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Why Did Forbes Recognize SMA's Gilda Pontbriand as One of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Mexico?

by Roxana Orué

First of all, let's remember what Forbes means. Back in 1917, the young immigrant Bertie Charles Forbes founded a magazine specialized in business and finance in the United States. Forbes magazine gained international prestige by publishing, on data based on exhaustive research, the list of the richest people in the United States and in the world. Over the years B. C. Forbes gave birth to a publishing company, which extended its horizons of interest to areas such as communications, science, politics, law, et al. Currently Forbes has publications in twenty-five countries, including Mexico.

Well, Forbes Mexico recognized Gilda Pontbriand as one of the One Hundred Most Powerful Women in Mexico in 2018 (Forbes article): "These powerful women stand out for the way they have made their way in their professional fields with mastery and passion." Let's, then, try to answer the question in this article's title; why Gilda Pontbriand?

It could be because just one year after starting professionally in painting she won her first two awards. Or maybe because those awards multiplied nationally and internationally, eventually reaching twenty-three. Or maybe it is because to these honoring her painting were added eleven more in photography, resulting in thirty-four distinctions in total. Yes, that would be a valid reason.

If this argument were not entirely convincing, we could add more than 150 exhibitions in different countries of the world; two recognitions from the Government of Canada and the Ohtli Award from the Government of Mexico for her volunteer work and for the donation of more than seventy of her works to fundraising events to help people, organizations and countries in need.

This summary of cold mathematical appearance has a very human background because behind these awards we will find works and actions imbued with natural, social, spiritual and even historical nuances. Gilda Pontbriand's painting, of bright and intense colors, is full of symbolism that reflect the union of human beings and nature; a woman is a tree, a tree is a woman, or a flower exposes all its beauty showing in its center a human face. The works present us with entities that seem to communicate with a disembodied world, inviting us to experience mysticism. Other paintings of abstract appearance summon our Latin American identity. They go back hundreds of years in the history of Mexico to resurrect elements of the Mayan and Aztec cultures, and bring them to the 21st century in a journey where both epochs are intermingled in each canvas. Are not these magnificent justifications for the artist to become the recipient of Forbes' valuable award?

But these are not the list of the pillars on which the decision of Forbes Mexico is founded. The tremendous importance of Gilda Pontbriand is not limited to her artistic life, to the creation of her own works. Rather she has shared her knowledge by initiating other people in the art of painting, particularly children of limited resources.

Gilda Pontbriand's active commitment to the activities of the Latin American community in Canada is no secret. Se founded the first Latin American Artists Association in Canada, is a founding member of the Network of Latin American Entrepreneur Women of Ottawa-Gatineau (MELOG), has taught creativity and painting workshops at the Canadian Museum of History, the Kanata Children's Chorus, the Ottawa School Board, the West Ottawa Children's Chorus, among others. However, it is her perhaps less visible work with children which deserves a separate mention.

A volunteer of over twenty years, Gilda Pontbriand has been giving painting classes to children in Canada and Mexico. Five years ago, she began teaching art workshops to children of extreme poverty in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, through an organization called Casa Esperanza. Further, Gilda is promotes the children's works, publishing them on her Facebook with the hope that someone will buy them. The total money collected is distributed complete;y among these children in equal parts. Moreover, she oversees their investing that money in clothes, school supplies or toys according to the preference of the small artists. In the words of Gilda to her small charges, "I want to give you a lesson in life: if you work hard and you are constant, you can receive a reward and you will have the possibility of forging a better life for yourself".

Forbes would further ratify the decision of his magazine if he knew - as the people around Gilda Pontbriand know, where I proudly include myself - that she has accomplished her impressive career while fighting against Lupus, an autoimmune disease that prevents her from planning her life on a regular basis. However, nothing can oppose the immense heart that accomplishes all this. When the heart generates acts of love, it guides them with wisdom and leads them to success. With the letter g are written the words generous, grand, giant, great. With the letter g is written the name of Gilda Pontbriand.


Casa Esperanza

I started painting as a form of therapy, while fighting a chronic disease, which many times prevented me from living a "normal" life. I could spare a couple of hours here and there while fighting the fatigue that comes from Lupus. But it was when I started sharing my knowledge about art with kids in San Miguel de Allende that I really found my true calling.

To see their smiles after they finish a painting and later on the sense of accomplishment they feel when we go to the store so they can buy whatever they want or need is beyond words. More important than teaching them how to paint, the lesson I try to emphasize is: If you work hard and if you are constant at it, there is a better life waiting for you.

The project, that started a few years ago, has been a success thanks to people who share with me the joy of helping these kids. I post their paintings on my Facebook page, people buy their paintings and I take them to the store to buy whatever they need or want, sometimes clothing, school supplies, food and even toys. This way they do not get a hand-out, but they earn some money and learn that working hard brings a reward and hope for their lives. It is also very important for them to know that someone cares. Not only do they learn how to paint, but their attitude towards life changes drastically.

What a better way is there to help these amazing kids than by buying a piece of art from them? This way everybody wins!



Gilda Pontbriand studied visual arts in Mexico, Canada and France.

Gilda has obtained 23 national and international prizes for her work in oils, acrylics, mixed media and 11 more for her photography.

Gilda has received two awards from the Government of Canada and the “Ohtli” award from the Government of Mexico for her voluntary work helping the community and for donating over 70 pieces of art to aid in fundraising events to help people, organizations and countries in need.

She has participated in 157 solo and collective exhibitions in Canada, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Netherlands and the United States of America. Her paintings are found in private, corporate and public collections around the world.

Her work has been published in books and magazines in Canada, Mexico and the United States of America.



Roxana Orué: I love words because I love human beings, and through them I feel intimate with those who write or who read me. We share our imagination, our thoughts, our doubts, our fears, our ways of looking, of saying or feeling. I can not say that I read a lot or that I wrote a lot in my life but I can affirm that when I did I gave myself completely to that relationship that exists between writer and reader. There was nothing half-hearted, I linked with each word with the same intensity with which I live every second of my life.

In Peru, my country of origin, in the seventies, during my youth, I wrote poems afraid of not knowing how to do it. I was never convinced by these writings, so I hid them thinking that this was not my thing, that I lacked talent. Then I lived, traveled, and through those laps of life I ended up becoming Canadian. It was 1998 when I set foot in Canada for the first time. Many things happened then. One of them was that the desire to write poems was reborn. That first year in Ottawa, I sent three poems to a poetry contest and one of them won first place. The award? They staged my poem in a theatrical piece that was shown in the city. That encouraged me to continue writing but soon after I realized that the survival and serious problems of adults forced me to direct my energies to other areas. I gave up writing once more.

One happy day in 2011 I had the happy idea of ​​writing literary reviews of the books I read, and making them public on Facebook. That same year a newspaper from the region where I live began publishing them. In 2012 I was recognized as a new Latin-Canadian writer after having participated in a national literary contest where the story I presented "The first of my life" was selected to be published in an anthology. In October 2013, the Mayor of Ottawa presented me with an acknowledgment for my contribution to Latin American literature in the Ottawa-Gatineau region of the national capital of Canada as part of the celebration of Latin American Heritage Day in Canada. At the end of 2013 my second story received an award in an international contest organized in Spain.

In 2014 the Editorial Mapalé launched my book "Through My Memories". My new literary project saw the light in 2016: "Three Hands". I feel that I live a very favorable moment as a writer, that a great impulse makes it easier for me to move forward. I hope I will find the formula so that my momentum never stops.


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