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María De Leon welcomes ILI Year 2 to San Antonio
Welcome Message at ILI San Antonio by María López De León, President and CEO, NALAC
On behalf of the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC), I welcome you to San Antonio! We are proud to be hosting the Intercultural Leadership Institute as NALAC celebrates its 30th Anniversary; three decades of supporting Latinx arts and culture from our base on San Antonio’s historic WestSide.
The place I call home where many peoples have lived for generations across a period, a region where many of our ancestors journeyed freely back and forth across this land. Diverse heritages, stories, and cultural practices have coalesced to shape the consciousness of this place.

Texas and San Antonio Perspectives 
Native populations lived across what we now call Texas long before Spanish colonization. Over 52% of the Texas population is Latinx, and 88% are of Mexican descent. Mexicans/Mexican-Americans are a large part of Texas history and the stories left to us by our elders provide us with an understanding of our legacy and inform our current struggles for justice. The knowledge of many diverse peoples combined to take on variations in our language, culture, traditions, and ways of being that make Texas what it is today.

Many layers inform the current moment of this place some are harmonious, while others are syncopated. As a sanctuary city, San Antonio provides refuge to the families and individuals seeking refuge on the southern border. We understand these immoral and inhumane acts are part of an agenda to criminalize immigrant communities and propel fear and antagonism against communities of color. Another embodiment of this complexity is evident through events like UNESCO’s 2017 designation of the San Antonio Missions as a World Heritage Site- a designation based on the interaction between indigenous people of this area and the colonizers that contributed to a fundamental change in the culture and values of the hunter-gather tribes.San Antonio is a place to be immersed in a living Mexican-American culture grounded in indigeneity. Hear the unique sound of conjunto music- a musical genre born from a Tejano/German fusion of the accordion and Bajo sexto and learn about the indigenous origins of the food, traditions, artistry and cultural expressions of our heritage.

The third ILI gathering will provide an opportunity to share more about your work to help shape a narrative of interculturality and engage in the lifelong journey of intercultural development and effectiveness. We will explore some of the changes you want to create and explore the breadth of intervention required toward realizing them using our emotional intelligence to focus on personal qualities such as initiative, empathy, adaptability, resilience, and persuasiveness as a guide.

We took our insight and wisdom from new understandings from the two previous sessions and the richness of older wisdom to shape our third intensive program to maximize our group’s intelligence, the synergistic interaction of every person’s best talents as an affirmation of who we are, how and what we do and why we matter. Artists and culture bearers from San Antonio and beyond will join us throughout the week to share knowledge, stories and artistic and cultural expressions that will support intercultural learning.

We aspire to achieve understanding to help us imagine a future where the artistic and cultural expressions of our communities are fully valued.

Arts and culture are a manifestation of the values, creativity, vision, and aspirations of the people who make those communities their home. The character and texture of a community’s cultural life are expressed through artmaking and cultural practices and centers life in our neighborhoods, allowing one to understand the inseparability of the arts from education, community development, personal growth, and socioeconomic equity. Artists have a long tradition of being the truth tellers, reflecting through their work the issues that impact our society and can catalyze change and propel social movements. There is a need for places of being that make space for the expression of our creativity, cultural practices, and movements of resistance and liberation. The Intercultural Leadership Institute is such a space.

We look forward to the shared learning during our time in San Antonio and together explore a new way to work in solidarity. Together we can re-imagine ways to create a new narrative that more broadly includes and supports our communities. Journalist and music and culture critic, Jeff Chang notes “Equity is the current horizon of our imagination; it begins in a circle; a space of creativity; community forms; re-emerges in a revolution of coming together.” You are a cohort of change makers and thought leaders who will build a new way of being.

Thank you for the grace and energy with which you hold this space.