When you hear the name Belda Garza, you think politics—it sort of goes hand in hand—that’s because the Mexican native, who grew up in a Southwest Detroit neighborhood, made history as the first Latina State Representative of Michigan in 1998.
As this year’s Spirit of Frida Political Award recipient it’s easy to see why Garza qualifies. She has a long history of contributions to Hispanic advocacy and the implementation of numerous inclusion programs while being politically inclined.
Garza served in the State Legislature for four years as a Democrat representing district 8. She, along with State Rep. Valde Garcia, (R)-86th district, implemented several firsts for Hispanics in Lansing. They co-sponsored the first ever Hispanic Legislative Conference to address concerns of Latinos, as well as the first Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration and Awards at the State Capitol Building in 1999. Today, the Hispanic/Latino Commission of Michigan presents these events.
Also as state rep, she worked diligently on constitutional law ethics, tax policy, and gaming & casino committees, just to name a few.
Her first professional job came in 1982 with the Michigan Metro Girl Scout Council (16 years). As assistant executive director, Garza established an outreach program to encourage Hispanic girls to participate in scouting programs, cultivating future Latina leadership in the region. Similarly, she established a mentor program for youth in Southwest Detroit, and established scholarship programs for women as a member of the Cluster 5 Detroit Community Reinvestment Strategies and Wayne County Youth Assistance Board.
Garza has a long history of advocating for political rights and being involved in grassroots organizing with the United Farm Workers. She has served on many non-profit boards such as New Detroit, the Detroit Hispanic Development Corp., and local Hispanic Heritage Month committees.
In 2000, Garza was the recipient of a Las Primeras Award from MANA Nacional, a national Latina organization that has over 20 chapters throughout the United States. It is in this Detroit chapter that Garza currently serves as president. Last year, she led the group in hosting the Hermana Listas Conference, the take your Hermanita to work day, and organized Hermanitas to volunteer in the Southwest Detroit Cinco de Mayo parade. Under her watch, their annual Brindis Luncheon raised over $10,000 to help Latina girls entering college.
“Belda has made a career of helping level the playing field for so many,” said Monica L. Martinez, SVP, National Business Affairs and TX & AZ Corporate Contributions of Comerica Bank. “She has sought positions that have allowed her to make a difference and has fought tirelessly for positive change. Her vision clearly demonstrates advocacy is an important key to success while her passion shows this approach leads to change and growth.”