Maria Otilia Montelongo, one of the event's organizers, explained that this program was started by a religious woman who now lives in South Dakota, and is based on a similar program from Texas: "She started it in Omaha along with Maria Luisa Gaston and Carolina Padilla."
The Mujeres y Valores program lasts for six weeks during which participants work for two hours a day, two times a week. All women receive a diary so that they can write down their comments on the role they play in society, be that as wives, mothers or daughters. "They are also given a manual that ends up being like a 'bible' since it has a lot of information," said Montelongo.
She is originally from Nayarit, and considers that one of the most important topics in the program is the Patriarchate situation that is experienced not only in Mexico but also in most of Central and South America. This is something that ends up finding its way over here as an immigrant: "The first topic we talk about is feelings. We talk about how we should feel proud of being Latinas and of our valued. We also talk about domestic violence and how, if there is a conflict, we can solve it. We also learn about sexuality because Omaha is number one on the list of places with the most sexually transmitted diseases (STD), which is why it is important that we mothers are educated on said issue."
This is why for Ramona Mora, mother of eight kids (five of which are already in college), what she is learning thanks to Mujeres y Valores has been very valuable for her day to day: "I'm from Jalisco, and back when I was around 14 years old I started to visit the Juan Diego Center, and that really helped me."
Said Center, which is part of Catholic Charities, provides services with a focus on women through the Latinas Resource Center, where Mora was part of the program before working as an organizer after she graduated. "I would go back home and shared with my husband what I had learned, even though at first he didn't think much of it since he figured we only got together to chat with other women. But little by little he paid more attention until one day he said "this is great and there should be something similar for men as well.' And this is true because there during each class there is a lot to say, a lot to reflect on and a lot to change. This isn't about saying 'this is who I am' and that's it. There are many things we can change to benefit our significant other and our children."
Inocencia Falcon, who was born in Guanajuato and who has lived for over 40 tears in the United States, considers that the communication that Mora established with her husband is what is needed for families to carry on, which is one of the goals of the program: "We must talk about all the topics from the program, especially because young people need to learn more about a lot of things, particularly about sexually transmitted diseases. They need to know about the dangers out there, with things like drugs and the violence on the streets."
Falcón is the mother of Dr. Alberto Cervantes, a renowned community leader with whom she volunteers at many social well-being events: "I didn't have any daughters but I have granddaughters, and I worry about young girls falling into extortion, in situations of bullying that lead to many suicides. This is why I'm in this program in which we all work head and from which I still learn new things."
Mujeres y Valores has the support of Heartland Family Services, an agency that helps with requesting scholarships or federal funding which allows them to secure the fund needed to print the material used in each class. However, that money sometimes isn’t enough, which is why organizers sell food and other things to cover some of the program’s costs. If you want to join the group, you can get in touch with Montelongo to register for the next class that will begin at the start of September, probably at the Iglesia of San Jose (1723 South 17th St.) - if you wish you can also help with a donation.