With Women’s History Month in full swing we look at 10 Latinas who made history.
Born as Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero in Washington D.C. from Puerto Rican parents. Chita Riva is one of Broadway’s most accomplished and versatile dancers, actresses and singers. Riva has won two Tony Awards including one for Nine starring Antonio Banderas. She was the first Latina to receive a Kennedy Center Honors in 2002 and was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.
Sila María Calderón Serra
Sila María Calderón Serra, born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, started her career in public service back in 1973. In 1985 she became the first woman chief of staff for the Commonwealth and in later years was elected as the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1996. Calderon became governor of Puerto Rico in 2001 and served until 2005 and focused on creating jobs, drug control, public education, child abuse, and tourism programs according to the National Governors Association.
Born as Ursula Hilaria Celia Carridad Cruz Alfonso in Santo Suarez in Havana Cuba, Celia Cruz was the queen of salsa. Cruz became an influential and legendary musical figure and earned a star on the Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and was awarded the American National Medal of the Arts.
Sylvia Mendez was born in Orange County to Puerto Rican parents. Mendez and her brother had to attend a “Mexican” school because they were dark skinned and had a Mexican-sounding last name. Her parents sued in Mendez vs. Westminister which eventually brought an end to segregation in the Orange County schools. Mendez was one of the first Hispanics to attend an all-white school. In 2011 President Obama awarded Sylvia Mendez the 2010 Medal of Freedom.
In 1960 Dolores Huerta created the Agricultural Workers Association and in 1962 she co-founded a worker’s union with Cesar Chavez, which became the United Farmer Workers. In 1993, Huerta was awarded for her activism with the Ellis Island Medal of Freedom Award and was inducted to the National Women’s Hall of Fame and received the Eleanor Roosevelt Award in 1998.
Gloria Maria Milagrosa Fajado was born in Havana, Cuba. In 1978 she married Emilio Estefan and joined the band Miami Sound Machine. Estefan was the first Latin American who performed at the XXVI Super Bowl’s halftime show and became an author when she published her first book in 2005.
Sonia Sotomayor has served as a judge in United Stated Court since 1998. President Clinton appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and she was the first Latina to serve that court. Of course, she is best known for becoming the first Hispanic woman named to the Supreme Court.
Rita Moreno broke new ground for Latinas in the entertainment business. Moreno became the first Latina to win an Oscar for best supporting actress and was also the second Puerto Rican to win an Academy Award.
Born in Fajardo, Puerto Rico Novello was appointed to be Surgeon General of the United Stated by President George Bush in 1990. Novello was the first woman and the first Latin American to be appointed to this post according to the Academy of Achievement. Novello has also served as the Special Representative for Health and Nutrition for the United Nation’s Children’s health organization.
Ellen Ochoa was born in Southern California and was selected by NASA in 1990 to become an astronaut. In 1993, Ochoa became the first Hispanic American woman in space. Ochoa has logged over 978 hours in space and, “She is a co-inventor on three patents for an optical inspection system, an optical object recognition method, and a method for noise removal in images” according to NASA.