We had the good fortune of connecting with Maria Baños Jordan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Maria, career-wise, where do you want to be in the end?
A career in community advocacy doesn’t have an ending. It is one of the most challenging parts of this work, because the rewards are often not seen, and generations will always need to learn more about community. As the years have gone by through many professional roles, I learned that applying my skills and creativity in serving others brings joy. I hope that I’ll continue to find creative ways to share the value of our diverse communities in building a stronger society.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I studied sociology, but it took me years to find my calling in advocacy and community-building. As a native Houstonian, I came of age during the rapid demographic growth of this southern metropolis. I realized that preserving civil rights required continuous labor in the field, so ten years ago I made the painful decision to leave the predictability of my sixteen year old career to launch the Texas Familias Council . I launched this advocacy organization to support women’s potential, bridge communities, and give a voice to diverse and immigrant populations in areas less familiar with intercultural efforts. The most difficult part of this work is facing negative biases, but having inconvenient conversations respectfully are key to healing and progress. . This work has required years of knowledge, intense focus, faith, belief in people’s potential, and being comfortable when you’re the lone voice for the underserved. Memories of my parents immigrant experiences, my childhood challenges, and the lessons I learn from those I serve provide me clarity. The Council efforts include family support initiatives, disaster recovery, community guidance, and nurturing inclusivity. Faith and hope in the human spirit to rise above barriers drive my decisions. The beauty of serving communities is watching our young light up with hope, and building connection between adults that have had to learn to live in painful isolation. Community-building is a difficult artform, and it requires one foot in the boardroom, and one in vulnerable communities. Community is the extension of family that connects our past to our future. We’re in dire need of learning to build and live within a trusting community as our most diverse generation comes of age. It’s the love of diverse people sharing a common space that creates bold solutions to barriers. This dynamic challenges us to connect on deeper levels, and find truth to guide us.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I love the diversity of the Houston region. Galveston holds so many memories for me, and it’s history is very alive in the architecture and feel of the town. After some seafood at Gaido’s, we’d visit the Johnson’s Space Center. Space exploration is inspirational, and shaped so much of Houston’s can-do mindset. Houston’s museum district is my favorite part of the city, so we’d visit as many museums as we could, and have lunch at Bistro Menil. Later a visit to Discovery Green Park, and maybe take in an outdoor concert there. We’d stop by the old mission church of Our Lady of Guadalupe where I was baptized in the East End, built by some of our first Mexican immigrant families, then Mexican food and margaritas at Ninfa’s down the street. I’d also share some Spanish Cuban flavor at El Meson in Rice Village, and squeeze in Huynh Restaurant for great Vietnamese. I’d want to show off our outlying communities to capture our Texas culture. We’d visit the growing downtown district of Conroe, have some barbeque, and visit with local artists and community leaders. The region has treasures like the Texas Alabama Coushatta reservation in Livingston with natural beauty and cultural history, so I’d call my friends there to help us with a tour. Finally a day trip to Washington-on-the-Brazos near Brenham to share our unique story of becoming the independent nation of Texas, born of many cultures and hopes.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My late Abuelita Julia was the most influential woman in my life. She was courageous and creative in caring for community through her spiritual devotion and connection to our indigenous roots. My mother and late father’s journeys to the U.S. from Mexico and Cuba were bold and beautiful. Their struggle taught me about hope and dignity, the importance of community, and how to see beyond the road most traveled. Their hopes led me to love learning, and to the University of Houston where I would learn to find my voice. Finally, developing my own community-building organization stretched me unlike anything. I owe the fruit of this labor to my dear husband’s support, and to my precious colleagues that inspire me, and who give their heart to community daily.
Linkedin: Maria Banos Jordan