1st Annual Worldwide
April 22-23, 2005
(Nora Comstock; May 2005)
This event was wildly successful…beyond my most incredible dreams. I think we shocked even ourselves at how most things fell in place. But we also have our attending comadres to thank and a few brave compadres who came to support their partners. If something needed doing, they did it. They rolled up their sleeves and worked in the kitchen, helped move tables to clear the middle floor for the evening event and then back for the next day’s continuing showcase. We helped each other bring products from our cars to the showcase floor and so on. We helped clean up, but of course! Ah… I get ahead of myself…
I commissioned the Las Comadres Para Las Americas painting from Laura Lopez Cano in 2003 and we unveiled it in May of that year. Everyone loves this painting and we had a poster of it made to give to our hostesses and to offer to you as your gift for a donation of $35 (includes shipping and handling), a small donation to help us pay expenses. Laura has graciously given me all rights to that image. And this year fashion designer Marisol Deluna, founder of Deluna by Design, Inc. (New York, Paris, and Buenos Aires), created an incredibly beautiful silk scarf based on the images in the Lopez Cano painting. The colors and the design are exquisite. Marisol has donated her talent to help us raise funds to offset some of our expenses as we continue to grow.
Now, back to the party…
Las Comadres was going to be five years old and it seemed fitting that we celebrate the event. The idea of a national comadrazo was suggested by several comadres: some in Austin and some in other cities and our anniversary year seemed a perfect time to bring everyone together. As I visited the various comadre networks and told stories about each to the other, I kept hearing a yearning to meet each other. As the idea took hold in my mind, I realized that the fabulous experiences I had staying in your homes, meeting your families, sharing your lives briefly, and bonding with you should be duplicated in Austin for you and your hostesses here so that you got not just a sense of the adventure but the carino we have for each other and the willingness to help each other out. These experiences of sharing would make Las Comadres an even stronger national organization that will grow into countries outside the mainland U.S.A.
We made the fantasy real when in January an email message was sent system wide asking comadres to choose preferred dates. The weekend of April 22-23 was chosen and we sent out a save the date notice.
From the beginning the event was conceived of as a huge comadrazo, the basic event we have monthly in each network city, not a conference by any definition. But the idea was hard for some mujeres to grasp. They kept asking about the speakers or the panels but there would be no speakers and no panels, nothing like this had been done before…that we know of. It was a non-conference put on by a group of volunteers who believed in an idea. I had some general ideas and some specific ideas about what should happen and I planted the seeds and the volunteer planning committee made it happen, adding their own spice as they created the event. For example, we home-hosted every visitor! Maybe one or two stayed in a hotel but the rest of our comadre guests stayed in our homes! What a blast! I am still hearing about the friendships that were made and the treatment that was beyond fabulous. They all can’t wait until next year! What, are we crazy? Yes, next year…stay tuned for date choices!
For more more information on the planning committee, their finished product (and what you may have missed!), and a listing of sponsors- here's a link to the complete program (in PDF format) of the event ( email us for this document).
A key component for the success of the event was the location. Austin Community College, Eastview Campus, a beautiful new campus in East Austin that became our comadrazo site. This campus (as are all community college campus) was a natural place for such an event…but next year we will be too big for this space…bummer. The provost of Austin Community College, Dr. Tyra Duncan-Hall, the campus manager, Juanita Mendez, and our main contact, Driana Gonzalez, and all the staff and security guards were the most incredibly helpful and kind people we could have worked with. We are most grateful to all of them.
While in San Diego launching Las Comadres in that city, I learned about a business of the comadre hostess for that first event. She and several partners have an international company that works with entities (schools, companies, groups) to create an organizational sense of community. They use music to create teams and teams/groups to create the words of songs that express the unity of the whole. Gloria Williams offered RedZebra’s talent to Las Comadres so that we could write our song and make our mark on the hearts of comadres from everywhere.
We accepted the offer and Gloria Williams and Ollie McDonald (who came from England to be with us) and a large part of the RedZebra team came to Austin to enchant us with our own words and their musical wizardry. The song we wrote together is about the heart, the core, of the Las Comadres strength and vision. Comadre Annabelle Arteaga deserves the credit for the introduction to RedZebra.
Basically, we planned an event where we would celebrate all comadres (~225) who came and those who could not but were with us in spirit: we showcased our businesses and our talents for each other. Our goodie bags were brimming with gifts from comadres and compadres from all over. We had 60 tables and 77 vendors (some share a very small space). We started the day with a salsa aerobics session and ended the day with a soothing Nia workout. This was followed by a several hour break before dinner and the talent show each evening. And throughout the day there were many opportunities to meet the comadres who were participating in the event: “platicas a la carrera” (modeled on the speed dating model), roundtables on topics suggested by comadres, and the Products & Services Showcase.
One of our local newspapers, ahora si!, planned to run a cover story on the Las Comadres Para Las Amercias 1st National Comadrazo but through divine intervention a new pope was chosen that week and we were pre-empted. But we will grace the cover on May 12, 2005!
Our comadre Lissette Calderon, editor/publisher of the new and fabulous Cuerpo Magazine gave us coverage in her first edition: an ad for the national comadrazo on the page facing her introductory address to her readership. What an incredible gift to us.
Comadre Sylvia Martinez, of Sylvia Martinez Media, (a nominee as TV writer for Imagen Awards) and her colleagues prepared a fabulous short movie clip of what Las Comades is all about. They used pictures from past comadrazos from around the country and original interviews with comadres in New York City. Comadres were all choked up when they saw it…especially me! This will be used as part of an introduction for new networks to the Las Comadres Para Las Americas.
On Saturday night, April 23, we sang our song, the one our group wrote for Las Comadres. THAT brought tears to our eyes. The performance was incredible.
And we ended the evening with musical performances that made everyone jump up and dance! Imagine that!
The talents shows, the fashion show…oh my gosh…we'll have a special page for them.
The fabulous food, the generosity of our sponsors, even the spirit of our volunteers…we are awed by it all. They're all listed in our program for you to know about. And you know how we thank them, right? You go to their establishments, buy their products and say thank you. Please introduce yourself as a comadre to the owner/manager. We want them to know we have been there to thank them!
Mil gracias to all for coming, for believing, for being a part of Las Comadres, and to our volunteers for their tireless giving to make this dream come true.
Reflections From some of of the volunteers:
From: Magdalena Blanco, Program Chair
National Comadrazo 2005
As a 3 year member of Las Comadras, my goal at this National Comadrazo was to expand my network base as well as build new friendships. My Expectations were exceeded and my goals accomplished. I had an AWESOME time! There aren't enough words in the world to describe how wonderful I felt. I met so many fabulous, loving, giving, and caring women; whom interacted like one big family of sisters. I shared personal experiences, triumphs, accomplishments, tears, and new ideas with my comadres, my mother, my young daughters, and even my husband who volunteered during the nightly entertainment. This is definitely and without a doubt the best & most unique conference/convention/comadrazo that I have ever attended.
From: Geri Luna Wilson ,Chair of the Fashion Show and Chair for Special Projects.
As Chair of the Fashion Show I felt it my responsibility to present the Latina in every shape, size and age range. It was very important for me to know that all my Comadres in the audience could look at the model protraying her most beautiful self, and totally identify with her. Initally, my response for models was rather sparse, so I submitted a request to Nora to shoot an E-mail to all the comadres and invite them to contact me if they were interested in participating in the Fashion Show. Madre Santisima, I had E-mails coming from left and right. Yet, for the most part, if I approached a comadre in person and asked if she'd model for me,she was absolutely blown-away by the mere concept. But the women who were initally the most hesitant were the women that absolutely came into themselves and let go on the stage. I saw a glow and sense of self-beauty in these women that I'd never seen before. Almost as if they's fantisized about modeling when they were young girls but never, in the wildest dreams , ever thought they'd be on a runway...wearing designer clothes...wearing performance make-up...having all eyes in the audience on them and them alone. Being a witness to that moment and feeling responsible for giving them that momemt was a gift of undescribable porportations. My heart swelled with joy and happiness for them. Every hour I spent coordinating it, planning it, designing it...was all worth it because of that moment!
As Chair of Special Projects I was responsible for making 2 maps and a Wall of Honor. One map was to indicate where we, as comadres were from...where our roots originated. That map did not turn out exactly as I'd planned it because the heading on the map asked, "Where do you life?" That was a type-o that was not even noticed until it was too late to fix. Next year I'll get it right.
The other map was to indicate where in the United States we, as Las Comadres, were established. I did this by integrating the Wall Of Honor with the information I had on where we were established. My daughter helped me with these projects and devoted literally many hours of many days researching each and every Comadre who'd ever hosted a comadrazo...ever, and in every city. She is very creative and very meticulous so it took much more time than perhaps it needed to; but, it made her happy and gave her a sense of contirbution and accomplishment.
All in all, it was one of the most physically and emotionally demanding experiences I've had in many years....but the most rewarding and fullfilling as well. As cliche as it sounds; I felt truely bonded with these women because I knew that we were all giving our very best and sacraficing many hours of our days to pull this off. I knew that, collectively, we were depending on each link to be strong and committed...and it was. I now have a deeper and richer sense of what it means to be a comadre...to give and to give "con ganas".
I have to stop now and go blow my nose cuz with all the passion I got misty and mocosa!
From: Martha Duffer
I had the opportunity to work with Magdalena on the Program Committee. This included developing Round Table talking points, securing facilitators for the Round Tables and compiling information from other committees/comadres for the Program Booklet. Magdalena was awesome in her commitment and dedication to leading this committee and worked long hours with almost no sleep the last week to make it all come together. This committee created the opportunity for me to meet amazing Comadres and learn about their work prior to the Comadrazo as we contacted them about the possibility of facilitating Round Tables. From marketing professionals to writers and from psychologists to community political leaders we learned that Comadres are everywhere doing exciting groundbreaking work. At the National Comadrazo putting faces to names was a delight as I met people I had been talking to through phone and e-mail.
The Round Tables at the Comadrazo, although smaller than we had originally anticipated (many people were just thrilled to be with each other and kept sharing in the exhibitor's hall), could not have been more perfect. Women came together and shared their brilliance, accomplishments, fears, hopes, and challenges in multiple areas of their lives. The discussions were animated and vibrant as we grappled with core issues affecting our lives as Latinas such as family, cultural expectations, friendships, spirituality, relationships, supporting each other in professional realms, life transitions, personal growth, creating our own businesses, building healthy communities, political and legislative involvement, health, self-care, and empowerment. There was much laughter as well as many tears as we shared our hearts with each other and learned from one another. In one group, everyone in the room was brought to tears as one of our Comadres shared a challenge in her life and the brave road she has walked. In another group we learned how a Comadre became aware of an injustice and worked to address it through her community, culminating in her getting legislation passed through the state legislature that successfully resolved it. Many Comadres throughout the two days shared with me how much it meant to them to have had the opportunity to share in this way and be inspired by our stories.
Comadres were excited to learn new health tips from each other and encouraged by stories of each other's successes. Many talked about ways they were going to go back and incorporate something they had learned into their daily lives. Some who were dealing with very difficult life situations told me that sharing them in the group had given them the strength they needed to continue forward. For many, this was a life changing experience offering hope, support and new possibilities.
For me personally, I was deeply moved by the power of sitting in a room of Latinas all of different ages, socioeconomic backgrounds, education levels, beliefs and countries, all respecting and supporting each other, learning from each other and drawing strength from each other. I was replenished by our shared resilience, perseverance and wisdom and inspired by our stories of growth, courage and incredible successes against seemingly insurmountable odds. I was reminded that coming together in this way is a revolutionary act and together we can build a world of peace and social and economic justice. Learning to listen to each other. Creating the space for our differences to strengthen our efforts. Learning to learn from each other. Together.
From: Celeste Guzman Mendoza
The Comadrazo wasn't just a gathering of professional Latina women, but a full-out pachanga with like-minded and -bodied spirits. Running the lights for the evening presentations, I saw Rita Vidaurri perform who is in her 80's and then Dominique, who is 16 years old, followed her. Red Zebra coordinated a drum and rhythm workshop and presentation where women from their 50's to young girls of five and six years old all played together on the same stage, the same music with various beats. This was the first Comadrazo -- our varied selves all humming it up to a good vibe that left me charged and ready for my work and purpose.
From: Sandy McCullers
As soon as I got home on Sunday, I began to miss everyone and all the special times we shared! I have NEVER experienced anything of this magnitude and I have to say that I experienced some soul healing and the sisterly love I've never had! The experience has changed me and I look at everything so differently now, I feel that I'm not alone and that someone is there for me somewhere!
Gracias Nora for building on that small idea and vision.
I can't wait to get started in Plano,Frisco,McKinney! Just let me know when & where and I'm soooo there!