Every time I reflect about feminism and how I can contribute to social change, I always remember a phrase that a professor told me once: “There is a lot to do when it comes to equity, we are only starting with women, but there is so much to do.” I think about that as I remember the names, the paths, and the victories of the many women whose commitment and perseverance are dedicated towards society; and it’s that change that I want to pursue. Inspired by and in honor of these women, here’s a list of 21 women that are leading changes in the 21st century and on our Island.
- Ada Monzón
A meteorologist and climatologist with more than two decades of experience, Ada Rosa Malo Lloreda was the first meteorologist woman to appear on Puerto Rican TV, working in WAPA TV (channel four), which suggested that she keep her husband’s last name, Monzón. In an interview by Primera Hora, she confessed that she started using her husband’s last name because it alludes to monsoon, a climate phenomenon common in India. Through the years she made plenty of contributions to natural sciences, from the establishment of the EcoExploratorio: Museo de Ciencias de Puerto Rico, to the genuine support through the hurricanes Irma and María in 2017. For her commitment, knowledge, empathy, and experience she was awarded with a prestigious prize called the Media Meteorology Prize in 2019 from the American Meteorologist Society. She has become a role model for women and, especially, for women in science.
- Adriana Díaz González
I still remember when Adriana was just a kid. I never imagined how far she would come and how, thanks to her, Puerto Rico’s name was going to be heard worldwide. She is a table tennis player who competed in the Olympic Games of 2016, with just 15 years of age, and standing out among many winning four gold medals at the Centroamericanos del Caribe games in 2018. Right now, she is ranked 18th place at the World Ranking and was selected as the athlete of the decade of the Island. She is currently in China preparing herself for the Tokyo 2021 Olympics.
The woman we will always hold in our hearts.
Neulisa Luciano Ruiz, who we also remember as Alexa, was a transgender woman killed on February 24, 2020, the same day of her birthday. Alexa, defenseless, was a homeless person who suffered from violence, loneliness, and fear. She did not receive any family support, but the help of Nandy Torres, who took care of her every time he saw her. In the afternoon before her death, she entered a women’s bathroom in a fast food restaurant, where people accused her of being a “male wearing a skirt” trying to harass other women. The morning after, her body was found. To this day, her murder hasn’t been solved, but the civil rights groups classified this as a hate crime. Some weeks ago, the LGBTQ+ community gathered at Toa Baja to remember her.
- Alexandra Lúgaro Aponte
She ran as candidate for governor of Puerto Rico two times: once as an independent candidate in 2016 using a social media campaign without public fundings, and in 2020 as part of the political party Movimiento Victoria Ciudadana. Lúgaro Aponte has been highly criticized for her plans to govern the Island, bringing ideas such as a universal health insurance program and her support to the legalization of prostitution and marihuana. Last year, in one of the debates with the rest of the candidates to the governor position, she publicly repudiated the actions of Antulio “Kobbo” Santarrosa in his entertainment/gossip program La Comay, where he disrespectfully commented on and sexualized Lúgaro’s daughter, so Lúgaro generated a boycott against the puppeteer.
- Aliana Margarita Bigio Alcoba
Aliana is a young woman influencer whose fight for feminism is a never-ending task. She uses her social media platform, @con.sentimientospr on Instagram, to transmit the message of equity between all human beings. She openly criticizes government agendas, mostly on the bipartidism system, and comments on practices in society that perpetuate gender inequality, poverty, and racism. When participating in protests, she is the first one in the front of line.
- Ana Irma Rivera Lassén
A veteran in the fight for women, Black people, the poorest, and the LGBTQ+ community, Rivera Lassén is a role model who has dedicated more than four decades of her life to enacting social change. She is a lawyer, the president of the political party Movimiento Victoria Ciudadana, and one of the women who entered the Legislative body of Puerto Rico in the historic election of 2020 where minority parties marked an important place. She was also the first Black woman to preside over the Colegio de Abogados y Abogadas de Puerto Rico. Like Alexandra Lúgaro, she was another victim of the misogynistic and racist comments made by Kobbo Santarrosa on La Comay, but nothing can stop a woman who challenged a judge by wearing pants instead of skirts.
- Ana Teresa Toro
Journalist, writer, and professor. Her writings, whether they be on paper or on Twitter, are full of empathy, indignation and hunger to fight for the truth, peace and equity. Right now she’s participating in the Marullo podcast and exposing a series of videos for El Nuevo Día.
- Beverly Ramos
She is one of the most important athletes that Puerto Rico has ever had. Although right now she is centered in the Tokyo 2021 Olympics, her trajectory developed since she first competed in the Juegos Centroamericanos y del Caribe Mayagüez 2010 with bronce. In the same competition, but in 2018, she became the first Puerto Rican woman to win three silver medals in a row.
- Eva Ayala Guzmán
Eva Ayala Guzmán is a devoted teacher and syndicalist for children’s right to be educated and the teachers’ right to be justly paid. She is the president of the teacher’s syndicate Educamos. In 2018, she was in the middle of a controversy for saying she wanted to slap the ex Secretary of Education, Julia Keleher, who was accused of corruption. Ayala Guzmán fights a system where the Department of Education is one of the agencies with the highest fund assignments, but which are not reflected in the caring of the schools.
- Eva Prados Rodríguez
Eva Prados Rodríguez is a lawyer, politician, and a fervent activist for the Frente Ciudadano por la Auditoría de la Deuda. Its mission is to demand that the Junta de Control Fiscal (JCF) audit the financial debt of Puerto Rico’s government, a debt they want to pay with Puerto Rican’s own sacrifice. She also made possible the publication of the salary lists of Representatives and the Senators, and competed for the leadership of the 3rd district in San Juan.
- Ileana Mercedes Cabra Joglar (iLe)
Puerto Rican composer and singer whose music career started beside her two brothers, Residente and Visitante (known as Calle 13), but who shines as a solo artist back since 2016 with her first album iLevitable and later on Almadura. Her songs talk about self-love, personal relations, feminism, sex, nationalism, and more.
- Ivette Sosa
Ivette Sosa has been a TV reporter for Telenoticias through Telemundo Puerto Rico since 1992. One of her most dramatic, assertive, recent work is her book Hostigador en Serie: el escándalo de Guaynabo City, a narrative of the process through which she investigated the discussion of the case of Héctor O’neill, ex mayor of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, who was accused of sexual harassment by employees of the municipality. She was also stalked by more people for giving light to this work. She believes in social change, that people need to start solving problems inside their community and bring that help to a higher level to help more people and their own country.
- María de Lourdes Santiago Negrón
Lawyer and leader of the political movement for indepence in Puerto Rico. María de Lourdes is a woman who fights beside the people. In multiple incidents, she has been arrested while fighting for independence through civil disobedience. She was the first elected woman of the Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño (PIP) to incorporate in the Senate, and was the first woman of that political party to run for governor, back in 2016. As a result of the 2020 elections, she became the senator with the most votes. She is openly feminist, and advocating for women’s rights is one of the principle points in her agenda.
- Mayra Santos Febres
Studying at the faculty of Humanidades at the Río Piedras campus of the University of Puerto Rico (UPRRP) is the perfect opportunity to meet with Mayra Santos Febres. She is a novelist, poetist and professor with more than 10 published books. Literature defines her life as gender and race discrimination define Puerto Rico’s present. Last year she was awarded in France for her novel La amante de Gardel (2015), and in 2021 she will start coordinating an academic program of afrodescendencia and racial issues at the UPRRP.
- Mónica Puig
Mónica Puig is an #OrgulloPuertorriqueño. I still remember the commotion on the Island after she won the gold medal in the Olympic Tennis event at Rio de Janeiro in 2016. She is the first Puerto Rican woman to achieve this award while representing the Island. Although the pandemic affected her ranking, she continues practicing and we may see her again when we don’t even expect it.
- Natalia Meléndez
Natalia Meléndez is an ex basketball player and basketball commentator, who recently confronted gender discrimination on the radio and online shows she participated in, and was also a victim of mansplaining. After what she suffered with Héctor “Deplaymaker”, a discussion arose in Puerto Rico about how women are treated in these spaces, especially due to the fact that sports are mostly associated with men. These incidents continue, but she is not going to stop, and makes women believe every day how capable and talented they are.
- Omaya Sosa Pascual
Having more than two decades of experience, Omaya Sosa Pascual published her work in multiple platforms, inside and outside Puerto Rico. She is an investigative journalist who works with the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo (CPI), which she founded beside Oscar Serrano, and the platform that published the 889 pages of the Telegram group chat that expelled ex-governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares back in 2019. She also manages the online magazine Es Mental, with health issues stories for people of any age.
- Rita Moreno
Hearing this name is just like hearing the word talent. Rosa Dolores Alverío Marcano, artistically known as Rita Moreno, is one of the most iconic artistic Puerto Rican figures since the 20th century, having started her career when she was a kid, and reaching high levels of fame and success. She has won an Emmy, an Oscar, a Grammy, a Peabody, and a Tony awards. She describes her career as one with many challenges involving issues of gender, class, and discrimination. One of her recent works and declarations are included in her biographical documentary Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It, presented in the Sundance Festival 2021, and one that reveals what we never knew of Rita in the past. Now 89 years old, she is still a role model for eveyone.
- Sila María Calderón Serra
After a long political career, including the coordination of government programs, becoming government secretary, state secretary and the second woman mayor of San Juan, the capital, Sila María, in 2001, became the first woman in Puerto Rico to be elected as governor, this time under the Partido Popular Democrático (PPD). In 2008 she founded the Centro para Puerto Rico, which carries her name, a non-profit organization for developing socio-economic projects for the community. Even though people may disagree with her political management, she made it possible for women to achieve the highest positions in politics that were once limited.
- Sonia Sotomayor Báez
From Puerto Rican descendance, Sotomayor Báez became the first Latina to become part of the Supreme Court Justices of the United States, after the nomination of Barack Obama, back in 2019. She was professor and member of the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals. She is one of the most influential people in the legislature of the United States.
Last, but not least.
You’re the one making it happen in the 21st century. You have the capacity, the power, the freedom, the intelligence, the courage and anything you need to confront and overcome your circumstances. My wishes for you include health, happiness, and strength. The path is long and there is so much more ahead to achieve the equity we dream of, but I’m glad we’re both here.
May you have an amazing month reconnecting with more amazing women like you, and may your days be full of justice.