The Most Powerful Latinas in the World

Smart. Fierce. Ambitious. Fascinating. Those are traits shared by some of the most powerful Latinas in the U.S. and beyond. These women—whether or not you agree with their politics or like their music—are admirable for the tenacity and brains that have put them atop their fields.

1. Power Women: Michelle Bachelet

NAME: Michelle Bachelet

AGE: 59

ROOTS: Chilean 

WHAT MAKES HER POWERFUL: She was trained as a pediatrician and an epidemiologist, as well as a military strategist, and served as her country’s Health Minister and Defense Minister. And all that turned out to be just the beginning. Bachelet became Chile’s first female president in 2006, serving one term, during which she increased social services for the poor while expanding free trade. Never one to rest on her laurels, she now lead’s the UN Women as executive director, responsible for boosting the role of women and their opportunities worldwide, so generations can accomplish as much as she has.  

2. Power Women: Dilma Rousseff

NAME: Dilma Rousseff

AGE: 63

ROOTS: Brazilian 

WHAT MAKES HER POWERFUL: As a member of a Marxist urban guerilla group, Rousseff went to jail for her beliefs and actions against a dictatorship. Now? She’s Brazil’s first female president, overseeing one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and quiet possibly the most powerful woman in all of Latin America.

3. Power Women: Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

NAME: Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

AGE: 58

ROOTS: Argentinian

WHAT MAKES HER POWERFUL: The first elected female president of Argentina, she is a force to be reckoned with and has been since her late husband Nestor was president before her. Just this year, she got into disputes with Brazil (over trade quotas between the two countries) and the United States (after Argentina seized a US-govt cargo plane allegedly as payback for President Obama skipping the country on his Latin American tour), and threatened to cancel flights to the Falkland/Malvinas Islands as a way to bolster Argenitna’s claims over the British-held islands. With allegations of fiddling with economic number and threatening opposition journalists, lover her or leave her, it’s clear that Fernandez is not backing down as she seeks re-election in October presidential elections.

4. Power Women: Hilda Solis

NAME: Hilda Solis

AGE: 53

ROOTS: Mexican and Nicaraguan

WHAT MAKES HER POWERFUL: With a weak economy and high unemployment, it may not be the greatest time to be the Secretary of Labor, but Solis’ achievement is nevertheless commendable: The former Congresswoman from California is the first Latina to serve on the U.S. cabinet. As the Secretary of Labor, Solis has been a tireless advocate for immigrant rights as well as for the average middle class workers who have been hit so hard by the current recession.

5. Power Women: Sonia Sotomayor

NAME: Sonia Sotomayor

AGE: 57

ROOTS: Puerto Rican 

WHAT MAKES HER POWERFUL: The first Latino on the highest court in the land, the U.S. Supreme Court, she is also a former judge, law professor and Ivy League graduate.  In other words, she’s a walking, talking, living, breathing example of what Latino kids can accomplish even if they were raised, as Bronx-bred Sotomayor was, in the hood.

6. Power Women: Eva Longoria

NAME: Eva Longoria

AGE: 36

ROOTS: Mexican American

WHAT MAKES HER POWERFUL: So much more than the actress we’ve come to know and love as Desperate Housewives’ Gaby Solis, Longoria not only makes $13 million a year on the show, but heads her own restaurant empire, produces movies and the Alma Awards and was recently honored by Variety for her wide-ranging philanthropic work. But it’s her work with a wide range of Latino advocacy groups such as MALDEF and the NCLR that landed her on this list. Apparently, Obama feels the same way as he has repeatedly invited the Chicana actress to Washington D.C. to advise on issues pertaining to the Latino community in the United States.

7. Power Women: Shakira

NAME: Shakira

AGE: 34

ROOTS: Colombian

WHAT MAKES HER POWERFUL: This year’s Latin Recording Academy’s Person of the Year is the worldwide pop icon who has not only sold millions of records and has nearly 9 million Twitter followers, but a principled woman with her own massive foundation that provides education for hundreds of kids in her native land. Shaki is always looking for ways to spread her message that education can conquer poverty, even teaming up with her beau’s soccer squad FC Barcelona to build athletic facilities for disadvantaged youth in Colombia and her second home, Miami, Florida.

8. Power Women: Susana Martinez

NAME: Susana Martinez

AGE: 52

ROOTS: Mexican American 

WHAT MAKES HER POWERFUL: As the first Latina governor in the United States (New Mexico) Martinez has a lot of people looking to her to set an example. Her tough stance on immigration may put her at odds with many Hispanics, but it proves more than anything that we are not a monolithic group. Along with Nevada governor Brian Sandoval and Florida congressman Marco Rubio, Martinez is redefining the face of conservative politics among Latinos.

9. Power Women: Nina Tassler

NAME: Nina Tassler

AGE: undisclosed

ROOTS: Puerto Rican

WHAT MAKES HER POWERFUL: As President of Entertainment for CBS, she is the most powerful Latina in Hollywood, one with the power to greenlight projects and who has used her position to promote Hispanics with shows like the now-cancelled Cane. Last season, CBS had the top five highest-rated shows, and looks to content this year as well.

10. Power Women: Salma Hayek

NAME: Salma Hayek

AGE: 45

ROOTS: Mexican

WHAT MAKES HER POWERFUL: Sure, Salma has a kickass wardrobe (being married to the head of an haute couture conglomerate, i.e. the third richest man in France will do that), but Hayek would be powerful in sackcloth. After crossing over to Hollywood successfully, Hayek became a force behind the cameras, producing Frida, and ABC’s Ugly Betty. Next up: developing Wicked as an ABC miniseries. She also has a new, wildly popular skincare, cosmetic and hair care line called Nuance, available at CVS.

11. Power Women: Jennifer Lopez

NAME: Jennifer Lopez

AGE: 42

ROOTS: Puerto Rican

WHAT MAKES HER POWERFUL: What doesn’t? An innovator as a celebrity spokesperson, she has managed to have her hand in music, movies and businesses for over a decade. Just when her career seemed to be flagging, she signed a $12 million deal to judge American Idol, helping the show recover its ratings heat (she just signed on to another season for an $8 million raise). The recent divorcee mom used that as a springboard for a comeback, launching a new album, a fashion line at Kohl’s and sponsorships galore, including for Fiat.

12. Power Women: Katherine Archuleta

NAME: Katherine Archuleta

AGE: undisclosed

ROOTS: Mexican American

WHAT MAKES HER POWERFUL: The former community organizer and chief of staff to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis is responsible for no less than a big chunk of President Obama’s re-election campaign, as his national political director. It’s the first time a Latina holds the position in a major presidential campaign.

13. Power Women: Soledad O'Brien

NAME: Soledad O’Brien

AGE: 45

ROOTS: Afro-Cuban and Australian-Irish

WHAT MAKES HER POWERFUL: This mother of four is an Emmy-winning journalist—and our highest-profile English-language journalist at that. O’Brien refuses to be put in a box, saying her Irish and Afro-Cuban heritage makes her “ethnically Latina, but racially Black”  and she has made it her business to raise our profile with her CNN Latino in America specials.

14. Power Women: Carolina Herrera

NAME: Carolina Herrera

AGE: 72

ROOTS: Venezuelan 

WHAT MAKES HER POWERFUL: Her career has spanned decades but her fashion pieces are still as fresh as ever. The always impeccably dressed and coiffed Herrera is the go-to designer for women from the late Jackie Kennedy Onassis to Renee Zellwegger, who relish her crisp, classic lines.

15. Power Women: Gloria Estefan

NAME: Gloria Estefan

AGE: 54

ROOTS: Cuban

WHAT MAKES HER POWERFUL: Selling over 100 million records worldwide and winning seven Grammys in a career that helped earn her an Ellis Island Congressional Medal of Honor and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? Cakewalk. Try running seven Cuban restaurants and two hotels, and writing two bestselling childrens books and a cookbook. Her talent and hard work alongside producer genius husband Emilio (who recently said that she is the business genius in the family) is the major reason the Estefans have an estimated net worth of $700 million and worldwide influence.

16. Power Women: Related Links