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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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. 🤩
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.