Culture

Here Are The Latinas We Should Honor This #WomensHistoryMonth

March is Women’s History Month which means we’re all celebrating the Latina poderosas in our lives. Be sure to give them a big hug and a cosita or two to show your appreciation. There have been so many women that came before us that, in small and big ways, created space and inspiration for our poderosas to thrive.

Here are some of the most inspiring, history-writing Latinas, in every field from science, the arts, law and politics.

Rita Moreno

CREDIT: @HNMagazine / Twitter

Rita Moreno has been making headlines in the entertainment industry for over 70 years. The Boricua is one of a handful of people who have won an Academy, Emmy, Tony and Grammy, making her an EGOT. Our parents remember her as one of the first Latinas to be portrayed on screen in West Side Story.

Yalitza Aparicio

CREDIT: @yalitzaapariciomtz / Instagram

Aparicio is the first Indigenous American woman, the fourth Latina and the second Mexican woman to receive a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her role in Roma. This is no small feat. The actress had no formal training in acting and was working as a teacher at the time of her casting.

Frida Kahlo

CREDIT: @fequalsHQ / Twitter

The now famous Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo, was not appreciated during her time and was simply known as Diego Rivera’s wife. Today, her art, which explored ahead-of-her-time questions of gender, identity and being differently abled, have resonated with the masses.

Selena Quintanilla

CREDIT: @athena_vintage / Twitter

The one and only Selena was the Queen of Tejano music. She broke out in a genre that was dominated by men, and made it her own. You don’t think Tejanjo music without thinking of Selena.

Dolores Huerta

CREDIT: @txstbcat08 / Instagram

Dolores Clara Fernández Huerta is the little known co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association, most closely associated with her co-founder, Cesar Chavez. In fact, Huerta was the lead negotiator in the workers’ contract that resulted from the game-changing grape boycott on behalf of migrant workers.

Ellen Ochoa

CREDIT: @fiercebymitu / Instagram

Ellen Ochoa is the first Latina woman in the world to go into space, making history on April 8, 1993. She was aboard the Discovery shuttle for nine days while conducting research into the Earth’s ozone layer. Since then, she’s logged 1,000 hours in space total.

Sonia Sotomayor

CREDIT: @wes_sherman / Instagram

Nuyorican Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is the first Latina Justice in history. At the time of her swearing in, people were criticizing every little thing she did, down to her red nails and red lips. She showed up in red nails anyway because she’s Latina.

Sylvia Rivera

CREDIT: @glsen / Twitter

Sylvia Rivera is the Puerto Rican trans woman believed to have started the infamous Stonewall riot with Marsha P. Johnson that launched the LGBTQ+ rights movement 1960s 1960’s. She’s not often credited for her organizing efforts and fearlessness. Pray to Santa Rivera next time you need a little courage.

Maria Elena Salinas

CREDIT: @mariaesalinas / Twitter

Maria Elena Salinas is not only the longest running female news anchor on American television, she’s also the first Latina to earn a Lifetime Achievement Emmy. Her hard hitting work is focused on the injustices facing immigrant children, and her voice has spoken for and to Latinos for generations.

Sylvia Mendez

CREDIT: @sylviamendez92 / Instagram

Sylvia Mendez has been making waves for Latinos since she was eight years old. She’s the Mendez in Mendez v. Westminster, which ended school segregation in California. Today, her civil rights work has earned her a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

CREDIT: @aoc / Twitter

We all know who AOC is, because she demands to be heard on behalf of her constituents in the Bronx. This Nuyorican is the youngest Congresswoman ever elected and is here to shake things up. Her ambitious Green New Deal is enlivening the Democratic party with a true urgency to address climate change before it ravages humanity to the point of no return.

Celia Cruz

CREDIT: @celiacruzonline / Instagram

We all know Celia Cruz as the Queen of Salsa, but the Afro-Latina had to leave everyone and everything she knew in Cuba behind after Castro came to power. He vindictively permanently exiled her, and she wasn’t allowed to return even to say goodbye to her dying mother. Cruz sacrificed it all to bring the world a poderosa to aspire to.

Julia de Burgos

CREDIT: @gaychickendad / Instagram

Burgos’ poetry made waves in Puerto Rico, but when she moved stateside, her ballads to Puerto Rico and struggle with identity as an Afro-Latina weren’t acknowledged. Afro-Caribbean writers have paid tribute to her lasting work, and it’s time for the rest of us to follow suit.

Carmen Carrera

CREDIT: @carmen_carrera / Instagram

Don’t be fooled by her supermodel looks. Carmen Carrera is not someone to be messed with. The trans Latina has put RuPaul himself in his place around trans-inclusive language on his show, and is fighting for space for trans women on the runway. We see you, girl.

Gloria Estefan

CREDIT: @gloriaestefan / Instagram

Gloria Estefan is one of the greatest voices in a generation. The singer brought the sounds of the Cuban island to the U.S. and expanded on the hard work Celia Cruz already put forward. She has been honored with high-ranking awards for her cultural contributions to the U.S.

Gwen Ifill

CREDIT: @michele_norris / Instagram

Ifill was one of the first Black women to host a national public affairs program in the United States and the first to moderate a vice presidential debate. The Panamanian journalist paved the way for many others and Afro-Latino journalists today have Ifill to thank for the path she blazed.

Soledad O’Brien

CREDIT: @NEAFoundation / Twitter

O’Brien has had air time for as long as we can remember, and has had to struggle with combating prejudices and straight ignorance against Afro-Latinas along the way. Her hard work has made it easier for the women who have come after her.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

CREDIT: @roslehtinen / Instagram

After forty years of serving the American public in politics, this Cuban-American icon finally retired. I’d be ready to if I was the first Latina to serve in the Florida House, Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, and finally the first Cuban-American in Congress. Pioneering is exhausting. Thank you for your service for the trans community.

MJ Rodriguez

CREDIT: @PoseOnFX / Twitter

Honey, if you haven’t seen Rodriguez’ performance on Pose, buckle up. Rodriguez is the first trans Afro-Latina starring actress to be on a television series drama and the camera is eating it up. We all are. ????

Sophie Cruz

CREDIT: @sharabkaufman / Instagram

Last, but certainly not least, is Ms. Cruz, who is not a future trailblazer, but a right-now-blazer. When she was five years old, she gave Pope Francis a letter that 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.”

In 2017, she was the featured speaker at the Women’s March, and is advocating for the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program up to this very minute.

READ: You’re Not Celebrating #WomensHistoryMonth If You’re Not Celebrating These Trans Women

Here Are Nine Fascinating Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Puerto Rico

Culture

Here Are Nine Fascinating Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Puerto Rico

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Over the last couple of years, Puerto Rico has been in the news probably more than ever. From the lingering effects of Hurricane Maria to the resignation of the island’s governor over a sexist and homophobic scandal, Puerto Rico has seen its share of environmental and political drama. Meanwhile, the island is also home to some of the world’s top artists – Ricky Martin, Bad Bunny, Residente – just to name a few.

But unless you or your family are actually Puerto Rican, very few people really know the island. Scratch the surface, though, and you’ll uncover all manner of surprising facts far beyond the white sands and crystal-clear waters. Whether it’s science, geography or politics, here are nine fascinating insights into this unique and beautiful island.

1. Rum, Rum, And Más Rum

Credit: BacardiUSA / Instagram

Rum is the libation of choice, the island’s chief export, and the base ingredient in many of Puerto Rico’s best cocktails. Puerto Rico and rum go way back, about 400 years, give or take a decade. Bacardi and Don Q are the largest producers on the island.

Puerto Rico is the only rum producer in the world to maintain a minimum aging law for its rum. You can get three main categories of rum here: light, dark, and añejo, or aged.

2. It’s About The Size Of Connecticut

Credit: Google Earth

Given its population (it’s one of the most densely populated islands in the world), Puerto Rico is a relatively small place. If it were a state, it would be down near the bottom of the list in terms of size, even if you include the network of islands around the mainland.

3. It’s Home To The World’s Largest Radio Telescope

Credit: NASA Blueshift / Flickr

Not known as a scientific hub, Puerto Rico has a technological marvel nestled in the hills of Arecibo. The dish measures 1,000 feet in diameter, spans about 20 acres, and is the most sensitive radio telescope in the world.

There’s a chance you’ve seen the Arecibo radio telescope, even if you’ve never been to Puerto Rico before. In the climactic last scene in the James Bond movie Goldeneye, the (inevitable) showdown between 007 and the bad guy takes place right here.

4. It’s Mascot Is The Unique Coquí Tree Frog

Credit: UIG / Getty

Anyone who has been to Puerto Rico is familiar with the incredible coquí, which is native to the island. The inch-long amphibian has a powerful and melodic voice, and its high-pitched, chirrupy song can be heard for miles.

The coquís sing from dusk to dawn, and while the locals find this a lilting lullaby, unsuspecting foreigners aren’t always comforted by their song. But they are cute, and a much-loved symbol of Puerto Rico.

5. It’s One Of The World’s Beauty Queen Capitals

Credit: Alfredo Marcia / Flickr

The Miss Universe beauty pageant is one of the biggest and most famous across the globe. Among the countries whose representatives have won the title more than once is Puerto Rico. Despite the island’s small size and population in comparison with other countries, 5 winners have come from Puerto Rico: Marisol Malaret, Deborah Carthy Deu, Dayanara Torres, Denise Quinones, and Zuleyka Rivera.

6. The Island Was Home To Real Life Pirates

El Pirata Cofresi is Puerto Rico’s most famous, real-life pirate as the legend goes. Born in the seaside town of Cabo Rojo, he was encouraged to dream about exploring the sea from sailors in town.

According to Cofresi Palm Resort, as a pirate Cofresi would attack boats and share his spoils with the poor and as a result, people would help him hide. Compared to Robin hood for his actions, there is a story that says that some of his treasure may still be hidden.

7. It’s Home To Its Own Version Of The Galapagos Islands

Credit: US National Park Service

Off the western shore of mainland Puerto Rico you’ll find Mona Island, a natural reserve unspoiled by man. It has been compared to the Galapagos Islands for its natural beauty and its colony of iguanas. These iguanas, known as the Mona Iguana, are found nowhere else on earth, adding to the uniqueness of this ecosystem.

8. Coconuts Aren’t Native To Puerto Rico – Or The Americas At All

Credit: Unsplash

You might picture yourself on the beach sipping delicious coconut water out of a freshly cut coconut, but did you know that coconuts are not native to the Americas?

The coconut was introduced to Puerto Rico in 1542, after the Spanish imported it from the Far East. Soon after it became part of the colonial Spanish diet and eventually emerged in one of the most popular drinks on the island – the Piña Colada.

9. San Juan Served As Headquarters During The Spanish Inquisition

Credit: ViejoPR / Instagram

The Catholic Church has played an important role in the history and development of Puerto Rico since the early 1500s. As mentioned before, the oldest church still in use in the Americas was built in Old San Juan in 1522, yet, in 1519 Pope Leo X declared Puerto Rico the first ecclesiastical headquarters in the New World. 

As a result, Puerto Rico became the epicenter of the Spanish Inquisition – one of the most barbaric and infamous events of Western civilization.

Coronavirus Sparks History Lesson In Mexico As Citizens Learn About Cocoliztli

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Coronavirus Sparks History Lesson In Mexico As Citizens Learn About Cocoliztli

latinamericanstudies.org

Mexico is struggling to combat the effects of the global Coronavirus pandemic. So far, the country has almost 25,000 confirmed cases and nearly 3,000 deaths, with the worst still expected to come. With the country confronting one pandemic, it’s been forced to look back into history at another pandemic of epic proportions some 500 years ago.

We all know that the arrival of the Spaniards to the Americas brought disease and famine that left millions of Native Americans dead. However, one epidemic in particular has always mystified both modern-day scientists and Indigenous cultures that survive to this day.

During the 16th century, Mexico suffered a demographic catastrophe with few parallels in world’s history. In 1519, the year of the arrival of the Spaniards, the population in Mexico was estimated to be between 15 and 30 million inhabitants. Eighty-one years later, in 1600, only two million remained.

Cocolitzli was a massive epidemic that killed millions of Indigenous Mexicans – particularly the Azteca – shortly after the arrival of the Spanish.

From 1545 to 1550, Aztecs in what is today southern Mexico experienced a deadly outbreak. Anywhere from five to 15 million people died. Locally, it was known as cocoliztli, but the exact cause or causes has been a mystery for the past 500 years.

Based on the death toll, this outbreak is often referred to as the worst disease epidemic in the history of Mexico. Subsequent outbreaks continued to baffle both Spanish and native doctors, with little consensus among modern researchers on the cause.

It’s long been accepted that Europeans brought with them smallpox and other contagious diseases that wiped out Native populations. In fact, before the cocolitzli outbreak, smallpox killed an estimated eight million Indigenous Mexicans in just over a year.

What did this cocolitzli outbreak look like across the country?

The outbreak started in 1545 when disaster struck the Aztec nation. The disease had a very short course, lasting three to five days. It started abruptly with high fever, vertigo, severe headache, insatiable thirst, red eyes and weak pulse. Patients became intensely jaundiced, very anxious, and restless. Subsequently, hard painful nodules appeared behind one or both ears, sometimes so large that they occupied the entire neck and half of the face. 

Within five years as many as 15 million people – an estimated 80% of the population – were wiped out in an epidemic the locals named “cocoliztli”. The word means pestilence in the Aztec Nahuatl language. Its cause, however, has been questioned for nearly 500 years.

Scientists have tried to identify the cause of the epidemic and it turns out it might have been from a common type of bacteria.

Credit: Christina Warriner / YUCUNDAA ARCHAEOLOGICAL PROJECT

According to study author Åshild Vågene from the Max Planck Institute, the strain is a bacterial infection that causes a type of enteric fever nearly identical to typhoid. While that specific strain of salmonella is much rarer today, Vågene says it would have spread similarly. Any food or water contaminated with the strain would have turned deadly once ingested.

Salmonella enterica—subset Paratyphi C to be exact—was present in the DNA of ten different individuals buried at the only known burial site, Teposcolula-Yucundaa, associated with cocoliztli.

Historians and archaeologists have long suspected that a blood-borne illness was responsible for cocoliztliDepictions by both Spanish and indigenous artists show the infected with nose bleeds and coughing up blood.

“This is one of the diseases that doesn’t leave any visible clues on the skeleton,” Vågene told National Geographic, adding that very few diseases do.

The epidemic has many worried about Covid-19’s effects on today’s Indigenous communities.

It’s difficult to say why the cocoliztli was so deadly for the Indigenous community, but they may also have been suffering from malnourishment as a result of a great drought that afflicted the region at the time.

If the bug wasn’t present in the Americas before European arrival, the locals may have lacked a strong natural immune response to the disease and made them more susceptible. Whatever the pathogen, it swept through the region like a storm. At the time, historian Fray Juan de Torquemada wrote, “In the year 1576, a great mortality and pestilence that lasted for more than a year overcame the Indians … the place we know as New Spain was left almost empty.”