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Hispanic Heritage Month: Celebrating Influential Latinas

Everyone knows about J-Lo, Shakira, Selena Gomez, and Eva Longoria; but not as many people could tell you who the first Latina Supreme Court Justice is, or about the first Latina in space, or name some famed Latina authors.  While the above mentioned Latinas are generally excellent humanitarians with massive talents, it’s important to celebrate other professional Hispanic women—it’s important to understand that Latinas can do more than sing and dance and act (though there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing just that).  With Hispanic Heritage Month well under way, it’s time to take a minute and celebrate everything that Hispanic women have accomplished in politics, STEM fields, the arts, and more.

Foremost is Michelle Bachelet, the first female and current president of Chile. Bachelet was also the first director of the UN Women and attended multiple universities. Aside from politics, Bachelet studies military strategies and is a physician. Another noteworthy political Latina is Sonia Sotomayor, who is the first Latina Supreme Court Justice, as well as one of only three women to ever serve on the US Supreme Court. Furthermore, there is Hilda Solis, a Mexican and Nicaraguan politician. She served as the 25th US Secretary of Labor, for the Obama Administration, and as a member of the US House of Representatives.

Ellen Ochoa was the first Latina in space, having ventured into the stars on the Discovery mission. Additionally, she is the co-inventor of three patents, and has engineering and physics degrees from Stanford and San Diego State. Then there’s Dr. Olga Gonzalez-Sanabria, a Puerto Rican Inventor that innovated nickel-hydrogen batteries.

Winner of Chile’s prestigious National Literature Prize and with an induction into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Peru-born Isabel Allende is a best-selling magical realism author, having published titles such as The House of the Spirits and City of the Beasts. Visually impaired Alicia Alonso is a Cuban ballerina that showed the world that just about any obstacle could be overcome. She continued to dance once she lost her vision, using light patterns to figure out where her dance partners were.

In the world of sports, there is Marlen Esparza, the first woman to compete in boxing the first time it was an Olympic event. On top of being a stellar athlete, Esparza is also a Cover Girl model. Mariana Pajon is another noteworthy Hispanic athlete—she’s an Olympic medalist BMX biker. Crowned FIFA’s World Player of the Year in 2009, Marta is a footballer worthy of note.

Perhaps the most and biggest advancements by Latinas have been made in civil rights. For starters, there’s Sylvia Rivera, a trans woman who was tremendously involved in the gay rights movement of the 1970s, as well as the Black Panthers movement, and the protests against the Vietnam War. Another important Sylvia is Sylvia Mendez, who at the young age of eight played a pivotal role in the Westminster v Mendez Supreme Court case that helped de-segregate California.

Latinas have had a massive impact the culture of the world today—they’ve broken down many barriers and risen to success, be it in civil rights, science, politics, sports, or arts. These amazing women are definitely something to be celebrated, so keep them in mind as Hispanic Heritage Month goes on!


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