Portrait by Devi Pride Photography.
Fe Silva-Robles is an indigenous woman, native of Santiago Laxopa, Ixtlán, Oaxaca. She grew up speaking Zapotec, learned Spanish in elementary school, and learned English when she immigrated to the United States at the age of 36.
Fe earned a teaching credential, a degree in education, and a minor in dance from Escuela Normal Rural Vanguardia de Tamazulapan in 1978. In 1997, she worked at the Live Oak School District. From 2000 to 2021, Fe served as a school community coordinator at Santa Cruz City Schools (SCCS).
At SCCS, Fe saw the need for immigrant students to find a sense of belonging and to feel safe. She and her sister Nereida co-founded Senderos in 2001 to provide students and their families with a connection to their culture through after-school dance lessons. They took on extra work during the nights, cleaning floors in order to have the funds needed to purchase dance outfits.
Under Fe’s direction, in 2005, Senderos brought an indigenous festival, Vive Oaxaca Guelaguetza, to Santa Cruz.
In 2010, Senderos created the Latino Role Models Conference for the Spanish-speaking community. Cabrillo College, the Santa Cruz County Office of Education, and school districts across the county have since collaborated with Senderos to feature professional Latinos who inspire youth of color to pursue their dreams.
At Senderos, cultural wealth is important. In 2014, Fe collaborated with Centro de Integración Social No. 8 to form Senderos’ Ensamble Musical. Other partnerships include the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, UC-Santa Cruz Humanities Institute, and UC-Santa Cruz Linguistics Department. In 2020, Fe established a collaboration with the Oakes College at UC-Santa Cruz to connect middle school students with mentors in the Corre La Voz program.
Fe is the backbone of Senderos. Her strong leadership skills and cultural wealth makes a difference in the lives of children and youth.