An Evening of Song and Celebration: 20 Years of Empowering Women in Latin America

Last night, people from all walks of life – longtime friends and supporters, past and present leadership, Board members and staff – joined Pro Mujer in commemorating its 20th anniversary in honor of two visionary women, Co-Founders Lynne Patterson and Carmen Velasco. The sold-out concert featured dynamic Mexican conductor Alondra de la Parra and the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas (POA) at the stunningly beautiful Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City

Pro Mujer’s CEO, Rosario Pérez and Co-Founders and Directors, Carmen Velasco and Lynne Patterson (from L to R).

For those of you unfamiliar with Lynne and Carmen’s story, they first crossed paths in El Alto, Bolivia in 1990. 

“Twenty years ago, Lynne and I embarked upon an adventure that neither one of us imagined would bring us here today. We started Pro Mujer in one of the poorest and least-developed countries in Latin America – my country Bolivia. When we first started, we were helping a small group of women who aspired to a better life for themselves and their families yet were bound by a culture of poverty and fear. These women lacked access to basic but much-needed services such as credit, training and healthcare. They were treated as second-class citizens, had no sense of their rights or their own value and thought they only thing they deserved was charity” – Carmen Velasco.

Carmen and Lynne in the early days of Pro Mujer.

Educators by trade, they developed an innovative approach to women’s empowerment by combining microcredit, training and healthcare support. These programs formed the bedrock of what become Pro Mujer.   

Lynne and Carmen’s original programs have since evolved into an integrated package of services, which now includes: microfinance; business and empowerment training; preventative health education; and high-quality, low-cost primary healthcare.

Over the past 20 years, Pro Mujer has disbursed more than $885 million in small loans – averaging $260 – providing more than 1,000,000 women with the access to vital services needed to transform their lives and the lives of their 5,000,000 children and family members. Today, Pro Mujer operates in communities throughout Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru.

The evening’s program opened with Aaron Copland’s vivid “Three Latin American Sketches” followed by Charles Ives’ philosophical and otherworldly, “Unanswered Question.” Samuel Barber’s “Knoxville:  Summer of 1915” highlighted the vocal prowess of soprano Emily Albrink; hailed by the New York Times as “delightful and vocally strong and versatile.” After a short introduction by Alondra, Lynne and Carmen took to the stage to thank the audience. In honor of Pro Mujer’s Latin American origins, Carmen gave a moving speech in Spanish highlighting the past twenty years.

Carmen honors the “real heroines” of the evening as she puts it – Pro Mujer’s women microentrepreneurs.
Lynne inspires the crowd by speaking about Pro Mujer’s exciting future.

“My dream is that all women in Latin America might have access to a Pro Mujer ‘s educational and social support system, financial and health services, and that Pro Mujer will continue to pioneer new solutions to meet their needs more effectively.  I am confident that in the next 20 years, under the leadership of Rosario Pérez, our CEO, we will be helping not thousands, but millions of women and that we will continue to be mission driven to create the conditions and services whereby women can realize their potential and change the world” – Lynne Patterson.

Following a standing ovation by many of the more than 1,000 concert goers, Alondra and the POA brought the evening to a close with “Concerto for Chamber Orchestra” by Daniel Schnyder.    

After the concert, a champagne reception was held in the Morgan Stanley lobby of Alice Tully Hall.

All five of Pro Mujer’s Country Directors (from L to R), Rodolfo Medrano (Mexico), Naldi Delgado (Peru), Gloria Ruiz (Nicaragua), Gonzalo Alaiza (Bolivia) and José Alberto Morales (Argentina).
Carmen, Lynne, Alondra and Rosario

Gail Landis, the Chair of Pro Mujer’s Board of Directors, thanked the evening’s sponsors Banamex and Natura Bisse as well as the members of The Velasco & Patterson Society and Junior Committee who were among those gathered to show their support. On behalf of Pro Mujer’s entire staff, Gail presented Lynne and Carmen with two bound picture books containing a selection of photos from Pro Mujer’s 20-year trajectory.

Carmen, the Chair of Pro Mujer’s Board of Directors Gail Landis and Lynne.

A wonderful evening was had by all at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts but as Lynne pointed out, “tomorrow we get back to work because millions of other women depend on us.”

Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

Special thanks our sponsors, Banamex and Natura Bisse, who helped make the evening possible.