We can’t think of a better way to commemorate National Hispanic Heritage Month than by celebrating the fierce, fearless, and fantastic Latina women who made history and changed the world as we know it. As a women-led and Latino-owned company, all of us at Lu believe in our mission of empowering all women to feel confident, beautiful and free to be whoever they want to be. We look to those who paved the way for the rest of us, and those who are blazing new trails today. In this article, we focus on Mexican and Mexican-American women – from politicians to scientists to athletes and all-around bosses – who rose up and said, “¡Sí se puede!”
Dolores Huerta - The Civil Rights Icon
Where do we start with Dolores Clara Fernandez Huerta? Co-founder of the United Farm Workers Association and a leader of the Chicano Civil Rights movement, the 92-years-young icon is one of the most important labor activists of our times. Even if you’ve never heard of this pioneering force of nature who fought for farmers for most of her career, you’ve heard the phrase she coined when giving a speech in Arizona: “¡Sí se puede!” - Yes, we can! It became the slogan of the immigration rights movement, and was famously adopted by then-Congressman Barack Obama for his election campaign in 2008. President Obama would go on to acknowledge Huerta in 2012 when he awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Selena Quintanilla - All Hail the Queen
The Queen of Tejano Music needs no introduction. Selena Quintanilla changed music forever. The award-winning singer was born in Texas and grew up speaking English, but her father taught her to sing in Spanish. That proved to be a smart decision. Selena would go on to become the first female Tejano artist to win a Grammy. She would never enjoy the fruits of her stardom, however. Selena was killed at the age of 23 by the president of her fan club. But her legacy lives on, and it is no exaggeration to say she has influenced many of the most important artists of our generation, starting with the woman who played her in a 1997 biographical drama: Jennifer Lopez. Playing “La Reina” inspired JLo to pursue a career as a recording artist. Many other artists, from Beyoncé to Cardi B., have counted Selena among their musical inspirations.
Ellen Ochoa - Making History in Space
Born in California, Mexican-American astronaut Ellen Ochoa didn’t grow up thinking she would go to space. She joined NASA in 1988 as a research engineer, but she would soon go where no Latina had gone before. Dr. Ochoa was selected as an astronaut in 1990, and in 1993 became the first Hispanic woman in space. Beyond making the journey to space, Dr. Ochoa’s credentials include being the 11th director (and first Hispanic director) of the Johnson Space Center. She has flown in space four times and is a co-inventor on three patents. Ochoa has been presented with NASA's highest award, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award for senior executives in the federal government, among other accolades. And she continues to be an inspiration for girls around the world (she is especially honored to have six schools named for her).
Frida Kahlo - Self-Portrait of a Legend
No list of Mexican icons would be complete without the immortal Frida Kahlo. A rule-breaker and trail-blazer in every sense of the word, Frida had almost every odd stacked against her. Diagnosed with polio at the age of six, she was left with a lifelong limp. A bus accident damaged her spine and pelvis, causing physical pain that would last throughout her life. Despite these obstacles, Frida would become one of the preeminent self-portrait painters in the world. Her art was bold, raw, and unabashed. A communist, feminist, and openly bisexual, Frida marched to her own beat, and her art was her celebration of self. In 1939, her self-portrait “The Frame (El Marco),” became the first work by a 20th-century artist from Mexico to be purchased by a major international museum. That museum was The Louvre.
Sophie Cruz - The Child Warrior
Not many people become icons at the age of five, but Sophie Cruz isn’t one to let something like age stand in her way. One of the youngest activists in the world, Sophie is the daughter of undocumented migrants from Oaxaca, Mexico, living in the US. In 2015, when she was five, Sophie traveled with her family to meet the Pope. Fighting through security, the little girl pressed a letter into his hand, begging him for help. The next day, the Pope raised the issue of immigrant and refugee rights with Congress. In 2017, Sophie was invited to speak at the Women’s March on Washington, DC, where she spoke in front of tens of thousands of people. Her opening words (from a speech delivered in English and Spanish): “We are here together, making a chain of love to protect our families. Let us fight with love, faith, and courage so that our families will not be destroyed.” For millions, and for all of us at Lu, she has become a symbol of hope, inspiration, and courage.
Soraya Jiménez - Worth Her Weight in Gold
Mexico’s history is rife with women who achieved the incredible. Among the most recent is Soraya Jiménez, the weightlifter who became the first Mexican Woman to win an Olympic gold medal in any sport. Jiménez accomplished the feat at the Sydney Games in 2000, with a lift of an astounding 497 pounds. Jiménez’s life was tragically cut short at the age of 35, when she died of a heart attack at her home in Mexico City. She remains a national hero.
Katy Jurado - The O.G.
Latina leading ladies may dominate the film industry today (hello, Salma Hayek), but someone had to pave the way. And for that distinction, we raise a toast to Katy Jurado. Born in 1924 in Guadalajara, María Cristina Estela Jurado García was a fiery personality whose exotic indigenous features became her trademark look. At a bullfight, she was spotted by an American actor named John Wayne, which led to her being cast in the film “Bullfighter and the Lady” in 1951. Her big break came in 1952, when she starred opposite Gary Cooper in “High Noon.” Jurado received two Golden Globe nominations for the part, and became the first Mexican woman to win the award as Best Supporting Actress. Despite her beauty, Jurado was able to undermine the stereotype of Latinas in Hollywood as merely sultry seductresses, and gave them a deeper dimension through her portrayals. Two years after “High Noon,” Jurado became the first Mexican actress to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Spencer Tracy's wife in “Broken Lance.” She also starred in movies with Marlon Brando, Charlton Heston, and Burt Lancaster, to name just a few of Hollywood’s leading men. And in doing so, she opened the gates of Tinseltown for scores of aspiring Latina actors.
Who’s your Latina hero? Let us know in the comments!