This year, our minds and hearts have been widened and re-shaped thanks to our Inspiring Latinas column. Since we launched the weekly column in early January, we've told the stories of strong, everyday Latina women who wake up every morning to follow their ambitions - much to our admiration.
Take a look at our 39 Inspiring Latinas of 2012 below and tell us, what inspires you in life?
1. Inspiring Latina 2012: Gaby Rodriguez
In 2011, the then 17-year-old senior at Toppenish High School in Toppenish, Washington, pretended to be pregnant for six months for her Senior Project, a requirement for graduation. Her fake pregnancy, which she did to raise awareness of the stereotypes often pegged to Latina youth, became a national story – and later a Lifetime movie starring actress Alexa Vega.
2. Inspiring Latina 2012: Patricia Ramirez
4. Inspiring Latina 2012: Samantha Garvey
The Salvadoran-American teenager has inspired her community and our nation with her determination to succeed against all odds. In December, the New York student and her family were evicted from their home and forced to live in a homeless shelter. Despite facing this challenge, Garvey maintained a 3.9 grade point average and became a semifinalist for a prestigious science competition. We are so proud of her strength, courage, and perseverance!
5. Inspiring Latina 2012: Monika Langarica
This young Mexican-American woman has fought adversity and substandard conditions to not only become the first in her family to go away to school, but to also leave a positive, lasting impact on her community in the wake of her success.
6. Inspiring Latina 2012: Caitlin McGinnis
This extremely bright and ambitious 14-year-old goes after what she wants. The Cuban-American teen has twice had her poetry published in a publication dedicated to celebrating young poets in New Jersey, and as a result of her academic accomplishments is a part of the John Hopkins University program.
7. Inspiring Latina 2012: Amy Davila
This 20-year-old has her eye on the prize. The Guatemalan-American consistently uses her rampant creativity to better herself and prop open the door for opportunity to come rushing her way. Davila’s drive to continue to push herself toward greater things has encouraged others to pursue their dreams and is the biggest reason why we chose her as an Inspiring Latina. Did we mention she also makes short films?
8. Inspiring Latina 2012: Silvia Moya
This young Ecuadorian woman grew up in a community flush with immigrants and often looked to her teachers as beacons of encouragement. Now, she is a high school social studies teacher who inspires dozens of students every day. Teaching is not only Moya's dream, but her passion! It is through Moya’s own dedication that she is able to motivate other young people to reach beyond what they ever thought possible to accomplish goals they never knew they had.
9. Inspiring Latina 2012: Joleen Rivera
This University of Wisconsin law student has already put her vast knowledge and infinite passion to good use by aiding the U.S. Latino population. When she completes her degree this year, Rivera plans on leaving a long-lasting legacy for her community. The Puerto Rican academic is dedicated to challenging existing laws that hinder the progress of Latinos in this country.
10. Inspiring Latina 2012: Kathy Rodriguez
This Columbia University researcher is helping families of young people diagnosed with cancer cope during their time of stress and uncertainty. Rodriguez, a University of Florida graduate, is using her interest in medicine, knowledge of language and passion for people to better her community.
11. Inspiring Latina 2012: Dee Vazquez
This Puerto Rican and Dominican host dominates the airwaves. The 28-year-old host can be seen on FUSE's The Chronicles, or heard on HOT 97 and Sirius/XM Satellite Radio. She is not only a TV and radio personality, she is a producer, journalist and, above all, a humanitarian.
12. Inspiring Latina 2012: Yeidy Angelucci
This Puerto Rican real estate agent and entrepreneur is a force to be reckoned with. Angelucci, both a mother and business owner, jumpstarted her own Rapid Realty franchise in Brooklyn, NY last year, and is celebrating continued success and it's no wonder why. The 31-year-old is one of the best closing agents in the history of the company - with a record of over 90 deals in a month!
13. Inspiring Latina 2012: Zoraida Cordova
Córdova is the author of the fantasy fiction young adult book series, The Vicious Deep. The Ecuadorian writer takes readers on a journey into a mystical world, where a lifeguard-turned-merman is fighting for his life and searching for his true self. Córdova’s love for her homeland and childhood acculturation greatly inspired her first novel, which is already getting praise as one of the best summer reads for teens since its release earlier this month.
14. Inspiring Latina 2012: Luma Marcaccio
The Venezuelan civil engineer turned businesswoman, launched ComForcare, a private-duty, non-medical home care for senior citizens (and others in need of assistance), in the Boston area last November. Her dedication to helping the elderly community is what made us find her so inspiring.
15. Inspiring Latina 2012: Marcela Capetillo
Capetillo emigrated to the U.S. from Mexico City just two years ago and has already made a name for herself as an entrepreneur in Texas. The former lawyer is dedicated to her new Tasti D-Lite business as much as her family and also gives back to her community and advocates for children with special needs.
16. Inspiring Latina 2012: Felicia Alcaraz
This Latina honors her roots and makes us proud with her dedication to raising funds and awareness for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The California native works as a Continuity Director for Clear Channel’s 99.1 KGGI-FM and won the 2012 Inland Empire Woman of the Year for her work with LLS. Felicia is currently working on her Master’s degree in Marriage Family Therapy, which she hopes to earn by 2013.
17. Inspiring Latina 2012: Lydia Villa-Komaroff
We admire this molecular biologist for her strong dedication to the Dove Movement for Self-Esteem campaign, which empowers women to be confident and let their inner beauty shine. The Mexican American scientist began her college education at the University of Washington in Seattle and later transferred to Goucher College in Maryland. Villa-Komaroff completed her graduate studies at MIT in Boston, making her the third chicana to receive a PhD in the U.S.
18. Inspiring Latina 2012: Alyssa Vera Ramos
19. Inspiring Latina 2012: Alexandra Meda
The executive director of the Chicago-based theatre company Teatro Luna, Alexandra Meda was one of our Inspiring Latinas for her relentless effort to make sure that our stories are told on stage. The Colombian and Argentine 27-year-old graduated from The Theatre School at DePaul University with a BFA in Theatre Studies and BA in American Studies with a concentration in Race and Gender and Popular Culture.
20. Inspiring Latina 2012: Zolanlly Gutierrez
Our resident intern was chosen as one of our Inspiring Latinas for her strong work ethic and dedication to survivors of domestic violence. The Dominican-American writer is a senior at The Pennsylvania State University, majoring in Print Journalism and minoring in Spanish.
21. Inspiring Latina 2012: Nicole Hernandez
This Latina diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, achieves her career and personal goals with grace and conviction. The 26-year-old Cuban-American is strongly dedicated to raising funds for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and developed the Art for a Cure annual fundraiser event in Coral Gables, Miami. Hernandez also just completed her Master's degree in Business Administration at the University of Miami.
22. Inspiring Latina 2012: Angela Rosas
We chose the 28-year-old Mexican American as an Inspiring Latina because of her passion and commitment to helping and serving people in her community. Rosas is the founder and creator of the non-profit organization Chicas Latinas in Sacramento, California and created Chicas Latinas de Sacramento back in 2009 with the goal to increase Latina cultural awareness and volunteerism.
23. Inspiring Latina 2012: Alicia Estrada
The founder and CEO of Stop Staring! clothing inspired us greatly. The Mexican-American Los Angeles native starting sewing her own clothes at age 16 and hasn’t looked back since. After a brief stint as an accounting major, the self-described “punk rock girl” took her vintage-influenced style to Long Beach City College’s fashion design program. In 2005, Estrada was awarded the Minority Manufacturing Firm of the Year Award by Mayor Antonio Villaraigos.
24. Inspiring Latina 2012: Dineen Laurel Lopez
Dineen Laurel Lopez
This New York City native produces her own music and is already working on her second album. Check out our interview with the student-songstress, who balancing her studies, the inspiration for her music, and her dream collaboration (hint: he brought sexy back).
25. Inspiring Latina 2012: Stephanie Flor
This 25-year-old believes in the power of universal beauty. The Costa Rican and Ecuadorian make-up artist jumpstarted the all-natural beauty hub, Around The World Beauty, which features historical cultural beauty traditions for modern day women. The savvy businesswoman also volunteers to makeover senior citizens through a partnership with the program, GlamourGals.
26. Inspiring Latina 2012: Sara Maria Saborido
Sara Maria Saborido
This Miami, Florida native of Spanish descent is no ordinary woman. By the age of 29, Saborido has earned an MBA, has worked for the last seven years teaching and caring for the children in her classroom, and has committed her life to helping others. Saborido counts her blessings every day and is most thankful to her mother, for making all of her dreams possible.
27. Inspiring Latina 2012: Martha Debayle
The Nicaraguan entrepreneur, who resides in Mexico, manages a media empire reporting on women’s health, pregnancy and fertility, child development and general parenting advice.
28. Inspiring Latina 2012: Astrid Sarmiento
Colombian and Honduran-American Astrid Sarmiento loves putting her art design knowledge to good use. The 23-year-old Queens native is working towards her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication and Web Design from The New York City College of Technology and interning at the start-up company, Wordever. That's enough drive to inspire anyone.
29. Inspiring Latina 2012: Jessica Priego
This Latina runs a tight game as the Director of Advertising for the Chicago White Sox. The 38-year-old Mexican American professional, and lover of the arts, also serves on the board of the National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA) and the International Latino Cultural Center (ILCC).
30. Inspiring Latina 2012: Zayda Rivera
This Latina applies her strength, determination, and positive spirit to every task at hand. As the director of multicultural communications strategy for the Hispanic Practice at Lagrant Communications, the Puerto Rican professional (and self-proclaimed yoga lover) helps promote and educate Latinos about the importance of health and health care.
31. Inspiring Latina 2012: Brittany Maldonado
This Latina is an actress, painter, poet and writer. The Puerto Rican artist, has dedicated her life to expression in all art forms. “Art, whether it was through words or painting, has always been my means of expression,” she says. Maldonado looks to artists such as Salvador Dali and Lauren Velez for inspiration. Currently, she is working on a play written by Latino playwright Jose Rivera.
32. Inspiring Latina 2012: Patricia Garcia
This 25-year-old Latina has the soul of a survivor. The Mexican newlywed from California was diagnosed with a rare type of tumor that is affecting her lungs and heart. She is currently treating her three-malignant thymoma at the USC Hospital in Los Angeles. As treatment expenses continue to mount, her family launched a Give Forward campaign to help with medical costs.
33. Inspiring Latina 2012: Lilliana Alvarez
This 30-year-old Honduran American considers herself different, and she likes it. Her main goal is to communicate to the world her "fierceness," as she puts it, through her own personal style. "Wear your look, walk it, talk it and live it for the moment," Alvarez says. She currently owns and runs her own fashion boutique LilXurious.
34. Inspiring Latina 2012: Dr. Brenda Henry-Sanchez
This Latina proves that with education and practice, you can make the world a better place. Born in Puerto Rico and raised in New York City, Sanchez has a passion for making sure our nation is on a path towards better health. As the program officer for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, she oversees the grassroots initiatives that improve the wellbeing of underrepresented communities nationwide.
35. Inspiring Latina 2012: Monica Trasandes
As the Director Of Spanish-Language Media at GLAAD (The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), this Uruguayan works tirelessly to ensure that those that have been invisible on TV for years -- gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Latinos -- are finally visible, and to ensure that their stories are no longer ignored. Trasandes says it has always been her calling to tell the stories of the voiceless.
36. Inspiring Latina 2012: Monica Herrera
This Latina from New Jersey has always been willing to go that extra-mile to make her dreams come true – whether she was taking on extra writing assignments at Billboard or Rolling Stone, or writing about the things that interested her most, like music. Herrera’s drive made her not only a Senior Editor of Rollingstone.com, but also one of the first Latina staffers in the history of the magazine...period!
37. Inspiring Latina 2012: Iliana Guibert McGinnis
Iliana Guibert McGinnis
McGinnis is an actress and philanthropist. When she's not on stage, shooting a commercial, or working on an independent film project -- she dedicates her time and energy to giving back to her community. After Hurricane Sandy, one of the most devastating storms in over 100 years, hit the tri-state area, McGinnis put her time and energy into helping the Jersey Shore victims.
38. Inspiring Latina 2012: Maribel Lieberman
After moving to New York at age seventeen and learning English, Lieberman took night classes at Parsons School of Design in fashion. Cooking was a happy, lucky accident. Her business, MarieBelle, is going strong after twelve years, and the chocolatier isn't slowing down any time soon. This Latina makes you want to make your own ambitious business moves, doesn’t she?
39. Inspiring Latina 2012: Cindy Rodriguez
This 29-year-old Peruvian-American journalist was instrumental in the launch of the Latino Voices vertical at The Huffington Post -- where she worked as an editor and produced culturally relevant content for the Latino audience. And now, Rodriguez is working as an Editor at CNN, where she writes and edits content for Latinos.