Jalisco dresses don’t make themselves.

In fact, the colorful skirts and blouses require days of painstaking sewing. Connie Solano de Benavidez is intimately aware of that fact. After she founded the dance group Ballet Folklorico de la Raza in 1994, she’d come home from Peterson Air Force Base, where she worked for 35 years, and spend the hours between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. sewing yards of ribbon to her homemade dresses.

“My husband told me I was crazy,” said Benavidez, 81, whose daughters and granddaughters danced in the troupe. “He’d ask, ‘When will it stop?’ I’d say, ‘When I’m six feet under.’”

Nowadays, those dresses, 36 altogether, and other outfits occupy a room in Benavidez’s home. She loans them out to the troupe, which still performs regularly around the state. In 2013, the troupe marched in the 57th Presidential Inaugural Parade.

Benavidez is one of three women who will be honored Saturday at the ninth annual “Latina Voices,” a free Friends of the Pikes Peak Library District event that recognizes the successes and talent of Colorado Latinas.

Katherine Latona, a Colombia native and University of Colorado at Colorado Springs graduate, and Dolores M. Martinez, a Colorado native, also will be featured. Latona, who earned an art history degree, studies monuments and their influence on cultural identity, while Martinez has worked in the legal field for four decades and wrote “Experiences in the Historical Borderlands: A Shared Ancestry.”

“I believe our ladies are incredible human beings and deserve a voice,” said Aida Richardson, chairwoman of the event, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico. “We facilitate that. If we can do anything to inspire some other women, that’s the key to the program.”

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“Latina Voices” was born in 2011 after Friends of the PPLD board member Linda DuVal pitched a program to highlight excerpts from Alex Blackburn’s book “Gifts From the Heart,” a collection of Gazette writer Lou Gonzales’ best work, as well as the stories and accomplishments of other Latinas. Gonzales died in 2003 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

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Coffee and pastries from Carniceria Leonela will be served before the women speak about their history, what they’ve overcome and what inspires them. A Q&A session will follow each speaker. To finish, half a dozen dancers from Ballet Folklorico de la Raza will perform.

“More and more of our community is diverse,” Richardson said. “Not only is it Latinas, but Asians and (people) from India. Better understanding of how each culture evolves creates more community.”

Contact the writer: 636-0270

Contact the writer: 636-0270

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