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TEW Talks: Hispanic Heritage Month

September 22 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm CDT



In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, TEW will hear the stories of the Latina Icons memorialized on the Latina Icons Mural at Yolanda Black Navarro Middle School.

The panel will share:

  • The history and impact of five extraordinary women depicted in the Latina Icons Mural unveiled in June 2021
  • Why the Latina Icons Mural is important to Houston and the greater East End community
  • How the Latina Icons Mural came about, funding, location, etc.

The Latina Icons Mural was painted by Guatemalan-born artist, Gelson Danilo Lemus on a 40-feet-by-80-feet wall at Navarro Middle School in the heart of Houston’s Second Ward. Following a community survey, Nelly Moyano Fraga, Graciela Saenz, Norma Zenteno, Angela Morales, and Yolanda Black Navarro were selected to represent the history of Latina leadership and empowerment in the area. The mural depicts a young girl reading a book about the portraits of the Hispanic Heroines of her community. With these outstanding women as role models, the young girl can imagine herself achieving her own dreams and goals, and one day becoming an icon herself.

Moderator:  Paula Mendoza | Owner | Possible Missions |TEW Board Member & Past President

Panelist:  Richard Rodriguez | Art Consultant | Mural Curator

Panelist:  Graciela Saenz | Attorney | Latina Icon

Panelist: Gloria Zenteno | Founder and President, Barrio Dogs  | Norma Zenteno Relative

The Mural was funded by Precinct2gether, the nonprofit affiliated with County Commissioner Adrian Garcia’s Precinct 2, and through sponsorships by the East End Management District, Sunbelt Rentals, and Magellan Housing.


Gelson, also known as w3r3on3, is a Guatemalan-born resident of Houston who began creating art at a young age. In the late 90’s, he discovered graffiti culture which has shaped his path from a graffiti artist to a muralista (muralist). He has completed many mini murals, beautifying utility boxes throughout Houston, and other works across the United States.

Rich is Director of Housing at the Tejano Center for Community Concerns, a nonprofit that serves the East End. Previously, he held leadership positions in TIRZ/Municipal Management Districts. The former principal cellist of the Fort Bend Symphony Orchestra, Rich is an arts advocate. He served on the board of  Talento Bilingue de Houston and LULAC #60 and was a Fellow on the Houston Symphony Orchestra’s Hispanic Advisory Committee. He earned his MBA from Touro University California, and attended NYU for his undergraduate studies. Rich is a 12-year United States Air Force Veteran.


YOLANDA BLACK NAVARRO was a lifelong Latina activist, who drove decades of change in Houston resulting in the betterment of life for all Latinos, especially in the East End. She co-founded the Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans in 1970 to address drug abuse and school dropout rates, and the Navigation Business Association in 1988 which to this day provides new shoes for elementary school students in the East End. She dedicated her life to public service, serving on the Metropolitan Transit Authority Board, the Land Assemblage Redevelopment Agency, the Mayor’s Hispanic Advisory Board, Latina PAC, LULAC 634, the American Leadership Forum, El Centro de Corazon, Greater Hispanic Coalition, and the Hispanic Women in Leadership. She ran for political office twice and never regretted it. This school is named after her as is the Yolanda Black Navarro Buffalo Bayou Nature Preserve.

The oldest daughter of Velia Arcos Rodriguez Black, founder of the still thriving, legendary restaurant Villa Arcos, Yolanda was responsible for the restaurant becoming a mainstay for political movers and shakers. She cut her political teeth as a teenager, volunteering to get out the Latino vote for John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign, Viva Kennedy. The impact of ultra-local organizing influenced the direction of her entire life. Undeterred by prevalent discrimination, and with strong encouragement from her family, she pursued higher education. She graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in Business Administration, having taken night classes while working fulltime and parenting an infant.

She bucked the 1960s trend of women entering the workforce only in traditional roles like teacher or nurse. Her participation in the Minority Women Employment Program led her to a 24-year career at Southwestern Bell (now AT&T).

NELLY MOYANO FRAGA was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on January 15, 1943, to Luis Filadelfo Moyano and Marina Alarcón Urrutia.  She had two older brothers, Bolívar Moyano and Luis Wilson Moyano, and a younger sister, Sheila Moyano.  She is a product of the public school system in Ecuador, having graduated from Dolores Sucre High School for Girls.  She, then, pursued her university studies in social work, which was a new academic field in Ecuador at the time.  The Rotary Club of Guayaquil founded the School of Social Work in 1961, and Nelly entered the program the following year.  As part of her field education, in 1963, Nelly organized a group of young girls – ages seven to fifteen – who were street vendors.  She and the girls decided to call themselves Las Estrellas del Sur (The Stars of the South), recognizing their potential and that they lived in the southern section of Guayaquil, which traditionally has had a higher concentration of poverty.  Nelly served as a case worker and mentor for the girls.  She provided them with guidance, emotional support, as well as, educational, athletic, and recreational activities.  In 1965, Nelly began employment as a case worker at Plan Padrinos, a foster care program supported by a U.S. organization, and later at Industria Cartonera Ecuatoriana, a private industry.

In April 1966, Nelly was awarded a scholarship from the Cleveland International Program for Social Workers and Youth Leaders, and travelled to New York City, where she and the other 182 scholarship recipients from across the globe met, and then to Cleveland, Ohio, to begin their program. It consisted of social work training and conferences at Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, OH), followed by a three-month field education experience.  For this part of the program, Nelly was assigned to Neighborhood Centers Inc. Ripley House (now BakerRipley) in Houston, Texas, where she met her future husband, Felix Fraga.  Upon the completion of this program, Nelly received a certificate in social work from Case Western Reserve University, and she returned to Ecuador.

She completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work at Vicente Rocafuerte University in Guayaquil in 1968.  She and Felix maintained a long-distance correspondence, and in October 1968, he travelled to Ecuador and proposed to Nelly.  They married the following January in Guayaquil, and returned to Houston to begin their life together.

Upon returning to Houston, Nelly worked for Neighborhood Centers Inc. at Clayton Homes and also in the Manchester/Broadway area until the birth of their first son, Fernando, in June 1970. Tragically, Fernando passed away at age four from meningitis, and with Nelly’s and Felix’s permission, his autopsy provided some of the basis for the meningitis vaccine, which saves many young people to this day.

Nelly and Felix were blessed with the birth of two other sons, Carlos, in August 1971, and Bolivar (“Bo”) in January 1974.  Both sons graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy with Bachelor of Science Degrees. Carlos received his Master of Science Degree in Chemistry at the University of Illinois and Doctorate Degree in Analytical Chemistry at the University of Washington.  Bolivar has three Master’s Degrees: Master of Arts in Latin American Studies from the University of Florida, Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies from Aquinas Institute of Theology, and Master of Social Work at Saint Louis University.  In the family tradition, Bolivar works in community engagement at BakerRipley (formerly Neighborhood Centers Inc.).  The Fraga Family now includes their daughter-in-law, Patricia, a public school teacher, and three grandchildren: Nicolas, Damian and Amanda who live in Richland, Washington, where their father, Carlos, is a Senior Research Scientist in the Chemical and Biological Signature Science Group at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) operated by Battelle.

Nelly has worked as a volunteer in many programs associated with Neighborhood Centers Inc. Ripley House, to include serving as a community instructor in the first-ever conversational Spanish classes given to HPD and HFD.  Additionally, her volunteer work has included the following: with the University of Houston/Channel 8 to obtain community input on television programs, including Sesame Street when it first began to air; Women in Action (now Women in Justice), visiting and assisting women in city, county, and state jails, as well as, penitentiaries; The American Red Cross, giving CPR and First Aid courses in Spanish; Sheltering Arms in the care and transport of Hispanic seniors; and Planned Parenthood in educational birth control.   Nelly also played a key role in the founding of many  volunteer Hispanic civic, culture  and social organizations, such as  Asociación Ecuatoriana de Houston, Houston Guayaquil Sister City Association, the Houston Ecuadorian Chamber of Commerce, and Ambassadors International Ballet Folklorico. Nelly volunteered and was an active member of the Fiestas Patrias Parade, the Fiestas Patrias Gala, the Comité Patriótico Mexicano, Asociación de Mujeres Internacionales Generando Amistad (AMIGA), Institute of Hispanic Culture of Houston, Miller Outdoor Theatre, the Park People, the East End Progress Association, The Panamerican Round Table, and Talento Bilingue de Houston, where she performed in a number of plays. As part of The Second Ward Community Development Corporation (CDC), Nelly participated in construction of affordable homes.   In the medical field, Nelly volunteered at the Shriner’s Hospital, Hermann Hospital, and MD Anderson Hospital.   In the field of education, Nelly has served on various committees with Houston Hispanic Forum.

In 1988, Nelly resumed her professional career by working with the non-profit VIP Human Development Services as a case worker.  In 1991, she founded the non-profit organization Cuidado Nutricional del Niño, Inc. (Childcare Nutritional Program, Inc.), which focused on child nutrition.  She retired in 2018.

Nelly has been honored by receiving many awards, acknowledging her contributions to the community.These include: the Willie Velasquez Certificate, Puerto Rican Award, Foley’s Saavy Award, Variety Club Award, Metro Family Award, Ohtli Award (from the Mexican Government), la Mujer del Año (Solo Mujeres Magazine),la Mujer Legendaria (Ford Motor Company), Asociación Ecuatoriana de Houston Award, LULAC’s Women’s Leadership Award, the Houston Rockets Noche Latina Award, the 2017 COMCAST Hispanic Hero Award, and the 2019 Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Lifetime Achievement Award.

ANGELA MORALES (Born May 5, 1907, deceased June 7, 1994) may have invented the sledgehammer that broke the original glass ceiling. She was born on Cinco de Mayo in 1907 and refused to abide by society’s limits. With her husband Felix, they grew his family business into a million dollar enterprise. It started in 1931, when they moved to Houston to open the first Hispanic serving Funeral Home in “Cow Town,” as she remembered it. Giving final dignity to Hispanics was something new in the heavily segregated city. Before they opened Morales Funeral Home on Canal Street, Hispanic funerals were usually held in garages.

The mortuary served far beyond those who had passed, and all aspects of the business were viewed through the lens of community building. In 1935, they respectfully re-buried a graveyard where paupers had been improperly buried.

Angela founded KLVL La Voz Latina, the first Spanish-language radio station to broadcast news for the Gulf Coast, in 1946. Her granddaughter Christina Morales serves the East End residents in the Texas House of Representatives.

GRACIELA SAENZ—Gracie—broke barriers for a whole new generation in Houston. She was the first Latina At-Large member on the Houston City Council, serving three terms starting in 1992. She was the first Latina Mayor Pro-Tem. She was a product of the Houston public school system and obtained her Law Degree in 1986 at the University of Houston Law Center. She continues her law practice in the East End and her public advocacy.  She is a consultant with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, outside General Counsel for the Houston Land Bank, and Government Relations attorney for several corporations including Southwest Airlines.  Gracie has served on numerous nonprofit boards and  has received many honors and awards. To name a few: Hispanic Woman of the Year from The Mexican-American Opportunity Foundation, Hispanic Women’s Leadership Hall of Fame, Outstanding Citizen Award from the Boy Scouts, International Service Award from the Houston Junior Chamber of Commerce, Women on the Move and has twice been recognized at UH with the Distinguished Service Award by the College of Law faculty and the U of H Alumnus Award. Gracie was awarded the Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award (2018) by the Mayor of the City of Houston for all her community work. She was also recognized as a local Community Hero by Comcast in 2019.  She is a proud member of the American Leadership Forum – Class XIII.

She continues her community involvement on boards and commissions that help in the areas of health care, education and economic development: Advisory Board for the University of Houston Mexican American Studies Program, Advisory Board of the University of Houston College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Board member of Project G.R.A.D. and is also a proud member of the local Historic LULAC Council 60. She continues her advocacy through LULAC 60 and is on the board of C60, Inc. A nonprofit that is currently in the midst of restoring one of the most important National Treasures in Houston, the LULAC Clubhouse on Bagby Street.

Gracie also recognizes the importance of mentoring and has continued her mentoring of several young Latinas. She is the proud mother of three—Daniel, Marissa and Stephen and grandmother of 15 grandchildren. Above all, she feels her service to community continues because of her supportive husband, Al Castillo.

NORMA ZENTENO (Born June 27, 1952, deceased February 22, 2013) was a musical legend before she was even born. Her grandparents, Roberto and Teresa Zenteno met in the 1920s while performing on the Mexican Vaudeville circuit. Her father, Roberto Jr. was a trumpet prodigy, leading big bands for decades and touring with King of Mambo Perez Prado.

Norma was the oldest of five children. She showed an early interest in music, and began writing her own compositions at a young age. She crossed genres of pop, jazz, and salsa, and was adored for her mesmerizing stage presence. She had four children and was also beloved as a maternal figure to many other people and four legged friends.

Norma’s career and life were sadly cut short when she passed away in 2013. Her legacy lives on in recordings, her children, the many lives she touched, and the nonprofit she co-founded, Barrio Dogs, as well as the first public statue of a Hispanic woman in the city of Houston. She is featured with rescue dog, Kippy, here in the East End.


September 22
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm