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Conexion Americas Director Juliana Ospina Cano views voting as an honor and a responsibility

Juliana Ospina Cano vividly remembers the first time she voted in a U.S. election. 
It was 2016. Presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were at the top of the ticket. Ospina Cano, a newly naturalized American citizen, recalled standing in line at a Washington, D.C., polling location, waiting her turn to cast a ballot. 
It was an honor and a responsibility, said Ospina Cano, who now leads Conexion Americas in Nashville. When she votes, she not only thinks about herself, but also the women who came before her, her future daughters and those unable to vote.
“It’s not a feeling that goes away,” Ospina Cano said. 
This presidential election — 100 years after women gained the right to vote in America — Ospina Cano will cast her ballot in Tennessee. The state played a pivotal role in women’s suffrage when it ratified the 19th Amendment on Aug. 18, 1920. It was the final vote needed for the amendment’s adoption. 
In the South, the debate about granting women the right to vote was entangled with the push for racial equality. Black suffragists, nearly written out of history books, were discouraged from standing in the spotlight in favor of their white middle-class peers.  
Meet Juliana Ospina Cano, the new director of Conexion Americas
Juliana Ospina Cano is the new director of Conexion Americas. Listen in to hear what she has to say about her new role.
Larry McCormack, The Tennessean,
“It’s important to know that our ability of this generation to vote, especially as minorities in the United States, is a result of the struggle of the women that fought for that right,” Ospina Cano said. “The only way for us to honor that legacy and to protect it for our grandchildren, but specifically for our granddaughters, is to continue voting.”
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Ospina Cano, who immigrated to the U.S. from Colombia as a teenager, is thankful for the Latinas who empowered her.
They include the leaders she worked with in Washington, D.C., at UnidosUS, the United States’ largest and oldest Latino civil rights organization, as well as her predecessor, Renata Soto, who co-founded Conexion Americas, which helps immigrants adjust to life in their new country. 
“What an amazing example of not only being authentic, but more importantly paving the way for women like me to come in and bring other women alongside us,” said Ospina Cano, 35, who became the executive director of the Nashville nonprofit more than a year ago. 
It is her hope to empower others, too.
Tennessee Voices: Juliana Ospina Cano, executive director of Conexión Américas
Ospina Cano urges other women to stay true to their values and lead out of those principles. She encourages women to surround themselves with people who push them while also holding them accountable. Ospina Cano also says to know when to ask for help. 
She also has an opportunity to lift up women through the work Conexion Americas does in the community. The nonprofit, largely led by women, invests in mothers and entrepreneurs, Ospina Cano said.  
“I feel very privileged in the sense that I am surrounded by powerful authentic voices,” Ospina Cano said.
Conexion Americas’ family engagement programs create spaces for women to share their experiences of parenting in the U.S. It elevates their concerns and validates their shared histories, she said.  
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The nonprofit’s entrepreneurial programs, such as its culinary incubator, are a draw for women who dream of opening their own businesses, Ospina Cano said. Conexion Americas guides them through how to market and sell their products while navigating regulations, she said.  
“We’re here to create a more equitable society where people can belong, contribute and succeed,” Ospina Cano said. “I don’t mean that lightly. We’re doing the work every day and we have to vote.” 
Reach Holly Meyer at or 615-259-8241 and on Twitter @HollyAMeyer. 
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