By Luis Uribe
LOS ANGELES – Recently reelected to the post of councilor in Bell, a town in Los Angeles County, Mexican-American Teresa Jacobo is continuing in politics the struggle she began more than a decade ago as a community activist.
Jacobo has been recognized for her work and on Feb. 28 she became the first Latino woman to receive the Equal Justice Award by the n-ACTION Family Network, for her leadership in helping the community and women.
Born in the western Mexican state of Jalisco, she was only a year old when her father “came to the United States to work as a ‘bracero,’” or temporary farm laborer.
Five years later he sent for his family and so Teresa received her entire education in the United States “in English, because in those days nobody (here) spoke Spanish.”
She grew up in Los Angeles’ El Sereno neighborhood and was 14 when she started spending her summers working in a garment factory.
Upon graduating from high school she could not continue with her higher educational studies.
“In my family, there was a lot of poverty and I had to work,” Jacobo told Efe, recalling her responsibility as the older sister to her three brothers.
She got married, but that union ended in divorce. “After I divorced – I had two kids – I returned to Cerritos College, where I got my AA (associate of arts) in accounting,” she said.
“After that, I returned home. I had two daughters and so I worked all the time for my family and for my kids, and after a long time I got onto the council (in 2001). I returned to the university. In 2005, I got my bachelor’s degree in business administration,” she said.
Not only the poverty of her youth, but the effort to provide for her children motivated her to seek a way to educate parents of families about their role in society.
Out of that concern arose, more than 15 years ago, the first Comadres y Compadres group, where Jacobo began to get parents together to give little talks to them.
The project evolved and later she was named the coordinator of the Comadres y Compadres groups in every school, and she began to meet every month with each group, developing projects to integrate the parents into the education of their children.
By participating as members of the community in an election, the parents saw the importance of having candidates who supported them and “being up to date with who our leaders were.”
Jacobo said that “the parents and especially the women got very enthusiastic, above all upon seeing that there was no woman on the town councils of the neighboring cities. In Bell, there had been no woman on the council for 22 years.”
Thus is was that Jacobo, with the support of George Cole, an important Bell political leader and his wife, launched her candidacy for councilor and was elected for the first time in 2001.
Conscious of the role of women in current society, she feels it is essential for young Latino women “to learn to love themselves to be able to give love, love others and inspire that love in your children and the family. That’s how they become fundamental pillars for their families.”
ys it’s a pillar that’s needed to reinforce the values of the basic element in society, the family.
“The Latino woman is moving up because every day we have more women who stand out, who take on leadership not only of the community but also of the family, who are going back to school and not only so they can then work but to offer more stability to their family,” she said. EFE