Arizona Latina Trailblazers

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At a special event March 24, Latino Perspectives Magazine and the Raul H. Castro Institute at Phoenix College honor Latina leaders who have helped to lead Arizona into the 21st century. Magazine Editor Rosa Cays and Arizona Senator Olivia Cajero Bedford, one of the six honorees, talk about the event.

Jose Cardenas: Six inspiring women who have made their mark in shaping Arizona history are being honored this week at the third annual Arizona Latina Trailblazers event presented by "Latino Perspectives Magazine" and the Raul H. Castro institute at Phoenix College. With me to talk about these women are Rosa Cays, editor of "Latino Perspectives Magazine," and Arizona state senator Olivia Cajero Bedford. The senator and her mother, Carmen, are being honored at the event. Thank you for joining us on "Horizonte." Rosa, give us a little bit of the history, I think this is the third year.

Rosa Cays: Yes this is the third year that Latina Trailblazers are being honored and this is the third volume of publication accompanies the event and covers the history of these women. Biographies written by Dr. Christine Marin, ASU's historian and archivist and the event is this year was held at Phoenix art museum and basically just shares the history of Arizona women, Latinas who have helped shape what we have as far as civil right, education and healthcare and things like that.

Jose Cardenas: There's a special aspect to this year because it has a connection to the Arizona centennial.

Rosa Cays: Yes the theme is our history is our strength. And then the Latina Trailblazers are honored in March because of national women's history month so that Kind of all goes hand in hand.

Jose Cardenas: We've got some very prominent women two of whom have passed on. But we'll be showing the pictures of some of them as they come up and we'll mention them as we go through. But senator, you are one of two mother-daughter teams so to speak who will be honored and this first picture we have here is that your mom there? Well, that's you.

Olivia Cajero Bedford: Right.

Jose Cardenas: And I think that was your mom before.

Olivia Cajero Bedford: With the white hair. Yeah.

Jose Cardenas: Tell us a little bit more about your mom.

Olivia Cajero Bedford: My mom served for 24 years, she took over after my dad died. My dad was --

Jose Cardenas: Took over?---

Olivia Cajero Bedford: She took over his--

Jose Cardenas: --his legislative position.

Olivia Cajero Bedford: Took over his position right, he died in office in his fifth year. He was in the house of representatives and then she was appointed to fill his position and she ran for 11 -- ran 11 more times and served for 24 years and then during that time, the family me included used to help her with her campaigns and politics was always a part of our life.

Jose Cardenas: And then you ran. Nine years now?

Olivia Cajero Bedford: This is my ninth year. I served eight in the house and I was just elected to the senate this past fall. So I'm starting nine years. So Cajero has been at the legislature for 38 years, has been part of the legislature.

Jose Cardenas: And part of the Arizona history - as Rosa was talking about is why you're being honored. You also are good friends with of one of the other honorees. Mary Rose Wilcox.

Olivia Cajero Bedford: I love Mary Rose Wilcox. She's just right there in the middle of good fights and she stands up for what she believes and I just have such high regard for her.

Jose Cardenas: We've got her picture on the screen.

Olivia Cajero Bedford: She's wonderful. Really an asset to her constituents.

Jose Cardenas: Now the process that Latino perspectives goes through, Rosa described it a little bit. She talked about Dr. Marin's work, she came up with some stuff that surprised you?

Olivia Cajero Bedford: Right, the research that was done for this project by "Latino Perspectives Magazine" was very impressive because I was called and told that and my mother and I were being honored and they told me to review some material about our family but when I saw it, I had no idea what had been going on. They had started the research last year. I was notified the end of January, but they had started the research last year, and what I found -- and from their research, that not only had my grandfather come from Mexico but his father had come also. I didn't know that until I read the research.

Jose Cardenas: And there was information about the discrimination that your family members ran into in southern Arizona.

Olivia Cajero Bedford: That's right. My grandfather and great grandfather were recruited by the mine in Morenci to work. And they were happy to have the jobs in the mines but I learn from this research that there was two pay scales. There was a pay scale for white workers and there was a pay scale for Mexican workers and I didn't know that. And, you know, 100 years later, there's still some of that happening today. But I don't want to -- you know, but we're fighting the immigration bills 100 years after my immigrant grandparents came and here I am, just last week, dealing with the immigration issue.

Jose Cardenas: And I want to talk more about that.

Olivia Cajero Bedford: Sure.

Jose Cardenas: Because it's not just an important part of your story, but as you point out, it's what's going on right now. Rosa, does that make it any more important at this point in our state's history, given all the turmoil and this anti-immigrant sentiment that seems to be sweeping our state, to have this kind of an event?

Rosa Cays: Absolutely, I think so. I -- to acknowledge the fact that Arizona was not, you know, white people alone building what it is today. You know, if you go back in history, you know, as her father came to work in the mines and, you know, who was here first? I mean, I think -- even when I start talking about the whole immigration thing, it gets me heated up because Arizona's history is based in -- you know, a lot of Latinos, Hispanic people coming and creating homes and building infrastructure and -- and having been part of what it is now. My own family, I'm first generation, and they -- Arizona is home. Even though they came here from Mexico. And so for me, yeah, it's definitely worth acknowledging these women and the trails they've blazed for the rest of us.

Jose Cardenas: And probably even more important to focus on Latinas, because their story is even more hidden.

Rosa Cays: Correct, yes. Well, impetus for acknowledging Arizona's Latinas, that the executive editor at the magazine has a background in education, when she looked for information on women in Arizona, she couldn't find anything.

Jose Cardenas: And we're talking about Dr. Cecilia Rosales?

Rosa Cays: Correct. It was her idea and I'm not sure exactly who she approached first or how it all actually started but she was definitely -- it was her idea to get things going and put some books in the libraries. So future generations can learn about these women.

Jose Cardenas: And one of those women as we've noted was your mother. If she were with us today -- I realize she passed on a few years ago -- what would she be saying what's going on these days at the legislature, which is an institution she served in for so many years.

Olivia Cajero Bedford: She would be in there fighting very, very, very hard because she was the daughter of immigrants, you know? And she wound up having a good life. And she -- she realized the importance of education, she saw how her parents had worked so hard, had struggled so hard and when she and my dad went to school in Morenci they only -- they spoke Spanish and during that time, the teachers would hit their hands with a ruler because they were speaking Spanish and so when I was born, they made sure I only spoke English, so I spoke English before I spoke Spanish. But she would be fighting and be very, very mad. My mother could be so mad. She's a nice sweet white-haired lady but she could be so mad it was like look out.

Jose Cardenas: Well I'm sorry we don't have her around not only provide leadership but to be a guest. But thank you so much for joining us.

Olivia Cajero Bedford: Thank you.

Jose Cardenas: And Rosa thank you and thank you to Latino Perspectives.

Rosa Cays:Editor, Latino Perspectives Magazine;Olivia Cajero Bedford:Arizona Senator;

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