Culture

Hispanic Heritage Month Is Over But These Latino Trailblazers Should Be Celebrated All Year Long

Hispanic Heritage Month ended on Oct. 15, but our appreciation for the activists and pioneers that came before us will last many lifetimes. Honoring these people, and celebrating them, especially with any young people you have in your life, makes the whole community feel valued, reflected, and rooted in our history, which is often missing from history books. Here are trailblazers that everyone in the Latino community should know about.

Cesar Chavez

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Thankfully, we learned about Cesar Chavez in our history books in like one paragraph. Chavez was a major change-maker for migrant farm workers in the U.S. in the 1960s. Chavez dropped out of school early on to help his family in the fields.

He organized a boycott so large, that it gave him leverage, as the co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association (today known as the United Farm Workers of America) to unionize.

Dolores Huerta

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Here’s what that middle school paragraph left out. Dolores Huerta was Cesar Chavez’s equal partner and co-founder of UFW. She helped organize the 1965 grape strike and led all the negotiations that resulted in a more fair contract for the workers involved.

Huerta was the first Latina inducted into the National Woman’s Fall of Fame and is responsible for our widespread use of the phrase “si se puede.” Both Chavez and Huerta were early gay rights activists and feminists as well.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor

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Sonia Sotomayor sits as the Supreme Court of the United States’ first and only woman of color to achieve the highest court in the land. Appointed by President Obama in 2009, the bar was set incredibly higher than the recent Senate hearings.

Republican moderate Ana Navarro recently tweeted, “I am so old, I remember when a Supreme Court nominee calling herself a “wise Latina”, was considered a scandal.”

Berta Cáceres

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Berta Cáceres was a Honduran award-winning Indigenous environmental activist who campaigned successfully to block the Gualcarque River from a dam construction. Her tribe, the Lencas, consider the river a sacred source of water, food and medicine.

Anti-Indigenous rights activists sent her death threats for years. On March 3, 2016, at least two attackers broke into her home and shot her to death. Her death sparked an outcry for the high rates of environmentalist deaths around the world.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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Colombian author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez was one of the most lauded writers of our time. He won a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, best known for the magic realism he invoked in all his fiction, especially “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”

Sophie Cruz

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That is an 8-year-old you’re looking at and she is already trailblazing. When she was just 5 years old, she gave Pope Francis a letter during his 2015 visit to the White House.

It read, “I want to tell you that my heart is very sad, because I’m scared that one day ICE is going to deport my parents. I have a right to live with my parents. I have a right to be happy.”

Today, she’s still fighting hard for her parents, who are undocumented immigrants. She was one of the keynotes at this year’s Women’s March.

Sylvia Mendez

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The daughter of a Puerto Rican and a Mexican immigrant, Mendez became a trailblazer while barely realizing it. Her parents sued the all-white Westminster School District after they forced her to go to a segregated school.

In the 1947 Mendez v. Westminster case, it was decided: California would integrate public schools. Today, Mendez is a major civil rights activist for Latino student rights in the U.S.

Lizzie Velásquez

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Lizzie Velásquez is a Latina motivational speaker and disabled advocate. She was born with a rare congenital condition, which makes it impossible for her to gain any weight. Years ago, you may have seen her face when her cyber-bulling reached despicable heights as a YouTube video started circulating called, “World’s Ugliest Woman.”

Today, she tours the globe to speak out against bullying and to advocate for disabled people. You can watch a film about her life, called “A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velásquez Story” on Amazon Prime.

Frida Kahlo

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There’s no question that bisexual Mexican artist is the icon for queer Latinas everywhere. Kahlo channeled her gender expression (girl wore suits), sexuality, politics and mental and physical disabilities into her art, and we’re better because of it.

Sylvia Rivera

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Gays, listen up. Sylvia Rivera was the trans woman of color who started the Stonewall uprising. She struggled within her own community to have her voice heard, but she demanded a seat at the table of the activists who first marched for gay rights in America.

Shane Ortega

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Caption: “Shane Ortega is a #Latinx two-Spirit, disabled, retired American combat soldier who served three duty tours and became the first openly #trans man in the U.S. military. He fought for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and is still fighting for transgender rights in the military today. He co-founded the nonprofit SPARt*A for members of the #LGBTQ military community. He continues to advocate for people of color, athletes, LGBTQ health competency, veterans, woman, and disabled people.”

Orlando Cruz

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Orlando Cruz is the first and only openly gay man to win a world title in boxing. GLSEN reports that Cruz said, “I have and will always be a proud Puerto Rican. I have always been and always will be a proud gay man.”

Side note: Puerto Rico ranks higher than the United States on Spartacus’ LGBTQ Travel Index.

Gloria Estefan

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Gloria Estefan was born in Havana, but her family fled to Miami after the Cuban Revolution. She is the official Queen of Latin Pop, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama for her contributions to American music.

Last year, she became the first Cuban-American to be named as one of the Kennedy Center Honors.

Selena Quintanilla

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Behold, the Queen of Queens. Selena Quintanilla is probably the most celebrated Mexican-American artists of our time. She broke through a male-dominated Tejano genre and made it so much better.

Sammy Sosa

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Born in the Dominican Republic, Sammy Sosa is a major icon in Major League Baseball and in the Latino community. He is one of only nine players in MLB history to hit 600 career home runs.

Dr. Ellen Ochoa

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In 1993, Dr. Ochoa became the first Latina woman in the world to go to space. She spent nine days aboard the shuttle Discovery. She then went on to become the first Latina director at Johnson Space Center.

Edward James Olmos

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Olmos is Mexican-American, raised in Los Angeles. He was made famous for portraying Jaime Escalante in “Stand and Deliver.” He was the first Mexican to win an Oscar nomination.

Gloria Evangelina Anzaldua

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Gloria Evangelina Anzaldua is famous for co-editing the anthology “This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color.” Her work focuses on the language border used to mistreat women in Chicano and Latinx culture, lesbians in the straight world, and Chicanx in white American society.

Carlos Santana

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Carlos Santana is the Mexican American who pioneered a whole new genre of music that we can only call Santana. He fused rock with Latin American jazz, integrates Latin and African rhythms in with his bluesy guitar sets. He is an icon, no question.

Rita Moreno

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The woman, the myth, the legend: Rita Moreno is the only Latinx person to ever become an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award winner). She was only the second Puerto Rican to win an Academy Award and rose to fame playing Anita in West Side Story.


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Nopales, The OG Ancestral Food We’ve Been Eating Since Waaaay Before Plant Based Foods Became Trendy

Culture

Nopales, The OG Ancestral Food We’ve Been Eating Since Waaaay Before Plant Based Foods Became Trendy

I can literally talk food until my babas drip. Don’t judge. The comelón life chose me and I’m not mad at it. Because growing up Latino meant breakfast wasn’t always cereal, and dinner wasn’t always mac and cheese. I grew up con más sabor en mis platillos than most Americans. And, at the time, I didn’t even realize that many of the foods my family was trying to get me to eat were ancestral foods. From chocolate to cocoa and chia to nopalitos, I blame los ancestros for my obsession with food and all the glorious ingredients that have been passed down for generations.

My knees already feel weak, fam, because today I’m gonna be talking nopalitos. Ya me estoy chupando los dedos, thinking back to how I grew up with these babies always in the refri in that Nopalitos jar, ready to be thrown into a sauce or encima de una carne asada. It turns out this soul-feeding food is one of the OG ancestral foods that have been used by our people for thousands of years. Ahí les va un poco de historia:

The Mexica introduced the world to the “fruit of the Earth.”

In Náhuatl, the word for nopal translates to “fruit of the Earth.” I don’t know what the Náhuatl word for “bomb-delicioso” is, but in my opinion, that should also be the name for nopales. And the Aztecs must have felt this way too because one of the most famous cities in the Aztec Empire – Tenochtitlán, the empire’s religious center – was named “prickly pear on a rock.” Iconic.

According to legend, the city was built after an Azteca priest spotted an eagle perched on a nopal plant, carrying a snake in its mouth. The priest, obviously extremadamente blown away by this, ran back to his village just so he could gather everyone to check out this crazy eagle with a snake in its mouth. As they watched, the cactus beneath the eagle grew into an island – eventually becoming Tenochtitlán. I’ll give you 3 seconds to just process that. 1…2…3. Please take more time if you need it. The image of the eagle carrying a snake, its golden talons perched on a nopal growing from a rock, can now be found on the Mexican flag.

Today, we know that the Mexica were right to call nopales the plant of life.

In Mexico, it’s still common to place a handful of nopal flowers in a bath to help relax achy muscles. And nopales are becoming more popular than ever in beauty treatments to help fight aging. But, y’all are too beautiful to be needing them for that, so let’s talk about what’s important — eating them.

There are so many ways you can mix this iconic ingredient into your meals.

We should all be eating our green foods. Your tía, your abuela, your primo, everyone…except your ex. Your ex can eat basura. I said what I said. But, nopalitos are especially important. These tenacious desert plants can be eaten raw, sautéed, pickled, grilled – they’re even used as pizza toppings. Though for some people, nopales – with their spines and texture – can be intimidating. After cutting off the spines and edges, and cutting them into slices, they will bleed a clear slime. But boiling for 20 minutes will take care of that. Or make it even easier on yourself and avoid espinas by buying them all ready-to-go from the brand we all know and love, DOÑA MARIA® Nopalitos.

Check it out, I’m even gonna hook it up with that good-good, because if you’re looking for ways to enjoy your nopales, I got’chu with some starter links to recipes: Hibiscus and Nopal Tacos, Nopal Tostadas, Roasted Nopales con Mole, and Lentil Soup con Nopales.  One of my personal favorite ways to eat them is in a beautiful Cactus Salad, full of color and flavor. Trust. I rate these dishes 10 out of 10, guaranteed to make your babas drip, and when you eat this ensalada de nopalitos, you will remember even your ancestors were dripping babas over this waaay before it was cool to eat plant-based foods.

So let’s give the poderoso nopal the spotlight it deserves by adding it to our shopping lists more often.

Rich in history, mythology, and practical uses, the nopal’s enduring popularity is a testament to its versatility. It’s time to give this classic ingredient the respect it deserves and recognize just how chingon our ancestors are for making nopales fire before plantbase foods were even trending.

Next time you’re at the supermercado, do your ancestors proud and add nopales to your shopping cart by picking up a jar of DOÑA MARIA® Nopalitos. This easy-to-use food will definitely give you a major boost of pride in your roots. Viva los nopalitos bay-beh!

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Yes, Beyoncé Really Did Run Into Selena Quintanilla At A Mall Back In The Day

Entertainment

Yes, Beyoncé Really Did Run Into Selena Quintanilla At A Mall Back In The Day

Part 2 of Netflix’s “Selena: The Series,” is currently streaming, which means fans of the late Tejano singer are getting a chance to learn more about her origin stories. In the second part of the series, fans can expect to see more of the icon’s tragically brief but beautifully successful life. The new episodes chronicle Selena Quintanilla’s rise as a superstar and will no doubt make fans of the singer feel a deep sense of love for her.

Particularly when it comes to one episode in particular!

Part 2’s episode 6, called “Lo Más Bello,” sees the lives of two superstars collide.

The endearing episode sees Selena, played by Christian Serratos, on a shopping trip to an outdoor mall with her mother and sister. It’s then that the young singer catches the eye of a young girl who is also with her mother and sister.

Perhaps it’s real seeing real, but in either case in this episode, the young girl stops to gaze at Selena. She’s star-struck. In the episode, the young girl’s mother asks who she’s looking at and the girl replies, “Selena, a famous singer. Be quiet!”

Knowing that her daughter is a singer herself, the mother encourages her to introduce herself. Of course, the young girl is too shy to say hello but she does wave.

When Selena walks away, the young girl’s mother reveals a fun twist when she says “Beyoncé Knowles, you better learn not to be afraid of people if you ever want to be famous too.”

Like we said…

Real recognizing real.

Selena
“Selena: The Series” / Netflix

While it might seem like the producers took creative liberty, it turns out they actually didn’t. And it makes sense. Fans of Selena and Beyoncé know that the two singers are Texan-icons.

In a recent interview for MTV Trés, Beyoncé revealed that she actually did see Selena, in the Galleria Mall in Houston. “I didn’t say much to Selena because I wasn’t a celebrity,” Beyoncé said in an interview for MTV Trés back in the day. “I just saw her and said hello and kept it moving. Definitely growing up in Texas I heard her on the radio, and I think listening to her album, even though I didn’t know exactly what she was saying, it helped me in the studio with my pronunciation.”

Fans of the Texan starlets might also remember how Beyonce, in a 2007 interview with People en Español, spoke about her love of Selena.

At the time, Beyoncée was celebrating her re-release of six Spanish-language tracks. “I listened to Selena all the time” she recalled at the time of the interview. “She’s close to me because of where I’m from.”

Both “Selena: The Series” Parts 1 and 2 are streaming right now on Netflix! Check them out!

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