Nearly 350 San Antonio area residents packed into the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center last night to hear María Antonietta Berriozábal read excerpts from her forthcoming book, María: Daughter of Immigrants. The standing room only crowd in the upstairs auditorium overflowed to the downstairs exhibit area, where nearly 100 people watched on a large screen via projected video and sound.
The selected readings gave a hint of the wide-ranging mix of stories that will comprise María’s autobiography, which is scheduled to be published in the summer of 2011 by Sor Juana Press. From the painful story, “El Tiempo de los Enfermos,” when tuberculosis struck her father’s family in the 1930s, claiming three victims, to the hilarious account of the night she met her future husband, Professor Manuel P. Berriozábal, Ph.D., at an archdiocesan meeting, the excerpts held the audience enthralled.
The cover art for the book, created pro bono by renowned San Antonio artist Enedina Cásarez-Vásquez, was unveiled at the start of the evening. “I wanted to capture all that María has meant, not only to me but to the countless women who know her and who grew because of her,” Enedina said, explaining the symbols she used. “María was a catalyst for what became a river of powerful, hardworking women who because of her became a united workforce on behalf of those in need and all those that needed to be heard and represented.”
Esperanza’s Director, Graciela Sánchez, welcomed everyone and introduced María, highlighting the pivotal role that María has played over years in advocating for the well-being of the community.
Live music by Mariana Ornelas and singer Raquel Cruz, Ph.D., along with food catered by Fuerza Unida added to the festive, celebratory atmosphere. Native grasses from Santuario Sisterfarm, flowers, and flower petals decorated the stage, which held an altar full of photographs of María’s family and ancestors. Behind the scenes, María’s editor, Santuario Sisterfarm Co-Director Elise García, projected images to accompany María’s readings.