These women have all taken action in different ways, but they have one thing in common: They believe in what they’re fighting for. Here are the 10 most inspiring Latina activists:
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1. Dolores Huerta
Dolores Huerta co-founded the United Farm Workers along with Cesar Chavez. Her organization and negotiation skills proved instrumental in bringing attention to migrant workers. She officially stepped down from the UFW in 1999, but she wasn’t done yet. She created the Dolores Huerta Foundation in the early aughts, and is still fighting inequality. “You can see we have a long road to travel despite all our achievements since the 70s, a long way to go in terms of our numbers compared with our representation,” she told wire news service Efe.
2. Bianca Jagger
The former actress is a human rights activists, and as such, she has been vocal about genocide, women’s rights, climate change and corporate social responsibility. She also founded the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, which is dedicated to research, education and advocacy. Late last year, she talked about violence against women in a lecture. “We are deluding ourselves if we think we have eradicated discrimination from the so-called developed world,” she said. “I fear that under the surface of our western democratic, egalitarian societies, embedded deep in our culture, still lurks an institutionalised belief that women are inferior.”
3. Rosie Perez
Rosie Perez became an AIDS/HIV activist after seeing her friends and mother battling the disease. “As a child that wasn’t treated properly and was not presented with opportunity, proper healthcare, food...I never want anyone to have to experience that,” she said to us. “For me to be able to help, it’s a blessing and it’s an honor.” This has been a close cause to her since the early days of her celebrity.
4. Elizabeth “Betita” Martinez
Betita Martinez has played a role in the Civil Rights and the women’s liberation movement. She’s now helping a new generation of organizers. Martinez explains that her work has required a little bit of luck. “That has been a wonderful opportunity, to be at those intersections,” she said to Colorlines.com. “The intersections have always been there, people were waiting to see that the intersections were being made. I was just lucky, I happened to come along during those moments.”
5. Rosario Dawson
Rosario Dawson is not interested in being a mysterious Hollywood persona. She has no problems getting political, and she has been this way since she first came on the scene. The actress cites her background as the reasonshe’s so passionate about so many causes. She is the co-founder of Voto Latino, and she supports the Lower East Side Girls Club, V-Day and Amnesty International. “I want to make sure that I’m as effective as possible and it’s hard because I care about so many different issues,” she explains.
6. Rocio Muñoz
Rocio Muñoz came from humble beginnings, and it has motivated her to keep working for the people in her community. Her parents were migrant workers, and even from a young age, she had to fill out Medicaid and food stamp applications for her mother. After she graduated college, she started helping people on a larger scale leading her to becoming very involved in her community of Benton County, Oregon. She is known to attend 15 to 20 meetings a week. “I’m way out there in the community,” she said. “It feels like I am never in the office. It hasn’t been easy. I have been working on this for five years. Building the trust and raising awareness.”
7. Angelica Salas
Angelica Salas challenged President Barack Obama when he said that his administration was focusing on deporting criminals. She argued that its focus was actually on heads of households and young people. Salas is the executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, and she works with unions and student groups. She played an important part in the passing of crucial bills in California, such as letting undocumented immigrants access driver’s licenses and making public financial aid available to undocumented college students.
8. Jessica González-Rojas
Rojas is the executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, and her work has touched gender, immigration, reproductive health, LGBTQ-liberation and labor rights organizations. She works to break down barriers and has helped disprove stereotypes about what matters to Latino voters and also about the way this group views sexual health issues.
9. Joan Baez
Joan Baez has been inspiring change through her music since the 1960s. Her own experiences drew her to nonviolence and civil rights advocacy. In late 2013, she joined the Dalai Lama and others in the annual Forum 2000, a conference which promotes human rights. When asked if artists should feel compelled to speak out on social and political issues, she said: “All I can say is from my own experience – that it is the connectedness with the people, the prisoners, the people in the war; that I was able to speak where a lot of people couldn’t speak. But that’s what’s given my life the richness that it has.”
10. Sylvia Mendez
Sylvia Mendez has been an education activist ever since she was a child. Her parents wanted to enroll her into an all-White school, but she was told she needed to go to the all-Mexican school. Her parents refused and sued the school, and it was Mendez’s testimony that really helped them win. It wasn’t until her mother was dying that she was inspired to tell the story of her father and to dedicate her time to education activism. She says more history, art and music are needed in schools, and parents need to play their part, too. The number one thing that the parents have to do is apoyarlos,” she told us. “Encourage them to stay in school and let them know that’s how they’re going to be successful in life.”