“Each time a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for all women,” said the iconic Maya Angelou, who witnessed the obstacles that women — and especially women of color — must overcome to make their way in this world.
Despite the outstanding achievements of the first feminist waves and the giant strides we seem to be making every day towards a more inclusive world, we are only halfway through the battle.
That is why this month of March, we want to remember not only the Latinas who took those first steps and paved the way for us but also those modern Latinas who are making history TODAY.
1. Always fabulosa Rita Moreno
Best known as “Anita” from West Side Story, Rita Moreno is a Puerto Rican actress, dancer, and singer with a career spanning more than 70 years — and counting. She is the only Latina actress to hold an EGOT — Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award — in addition to being the first Latina performer to win a Peabody Lifetime Achievement Award. Moreno is currently preparing for the premiere of West Side Story’s remake, which she stars in and executive produces.
2. Law Icon: Sonia Sotomayor
Raised in the Brox but of Puerto Rican descent, the Honorable Sonia Sotomayor graduated summa cum laude from Princeton, attended Yale Law School, and was appointed by President Barack Obama as the first Latina Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Her voice and dissent have become a voice for racial justice and equality.
3. Unstoppable Eva Longoria
Having become famous for her role in Desperate Housewives, Eva Longoria Bastón is today one of the most influential voices of the U.S. Hispanic community.
The American actress and producer has also appeared in The Sentinel (2006), Over Her Dead Body (2008), For Greater Glory (2012), Frontera (2014), Lowriders (2016), and Overboard (2018). From 2015 to 2016, Longoria starred as Ana Sofia Calderon in the short-lived NBC sitcom Telenovela and was an executive producer on the Lifetime television series Devious Maids. She has also executive produced documentaries on social issues, including Food Chains and The Harvest.
However, since being appointed to the position of co-chair of Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, Longoria has stepped into her role as a social activist and launched the Latino Victory Project to raise funds for candidates and get-out-the-vote efforts.
4. Fearless Daniela Vega
Chilean actress and mezzo-soprano Daniela Vega revolutionized the world when she became the first trans woman to present an Oscar award at the 2018 edition. She was also nominated for her role in the film “A Fantastic Woman.”
Vega was recognized by TIME magazine as one of the 100 most influential people and is currently preparing to return to the big screen with “Un Domingo de Julio en Santiago.”
5. Speaking Out Loud: Alexadria Ocasio-Cortéz
At just over 30 years old, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortéz (also known as AOC) made history by becoming the youngest woman to serve in the U.S. Congress at 29. The Puerto Rican politician was elected in 2018 to represent New York’s 14th Congressional District after defeating Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley, a 10-term incumbent.
AOC has been a revolution for American politics, not only for her social media presence but also for her deeply progressive agenda and being the impetus behind the political awakening of younger generations in the United States.
6. Leading Voice: María Teresa Kumar
Kumar is a Colombian-American political rights activist and president and CEO of the Latino political organization Voto Latino. Initially, Voto Latino’s mission was to increase voter registration among Latinos in the U.S. Later, Voto Latino partnered with the U.S. Census Bureau to increase participation in the 2010 census.
Kumar was named by Elle magazine in 2013 as one of the ten most influential women in Washington, D.C., and by Hispanic Business in 2017 as one of the 100 most influential Latinos in America.
7. Guardian Angel Isa Noyola
Isa Noyola is a Latina transgender (trans-Latina) activist, a national leader in the LGBTQ+ immigrant rights movement, and deputy director of the Transgender Law Center. In 2015, she organized the first national trans anti-violence protest that brought together over 100 activists, mostly trans women of color, to address the epidemic of violence trans communities face. Isa also founded and works as a national advocate with El/La Para TransLatinas, an organization for transgender Latinas that works to “build collective vision and action to promote survival and improve TransLatinas’ quality of life” in the San Francisco Bay Area.
8. Into Space with Diana Trujillo
Diana Trujillo is a Colombian aerospace engineer at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She is Mission Lead for the Mars Curiosity rover and currently leads the JPL’s engineering team responsible for the Perseverance rover’s robotic arm. On 18 February 2021, Trujillo hosted the first-ever Spanish-language NASA transmission of a planetary landing for the Perseverance rover landing on Mars.
Born in Cali, Colombia, Trujillo attended Colegio Internacional Cañaverales Colegio Bilingüe, a bilingual school accredited by the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO), while working as a maid to earn money. She immigrated to the United States at the age of seventeen with only $300. She began taking English classes at Miami Dade College and worked as a maid to pay for her studies. Finally, she moved to the University of Florida to continue her engineering studies. She was encouraged to apply to the NASA Academy, becoming the first Hispanic immigrant woman in the program.
9. Heart of Gold Mónica Ramírez
Monica Ramirez is a Fremont, Ohio-born activist, author, civil rights attorney, social entrepreneur, and speaker who has dedicated herself to direct service and advocacy for farmworkers, Latinas, and immigrant women. Ramirez employs a holistic, victim-centered approach in her work and is a fierce advocate for worker-led movements. She also has a long history of promoting women’s leadership and political power. In 2019, she received the Hispanic Heritage Foundation’s Leadership Award, considered among the “highest honors for Latinos by Latinos” that recognizes notable Latinos who have positively impacted America and the world in various fields.
10. Screen Leader Marialy Rivas
Chilean screenwriter and film director Marialy Rivas became one of the heavyweights of indie cinema after her 2012 film “Young and Wild” won her the World Cinema Screenwriting Award at the Sundance Film Festival.
“Young and Wild” focused on a bisexual teenage girl growing up in a conservative Protestant family. Her latest, Princesita, explores the life of a young woman in a cult of “toxic masculinity.”
Rivas’s work is inspired by her experience as an openly lesbian woman and growing up during the violent dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.