5 Empowering Latina Women You Need to Know

With Hispanic Heritage Month coming to an end, there are so many Latin professionals tearing down social boundaries for other Latinos to come. It's impossible to include them all, so I chose to highlight some influential women across different industries. Read down below to get ~motivated~ yourself. 

1. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

If you haven’t heard of her already, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the Puertoriqueña that is shaking up New York City as she won her Democratic midterm primary in June. She won against Joseph Crowley, the fourth-ranking democrat in the House of Representatives. She will most likely become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. In a little over a year, she has hustled her way from being a waitress and a bartender to being one of the leading candidates in New York. The 28-year-old and her volunteers made thousands of phone calls and walked door-to-door calling for change. Alexandria fights for affordable health care, tuition-free public college, federal jobs and criminal-justice reform.

2. Ellen Ochoa

Ellen Ochoa was the first Hispanic woman to travel to space in 1993 during the Discovery Shuttle missions that performed both research and assembly missions on the International Space Station (ISS). The California-born native graduated at the age of 27 with her doctorate degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University. She joined NASA in 1991 to work in the Astronaut Office developing computer software and robotics. During her trips into space, Ellen served as a missions specialist and flight engineer on the space shuttle. After 14 years, she decided to retire from spacecraft operations to serve as a deputy director and eventually the director of the Johnson Space Center in Houston in 2013. Ellen became the second woman and first Hispanic to do so.

3. Sonia Sotomayor

The Supreme Court queen we all need, Sonia Sotomayor was born in the Bronx in 1954. From a young age, Sonia was raised by a single mother. In 1976, Sonia graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University and later attended Yale Law school. She started working in a private practice firm until she grabbed the attention of New York senators. Sonia was later nominated for District Court judge, and in the following years, Sonia was nominated for the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals by President Clinton. In 2009, President Obama nominated Sonia to become the first Latina Supreme Court Justice in U.S. history. Sonia has been impactful by her decision on Obamacare and the 5-4 ruling to legalize gay marriage in 2015. 

“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” - Sonia Sotomayor

4. Sylvia Rivera

Sylvia Rivera was a strong trans woman who dedicated her life to being an activist for human rights. She began protesting in the Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Liberation Movement and the Stonewall Riots in 1969. Sylvia was born as Ray Rivera, a Venezuelan orphan in New York City, in 1951. By 11, Sylvia lived on the streets and worked as a prostitute until she was taken in by the local community of drag queens. In 1970, she and a friend founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) which provided housing and support to homeless queer youth and became a ground-breaking model for other LGBT organizations. Sylvia Rivera died on February 19, 2002, from complications due to liver cancer.

5. Gina Rodriguez

Gina Rodriguez grew up in a Puerto Rican home in Chicago in the 80’s. It wasn’t until 2004 that Gina started her acting career on "Law & Order." In 2014, she skyrocketed to fame as she played the main character, Jane, in "Jane The Virgin" on the CW. The telenovela-style show follows the life of Jane Villanueva, a struggling, hard-working Latina who gets pregnant after being accidentally artificially inseminated (try saying that 10 times). In 2015, Gina won a Golden Globe award for "Jane the Virgin." “The award is so much more than myself," Gina explained. "It represents a culture that wants to see themselves as heroes. My father used to tell me to say every morning that today is going to be a great day [and that] I can and I will. Well, Dad, today I can and I did." 

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