MANA Announces Las Primeras Nominees



EL CENTRO – MANA de Imperial Valley held its annual Las Primeras mixer Thursday at The Courtroom restaurant to announce and introduce this year’s nominees to the public.

MANA is a National Latina organization that seeks to empower Latina women through community service, leadership, and advocacy for women. This year’s nominated women are all embodiments of that cause, according to Maria Peinado, president of MANA Imperial Valley.

The three local women nominated are Norma Villicana, Mona Lisa Vitela, and Mercy D. Valenzuela.

Villicana is the first female Community Development Director for the City of El Centro. She was part of the board when MANA first started in the ’90s, making her journey with the organization come full circle.  “I was very, very honored, and I thought, ‘Me? Really?’” said Villicana.

Vitela is the first female Latina Senior Director for Alternative Eduction at the Imperial County Office of Education.

A women’s health nurse and nurse/midwife for Pioneers Memorial Hospital, Valenzuela is one of the first of three certified midwives in Imperial County.

All three women said they were both honored and humbled by the nominations from the community.

“We can show the young girls that we can reach high for the sky and then come back to the community and give back,” said Valenzuela.

“You do your job and you don’t expect a reward,” said Vitela. “I was so honored and it’s very meaningful too.”

According to Peinado, these women were nominated by the community for being outstanding citizens and role models for the young girls MANA wishes to empower. They are also the first in their fields, hence the name “Las Primeras.”

“They really go above and beyond what they do,” said Peinado.

MANA de Imperial Valley’s Las Primeras is one of the most important fundraisers for the organization.  MANA has raised at least $120,000 since 2007 for high school and Imperial Valley College scholarships.  Last year, the organization raised $13,500 in scholarship funds

Tickets for the Las Primeras gala cost $50 for one and $300 for a table of eight, and can be purchase online or from MANA board members. More information can be found online at


  1. Congratulations to all three honorees on this wonderful recognition. Again these women are nominated for this honor and recognized for what they are doing to not only make themselves better but also better the communities they serve. I think MANA does a great job on the nomination and selection process. You are always to have people that just like to create negativity, recognize what these three women have accomplished. These are true role models for young women of the Imperial Valley.

  2. As one who nominated Mercy for this recognition, I applaud MANA for her selection. Mercy is a caring, intelligent, and determined individual that is committed to making a difference in women’s health in Imperial County. She was among the first nurses in the valley to successfully complete a master’s of science degree through San Diego State University within the dual Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner/Certified Nurse Midwifery Program (MSN, WHNP/NM). Graduates of the program meet requirements for certification and licensure by the California Board of Registered Nursing. Mercy currently holds several certifications including a Nurse Practitioner (NP) license and Nurse Midwife (NM license) through the California Board of Registered Nursing.

    Feel free to contact me about her nomination.

    Cheryl Anderson

  3. I have always valued the work MANA has done recognizing local women who set an example throughout the valley. However, I would have expected they do more research on the nominees. According to website, Ms. Valenzuela is not a certified midwife. How can this organization consider her to be one of the “primeras” if she hasn’t passed.
    This article needs to retract their statement, “… Valenzuela is one of the first of three certified midwives in Imperial County.”

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