Photo of “Nosotras” authors: Maria Gonzalez Cardena (left) and Emily Wakild (right). Photo by Claire Keener | The Arbiter
“‘I didn’t know there were Latinx people in Idaho,’ that’s usually the response.”
These are the words of Maria González Cárdenas, co-author of “Nosotras,” a book that profiles 50 Latinas who have shaped Idaho in the last 50 years.
“We have contributed, we are contributing, we will continue to contribute,” Cárdenas said.
Cárdenas is a former college counselor in the College Assistance Migrant Program at Boise State University, and has served on several Idaho Hispanic boards and in Latinx organizations as a part of her background in migrant work.
The idea to write a book about Latinas in Idaho first came to her in 1992 while working as the president of Mujeres Unidas de Idaho.
It wasn’t until 2020 that Cárdenas introduced the idea to Boise State professor Emily Wakild, who joined the project soon after.
“Emily got really excited about it, especially because Emily has published work and done work within the Latina community,” Cárdenas said.
Wakild has both worked in and published books about Mexico, which were translated into Spanish.
“Through that process of translation, it became apparent to me how easy it is to publish things that need to exist in this world,” Wakild said.
Cárdenas and Wakild received funding for “Nosotras” through a Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan grant from the Idaho Humanities Council.
“I was really excited that they were so willing to support an important project like this,” Wakild said.
Initially, the book was intended to focus on Latinx Idahoans with Mexican descent, though eventually the project evolved to highlight women in the Latinx community.
“The resounding [response] was, ‘No Maria, it’s got to be about women,’” Cárdenas said. “It’s got to be about Latina women and, if you can, Mexican-descent women.”
According to Cárdenas, most of the stories from the Latinx community that get told are about men, leaving out an equally important part of their history.
“One thing that’s exciting about this project is the opportunity to tell stories that haven’t been seen, and to be able to tell them in the words of the people that experienced them,” Wakild said.
As Wakild pointed out, this means that approximately 1 in 5 students in Idaho public schools are Latinx, though their representation in higher education along with Idaho’s history remains unbalanced.
“So that means that [20%] of Boise State should be Hispanic or Latinx, and it’s not, and we’re nowhere close to that,” Wakild said. “Even less so when we look at political representation.”
Cárdenas hopes that this book will help young Latinas feel represented and encourage them to visualize a path to becoming influential Idaho women.
“We lose so many, they don’t even make it through their junior year, often,” Cárdenas said. “So that’s why getting to even younger than middle school and junior high is so important.”