When Blanca Plascencia feels the need to speak up, she does it without a second thought.

She attended one of Cindy Axne’s campaign events during her last reelection run with the mission of asking her about the Latino community. Despite never doing something like that before, Plascencia said the decision was almost automatic.

“I don’t know why, I just feel that I have this need to speak up and say, ‘Here. Here we are. What do you think of us? How can you support us? How can you help us?’” Plascencia said. “I don’t know if it’s a very big impact, but at least I’m trying to learn how to do this. I’m trying to be brave to go out and speak.

“It’s not easy,” she said, but learning to embrace herself and her culture over time has given her more assurance that she should advocate for Latino Iowans.

When she emigrated from Mexico to Iowa about 18 years ago, she experienced years of life in poverty and her first step to empowering herself and her future was deciding to move away from working for restaurants and open one.

The same year the first location of El Fogón opened, Plascencia participated in the Latina Leadership Initiative. It helped her navigate the identity crisis she experienced about whether to “keep being who you are” or to change to fit in with the surrounding community.

She said the program gave her confidence in many areas, including in how she can showcase Mexican culture in Iowa without compromising authenticity.
Plascencia said she thought she would always end up in politics focused on social justice, but running El Fogón the past five years has become its own type of avenue for kindling empowerment, and for supporting the community and Latina women.

“I cannot choose to stay [just] at the restaurant because I know I can be helpful to others through my experience, through the path that I have made for myself, because I’ve been on the two sides of the American dream,” she said.

A quote that has stuck with her from the Latina Leadership Initiative is “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,” so for Latina women who aren’t sure of the first steps, Plascencia suggests finding a table that matters to them.

“We just have to be willing to do it,” she said. “It’s not that we have to have preparation or a college degree to go out and speak up, but at least listen to our people, pay attention to what we need and then go and speak up.”


Education Studied sociology at CUCSH - Universidad de Guadalajara
Hometown Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
Family Husband Said; daughters Carmin, 16, Natalia, 14, Adelle, 8
Age 40
Hobbies Reading and working out


WORDS TO LIVE BY
“I live by my core values, which are wisdom, justice and to be upbeat.”


Three ares of influence

  1. Plascencia empowers and encourages others in the Latino community to learn English and about personal finances.
  2. She embraces the responsibility to speak up and represent the needs and concerns of the Latino community.
  3. She leads by example to show others that continuing to move forward despite challenges will help them find who they are.