Celebrating Latinas of Yesterday and Today

As Women’s History Month wraps up, let’s honor some awesome mujeres who paved the way for many Latinas and Latinos in the United States.

Jovita Idar

[Photo: Wikipedia]

Born in Laredo, Texas in 1885, Jovita Idar was a teacher, journalist and activist. Her father and two of her brothers were the editors of La Cronica, a newspaper that covered the economic and social conditions of Mexican Americans living in Texas. After Idar stopped teaching, she joined the newspaper and wrote about the injustices suffered by Mexican Americans in Texas, including discrimination and lynchings. She supported the Mexican Revolution of 1910, traveling to Mexico to tend to wounded revolutionaries.

Josefina Fierro de Bright

[Photo: NPS.gov and Creative Commons. By cindylu]
[Photo: NPS.gov/Creative Commons. By cindylu]

The daughter of migrant workers, Josefina was born in Mexico in 1920 and moved to California as a child. Because of her parents’ work, she witnessed firsthand the mistreatment and harsh working conditions of migrants. She attended UCLA but left school to become an organizer. She was a prominent leader of El Congreso de los Pueblos de Habla Espanola, one of the pioneer organizations that protected the civil rights of Latinos in the U.S.

Alicia Dickerson Montemayor

[Photo: Wikipedia]

Montemayor was born in 1902 in Laredo, Texas. She was an activist, a folk artist, and the first woman to hold a national office for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the oldest Mexican American civil rights organization. Montemayor challenged the patriarchal hierarchy of LULAC, which was founded by men and initially prohibited the participation of women. Once women’s charters were created within LULAC, the leadership of Montemayor was undeniable. Her influence lead to her election as vice president, a historic moment opposed by many men in LULAC who did not want to be under the leadership of a woman.

Felisa Rincon de Gautier

Born in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, Felisa Rincon de Gautier was the first  and only woman to hold the office of the Mayor of San Juan Puerto Rico and the first woman to be mayor of a major capital city in the Americas. She held the office from 1946 to 1968, when she decided not to run for re-election. She fought tirelessly for childcare programs and women’s suffrage in Puerto Rico. She became the fifth woman to vote once women won the right in 1932. At 95, she was the oldest delegate to the 1992 Democratic National Convention.

…and let’s celebrate some mujeres  who are forging the future of many other today.

Sonia Sotomayor

Born in the Bronx of Puerto Rican descent, Sonia Sotomayor is the first Latino appointed to the Supreme Court and the third woman. She graduated from Princeton, where she obtained the Pyne Prize, the highest honor for an undergraduate. She received her J.D from Yale Law School and was an editor for the Yale Law Journal. She has received honorary law degrees from ten law schools, including Princeton and New York University. She is a wise Latina and she continues to inspire us all.

Maria Teresa Kumar

Kumar was born in Bogota, Colombia to an American father and Colombian mother. Raised in California, she obtained an MA in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Along with Rosario Dawson, Kumar founded and is the CEO and President of Voto Latino. For ten years now, Voto Latino has been galvanizing the Latino vote, registering close to one quarter million voters, making sure that Latinos were counted in the 2010 census and helping them enroll in the new healthcare law. Expect her to continue making waves in the upcoming 2016 election.

Judith Francisca Baca

Born in Los Angeles in 1946, Judy Baca is a Chicano artist and activist. She graduated from California State University and studied muralism at Taller Siqueiros in Mexico.  She taught art in her former high school and later for a summer’s art program in L.A.’s public parks, where she brought together members of rival gangs to paint a mural together. She founded the city of Los Angeles mural program, which later turned into the community arts organization SPARC. Baca is the creator of the world’s longest mural, The Great Wall of Los Angeles.

Erika Andiola

Erika Andiola is the recipient of the Freedom from Fear Award, awarded to individuals who “commit extraordinary acts of courage on behalf of immigrants and refugees.” Andiola was born in Durango, Mexico, but immigrated to Arizona when she was 11.  One of the founders of the DREAM Action Coalition, Andiola was featured in Time magazine along with other DREAMers. She has been an unwavering advocate for immigrant rights, risking her own status to participate in protests and strikes. Most recently, she was arrested in February during a hunger strike outside of ICE headquarters in Phoenix.

[Feature photo: Whitehouse.gov]

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