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Hundreds of Latina women will gather Saturday to network, learn about growing their small business and discuss the unique challenges they face in their homes and communities at the Minnesota Latina Women's Expo at Bloomington City Hall.

The event, also called Mujeres Latinas Expo, is celebrating its fifth year. It's an opportunity to provide important resources to Spanish-speaking women, said event organizer Beatriz Martinez, who has been working in outreach and community engagement for 17 years.

"I saw a lot of Latina women working within the system, maybe married to someone from here, but without any opportunity to talk with others about the issues we face in the United States and Minnesota," Martinez said.

The expo aims to both bolster existing Latina-owned businesses as well as inspire and equip others with the right resources and knowledge.

"Women might be making something [like a craft or product] at home but they aren't thinking about a small business, so we provide resources. One of this year's sponsors is the Latino Economic Development Center, so these women can have a chance to figure out if this is something they can grow," she said.

Other resources

The event also aims to provide important resources — from information on the U.S. census to mental health experts that can help Latina mothers talk with their children about topics such as school violence and immigration.

"The event was created by Latina women and for Latina women," said Martinez, who works for Medica, which is supporting the event. "We have aging parents that we have no idea how to deal with here in the United States because it's different from our culture. And most of our kids are fluent in English, but we are still trying to keep them connected to their culture. So we want to set a place for Latina women to talk about those issues without distractions."

This year, there will be two keynote speakers; one will be a mental health and trauma expert while the other will be a Latina St. Paul police officer discussing safety.

Most attendees will be Latina and both presentations will be given in Spanish, Martinez said, but other Spanish-speaking women are also welcome.

The annual event is hosted by a committee of women representing eight different organizations or companies, including Hennepin Healthcare's Aquí Para Ti, Casa de Esperanza, Community-University Health Care Center, Hispanic Solutions Group, Medica, Minneapolis Public Schools, Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance and Mujeres Latinas Unidas MN.

This year's sponsors broaden perspectives even more with support from Atacama Catering, city of Bloomington, the Hennepin County Library system, Latino Economic Development Center, the Mexican Consulate in St. Paul and DJ Angel of Noche de Gala Productions.

"We truly believe we are helping our families and our women to have a better life here in Minnesota and be successful," Martinez said.

The expo runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Kristen Leigh Painter • 612-673-4767