Latino leaders meet at ECU
Keynote speaker Juana Watson. Photo by Cliff Hollis.
(June 5, 2009)
National, state and local leaders gathered at East Carolina University’s Murphy Center June 5 to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing the Latino community.
Discussions took place during the second annual Latino Leadership Summit, an all-day event organized by ECU and the Association of Mexicans in North Carolina (AMEXCAN).
Juana Watson, an internationally recognized expert and speaker on Latino issues, gave the keynote presentation. Watson shared her incredible life story, which began in a poor Mexican village. There, she said, women still die in childbirth, children die from parasites and many people never learn to read or write.
Watson left the village at age 11, becoming homeless through a series of unfortunate events. She describes this as both a curse and a blessing. “What made me what I am today is that I was given the opportunity to leave that town,” she said.
Watson arrived in Indiana in 1978 with the equivalent of a junior high education, but she eventually earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees while helping local Latino immigrants adapt to a new life in America. She now serves as senior advisor to the governor of Indiana for Latino and Immigrant Affairs.
“The problem of immigration starts in our villages,” she said. “I see many people who left their villages suffering and angry, looking for a better life.”
Following Watson’s talk, expert panelists led breakout sessions focused on Leadership and Civic Engagement and Leadership and Latino Health, Leadership and Business Development and Leadership and Immigration. David Griffith, an economic anthropologist and ECU professor, presented the luncheon talk, “Latino Entrepreneurship in North Carolina and Beyond.”