Santa Maria Councilmember Hilda Zacarias spoke to a diverse audience of students, professors, and local community members in a talk given on Thursday afternoon at Santa Barbara City College’s Garvin Theatre. The lecture marked the 17th year of the Leonardo Dorantes Memorial lecture series, which was established to commemorate the race-related death of then-SBCC student Leonardo Dorantes in November of 1990.
Zacarias upheld the series’ ongoing theme of awareness of ethnic differences in our community with her lecture, “Head-Start to Harvard and Home Again: The Making of a ‘Si Se Puede’ Activist.” She spoke about the great opportunity that we all have to overcome our individual obstacles and make a difference in our community, using her own life story to exemplify the many possibilities.
“In this society, the greatest privileges are granted based on race and on gender,” she explained. These words carried special significance because Zacarias herself – a woman and a Chicana – has achieved many academic and professional successes without the benefit of such social “privileges,” earning a Masters degree from Harvard University and serving both on the Board of Trustees for the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District and on the Santa Maria City Council. Her message was that ethnic differences – and the privileges or biases that can often come with them – should not be seen as insurmountable obstacles to success, and that anyone can become an active participant in changing the communities in which we live. As Zacarias expressed in an interview after the lecture, “We don’t have to wait for a tragedy to happen to make change in the world.”