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THE ORLANDO SENTINEL
Hispanic Women Join Forces
By Cristina Elías | Sentinel Staff Writer
June 13, 2003
MANA is taking root in Orlando, drawn by Central Florida's increasing political and economic power within the growing Hispanic community.
Orlando now has the first Florida chapter of MANA, a national organization for Hispanic women.
Organizers elected their officers recently at the South Creek branch of the Orange County Library on Deerfield Boulevard in Orlando.
When MANA started in Texas in 1974, the organization focused mostly on creating a Mexican-American women's movement. Its name stood for Mexican-American National Association. In 1994, MANA voted to become an organization for all Hispanics.
It now has at least 16 chapters in other states, but it has always been a Southwestern phenomenon connected more or less to the Mexican-American community.
"We started a chapter because we were surprised to find that there was no [national] representation here, even though there are so many Latinos," said Olivia Triana, the new vice president of MANA in Orlando.
"When I went to a reunion of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute in Washington, D.C., I realized there were very few Florida politicians there."
Triana's participation in MANA is a good example of the transnational Hispanic culture that is sweeping into Central Florida. Triana is a Colombian immigrant who is helping to lead a Mexican-American organization in the Puerto Rican mecca of Florida.
Signals of this change could be seen earlier, with the visit of MANA's director, Alma Morales Riojas, during the conference of the National Hispanic Leadership Institute (NHLI), and MANA's recognition of Puerto Rico Gov. Sila Calderon as leader of the year in 2001.
Triana, who moved to Ocoee from the Chicago area -- the Mexican-American cultural center of the Midwest -- brought the idea with her and joined forces with Denise Harrison, who also worked for her company, State Farm Insurance.
The two decided to start the chapter, encouraged by State Farm, which is one of MANA's chief sponsors and instrumental in helping start at least five chapters in Hispanic communities where the company had offices.
"This is the first of what we hope will be many more chapters here in Florida," Harrison said.
The chapter was received with enthusiasm by almost 150 participants in Winter Haven and Clermont, areas with high concentrations of Mexican-Americans, where the first two simultaneous meetings took place.
MANA will include members of all nationalities from all over Central Florida and expects to provide social and entrepreneurial leadership to Hispanic women and girls.
At a national level, MANA has consistently demonstrated interest in the education of Hispanic students, a focus members say they plan to continue in Central Florida schools.