conference speakers urged the participants to work to change society.
The meeting consisted of four major workshops on education and employment, sex and birth control, marriage and child care, and religion. Each seminar produced resolutions, calling, for example, for free abortions, free birth control, free sex education, and twenty-four-hour child-care centers in Mexican-American communities. One resolution also noted that men bore responsibility for the upbringing of children. The conference participants were not, however, united. A sizable portion of them feared that the Anglos at Magnolia Park YWCA, who had helped plan the event, sought to split the Chicano movement along male and female lines. An estimated half of the delegates walked out of the meeting, urging that the conference focus on racism, not sexism. Betita Martínez, a feminist, and one of the protestors, criticized the meeting's failure to focus on poor or working-class women.
Rosaura Sánchez and Rosa Martínez, eds., Essays on la Mujer (Los Angeles: Chicano Studies Center Publications, University of California, 1978). Marta Vidal, Chicanas Speak Out: Women, New Voice of La Raza (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1971).