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Wichita native Delia Garcia gathers lessons from 50 Latina luminaries on how to lead

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U.S. Labor official Delia Garcia wrote a book that shares the wisdom and insight of 50 Latina women from across the country.

Delia Garcia knows a thing or two about high-achieving women. She grew up watching her mother and grandmother run their family-owned Wichita restaurant. She's the first Latina to serve in the Kansas House of Representatives, as KS Secretary of Labor and now serves as part of the U.S. Department of Labor. As she has ascended in politics, she's seen other Latinas achieve as well. She highlights them in her new book, "Latina Leadership Lessons, 50 Latinas Speak." For In The Mix, Carla Eckels recently spoke to Delia about her book and how she decided on which Latinas to include.

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Interview Highlights

CARLA ECKELS: Why did you decide to write this book?

DELIA GARCIA: Well, I think it's important to have a conversation [about] what leadership looks like and it's also important for people like me to see my own reflection. I know ... growing up, my first leadership models were the people in my family, particularly my sisters, my mother, my grandmothers my aunts, and of course my uncles and, and [male] cousins. But like, for me, I ... wanna strive too. And so this book captures that, that reflection of ourselves, you know? Also, coupled with our nation is looking more and more like us. And so like, what does that look like? How can we invite back to our leadership in every way, and shape our industry policies? And so, yes, I put this together as a snapshot of what national Latina leadership looks like.

And how did you decide who would be included?

I chose individuals that I have worked with, looked up to, learned from and also mentees of my own. So, there [are] 25 states represented, 50 women, three generations.

Tell us about the Kansas women you included.

So, of course, I have to start with my mother, Carmen Rosales. Growing up, seeing my mother run a business Kansas' oldest family-owned Mexican restaurant — Connie's, and my grandmother — her mother, to have started that early on. I saw that possibility and so talking about the story and connecting, I uplift that. Also, Yolanda Camarena, who is a very dear, longtime family friend, as well as she gave me my first scholarship when I went to college at Wichita State University. And so she's always been another example of, "I want to strive to do that. How do I turn around and give back to my community and uplift students?"

Also, Dr. Annabel Mancillas, whose an OB/GYN from Kansas City [and] my sorority sister. And I think it's important to see, women leaders, especially in Latinas in this particular case, where we can see in the medical field ... and what she has done with being bilingual and introducing programs. And, she teaches at the University of Kansas School of Medicine as well. ...We [also] have Angela Cervantes ... [she's] a children's book author and someone that I reached out to early on when I decided I wanted to actually do this and really asked her for some advice. She's done an amazing array of books and more. ...The most notable is she was the writer for the famous movie "Coco" and "Encanto." She just does amazing work.

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(R) Dolores Huerta and (L) Delia Garcia holding up a copy of "Latina Leadership Lessons, 50 Latinas Speak."

So, in the book Delia, you have a Top 10 leadership lessons from every single woman in the book.

Yeah. What was fascinating about this is the 50 women, most of them don't know each other, but they basically said the same thing: believing in yourself — the importance of self-care; self-love. A famous line in Spanish growing up ... is "Sana, Sana Colita de Rana," which means bring your health and value your health. And so, it's things like that that resonate ... [and] I want to share. ...These are the steps. It is not rocket science. And you get to see that advice from 50 women, a snapshot of what a national Latina leadership looks like.

A few years ago you resigned as Kansas Secretary of Labor among a lot of challenges in the department. You now are working on the federal level in the Department of Labor. What is a career lesson that you've learned from that?

Well, you know, I'm excited...of all my experiences that have brought me to where I am — and where I continue to move, ...I have grown up in the space of labor, and now serving as [an] administrator at the United States Department of Labor Women's Bureau.

...How do we lift up ... women workers and their families? ...I grew up thinking life was linear, a straight line. What I now know and have discovered with all my experiences is that life is actually curvy just like me. And I'm embracing those curves in life and I'm trying to invite others to join me as well.

You are absolutely right. You know, in terms of how life pans out, and we just have to stay on the journey.

Mm-hmm <Laughs>

What do you want readers to take away from this book?

I hope that readers will take lessons from it and align it with their own journeys. And it's not just for Latino women. When people read it, there is a common thread for everyone.And Delia, we are coming up on Mother's Day. What was it about your mother's story that you felt had to be included?So, without getting choked up...um, she's been my number one hero. And, she's always demonstrated resilience and the power of prayer and love. That's been the number one lesson I've learned from her that I try to strive to do every day.


Delia Garcia will be at Watermark Books as part of a book signing for "Latina Leadership Lessons: Fifty Latinas Speak" on Saturday, May 13 at 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM. The Latina women in the book are from professional backgrounds: government, corporate and non-profit sectors, elected and appointed officials, Republicans and Democrats, DREAMer moms, attorneys, scientists and doctors, authors, entrepreneurs, LGBTQ activists, immigrant-rights activists and military leaders.

Carla Eckels is Director of Organizational Culture at KMUW. She produces and hosts the R&B and gospel show Soulsations and brings stories of race and culture to The Range with the monthly segment In the Mix. Carla was inducted into The Kansas African American Museum's Trailblazers Hall of Fame in 2020 for her work in broadcast/journalism.