(By Helena T.M. Richards - Alliance Advisory Council)

The first PAN AMERICAN ROUND TABLE was founded by Florence Terry Griswold on October 16, 1916 in San Antonio, Texas. Mrs. Griswold was aware of the suffering inflicted upon women and children living along the U.S.-Mexican border during the Revolution. She felt the need for unity among women of the Americas and succeeded in receiving support from a group of friends. The main objective of this first Table was to PROMOTE MUTUAL KNOWLEDGE, UNDERSTANDING AND FRIENDSHIP among the people of the Western Hemisphere.

The MOTTO chosen by this group of ladies was taken from Dumas’ "The Three Musketeers": "ONE FOR ALL AND ALL FOR ONE". (Una para Todas y Todas para Una) To further emphasize this motif, the form of assembly was declared to be the ROUND TABLE, borrowing it from the chivalrous method of discussion made famous by medieval knights.: "Equality and participation for all".

Simon Bolivar’s dream for an Organization, which would join all nations of the Americas, was fulfilled in 1890. In 1910 this Organization became the "Pan American Union". The first Pan American Round Table was structured closely after the "Pan American Union". At that time there were 21 member nations within it. Thus, it was established that any new Table had to have a minimum of 21 members, each one representing a nation. In 1945 the Pan American Union became the "Organization of American States" (O.A.S.) It now consists of 35 member nations with headquarters in Washington, D.C.

By 1944 there were several "Pan American Round Tables" in Texas, New Mexico, Mexico, Central America and South America. The need for uniting them under one international structure was strong and thus, the "Alliance of Pan American Round Tables" was born. The existing Tables met at the first international Convention in Mexico City in 1944. Since then, international Conventions take place every two years in different countries. At these conventions delegates from all Tables, board officers and members meet and they conduct the following business : Election of officers, presentation of reports, resolutions and revisions are voted upon, new committees are established, new Tables are chartered, new and old business is discussed and informative seminars or conferences are presented. As a result, members become aware of the work accomplished by Tables and their contribution to the community. Of course, these conventions also offer opportunity to strengthen ties of friendship.

Currently, there are 180 Tables distributed among 17 countries. For administrative purposes they are divided into 8 geographical zones:

Zone 1 Eastern U.S.A. Zone 3-C Western Mexico

Zone 2 Western U.S.A. Zone 4 Caribbean & Central America

Zone 3-A Eastern México Zone 5 Northern South America

Zone 3-B Central México Zone 6 Southern South America

The distribution of Tables around the continent is as follows:

Zone 1 - 24 in Texas, 2 in Florida, 1 in Washington, D.C., 1 in Oklahoma.

Zone 2 - 6 in New Mexico and 3 in California.

Zones 3A, B and C - 68 in Mexico

Zone 4 – 7 in Dominican Republic, 7 in Costa Rica, 4 in El Salvador, 2 in Panama, 1 in Guatemala, 1 in Nicaragua, 1 in Honduras and 1 in Puerto Rico.

Zone 5 - 17 in Peru, 6 in Chile, 2 in Venezuela, 1 in Colombia and 1 in Ecuador.

Zone 6 - 17 in Bolivia, 9 in Argentina.

NATIONAL AND STATE ASSOCIATIONS of Pan American Round Tables exist in countries or states where there are more than 4 Tables. These Associations help coordinate the activities of the Tables within their jurisdiction. They cooperate with Alliance Zone Directors, trying to organize activities which fulfill common goals. There are National Associations in Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Costa Rica. There are State Associations in Texas and New Mexico.

Some of the projects undertaken by Pan American Round Tables are:

  1. Scholarships – Encouraging worthy students to further their education.
  2. Donation of books to libraries – to encourage reading and learning.
  3. Lectures and exhibits – To educate the public about cultures of the Americas
  4. School contests – To promote interest in Pan American topics.
  5. Student exchange – to promote understanding of other countries.
  6. Language study groups – To encourage learning of languages.
  7. Tree planting – For ecological purposes.
  8. Founding of Pan American Youth Groups – To promote continuity.
  9. Workshops and seminars – To delineate goals and inform new members.
  10. Donations – To offer help where it is most needed.
  11. Fund-raisers – To help finance all of the above.

Each Pan American Round Table is autonomous and it may choose its own projects and programs. A Table must have its Constitution and By-Laws approved by the Alliance Parliamentarian before receiving its Charter. From then on, the Chartered Table must comply with both its Constitution and that of the Alliance. Zone Directors maintain close contact with their Tables and serve as liaison between Tables and Alliance. They also make efforts to start new Tables in their area.

The Alliance Committees are the soul of the Organization. Their members carry out various responsibilities, allowing the Alliance to make progress. Each Committee has a Chairperson, a Vice-Chair and one Member from each Alliance Zone. The Alliance Committees are:

  1. Editorial - In charge of publishing the Alliance "Boletín" and other publications.
  2. Directory - Prepares an updated listing of names and addresses of: Table Directors, National and State Assoc. Directors, Alliance Board, Advisory Board, Committee members and other pertinent information.
  3. Revisions - Reviews all proposed amendments to the Alliance Constitution and By-laws. These are only submitted by Tables.
  4. Resolutions - Reviews all proposed Resolutions presented by Tables and presents the appropriate ones for voting to the General Assembly.
  5. Finance - Aids the Alliance Treasurer and expedites audit procedures.
  6. Archives - It supervises and maintains an inventory of all material kept in the Alliance Archives, at the Library of the University of Texas in Austin.
  7. Pan American Woman Committee - Selects the most worthy candidate for receiving the lifetime honorary title of "Pan American Woman".
  8. Protocol - Provides public relations service throughout the continent and encourages Tables and Officers to abide by the rules of the "Protocol Manual"
  9. Information and electronic communication - It updates the Alliance Website and maintains a list of E-mail addresses.
  10. PART Youth Groups - It promotes establishment of Youth Groups.
  11. Executive Committee - It functions as a permanent Secretariat between Board meetings and prepares the Agenda for the Biennial Alliance Convention. Its members are: Director General, Assoc. Director General, Recording Secretary, Treasurer, Parliamentarian and Translator.

Each Alliance Committee functions in accordance of a set of Guidelines, which were approved in 1987 (Puebla) and ratified in 1990 (Bolivia). They specify duties of each committee member and indicate deadlines for each activity. It is the Chairperson’s obligation to share these Guidelines with each Member at the beginning of each biennium. The duties of each Alliance Board Member are specified in the Alliance Constitution. None of the elected Alliance Officers may be re-elected for a second term, except the Treasurer.

It is traditional for each Director General to visit as many Tables as possible during her two-year tenure. Since 1986 it has been customary for the Director General to ask the "Pan American Woman" and other Officers to accompany her during the visits. The personal contact and exchange of ideas has proven to be very beneficial in discovering problems, providing answers and creating an atmosphere of continental solidarity.

Alliance Board Meetings are held during International Conventions and there is a mid-term meeting at a pre- approved location. All Alliance Board members and committee Chairpersons have the right to vote. Other committee members, Advisory Board and National and State Directors have voice but no vote. Normally, a Table hosts the Board Meetings and there is always time for camaraderie and fun.

This is a very brief summary of our Organization’s history, structure and objectives. It is not meant to fully prepare new members nor to serve as only source of information. There is ample printed material in existence and it is the duty of Zone Directors to make it available to new and prospective members. The important thing to remember is that we have been sharing the spirit of Panamericanism for almost 85 years and we intend to continue doing so through this new century. We understand the differences as well as the common traits of all American nations and we are happy and proud to help in making it a better place to call "HOME".

"One for All and All for One" - With much love, Helena

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