In May 2019, ILI Partner the National Association of Latino Arts & Cultures (NALAC) hosted the final of three place-based intensives for ILI Fellows in San Antonio, TX. The five-day leadership immersion brought together the second cohort of ILI Fellows for shared learning, personal exchange and to be immersed in a living Mexican-American culture grounded in indigeneity.
“We took our insight and wisdom from new understandings from the two previous sessions and the richness of older wisdom to shape our third intensive program to maximize our group’s intelligence,” said NALAC President & CEO María DeLeón. “Artists and culture bearers from San Antonio and beyond joined us throughout the week to share knowledge, stories and artistic and cultural expressions that will support intercultural learning.”
Each part of the San Antonio intensive was designed to help the ILI Fellows cohort continue to ground their experience in the same four core topics addressed in the first two intensives in Lakota Territory and Hawaiʻi: Who We Are, Where We Are, How We Work, Why We Matter. The difference in this third convening was a focus on exploring some of the changes that Fellows would want to create and exploring the breadth of intervention required toward realizing them using emotional intelligence to focus on personal qualities such as initiative, empathy, adaptability, resilience, and persuasiveness as a guide.
In addition to creating a deep and meaningful personal experience for the ILI Fellows cohort, the connection to the place itself was a critical part of the time together. “Many layers inform the current moment of this place,” said María. “Some are harmonious, while others are syncopated. As a sanctuary city, San Antonio provides refuge to the families and individuals seeking refuge on the southern border. We understand these immoral and inhumane acts are part of an agenda to criminalize immigrant communities and propel fear and antagonism against communities of color.”
“We aspire to achieve understanding to help us imagine a future where the artistic and cultural expressions of our communities are fully valued.”
NALAC staff worked with host facilitator/culture bearer Evonne Gallardo, the other ILI partners, ILI facilitators, and local ILI Fellows to create a fully immersive intensive.
Guest presenters provided model perspectives on leadership and interculturality - as they did at ILI Lakota and ILI Hawaiʻi. Topics ranging from “Latinidad & Interculturality” to what makes a good ally were complemented with local arts & culture experiences such as an exhibition reception at Presa House Gallery featuring local artists including ILI Fellow Suzy Gonzalez. Discussions on Citizenship, Migration & Immigration and a visit to the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center (directed by ILI Fellow Alum from 17/18 Graciela Sánchez) gave Fellows time for thoughtful learning and reflection. Chef Adán Medrano led a cooking demonstration as part of a session on “The History of Texas Mexican Food & How it Impacts Identity & Community” - continuing the food sovereignty connections made at each of the prior ILI intensives.
“It was an honor to host the third and final intensive for the second ILI cohort,” María said. “Especially as NALAC celebrates its 30th Anniversary this year, it was so important to share this learning in San Antonio and explore a new way to work in solidarity across cultures. Together we can re-imagine ways to create a new narrative that more broadly includes and supports our communities.”