The beginning of April is oftentimes associated with the culmination of International Women’s Month, giving us the perfect opportunity to take pause and recognize the outstanding achievement of Latinas. Latina women who forge ahead, persevere, and make their mark, as they continue to open doors for others to follow. Thank you for paving the way for me and other Latinas to follow!
It is with a great sense of pride and admiration that I am reminded of Latina trailblazers who give us reason to believe we can overcome any of life’s challenges just like our “pioneras”:
The queen of salsa, Celia Cruz was an entertainer that transcended cultures. She left a rich legacy for future generations to enjoy. The Smithsonian Institute honored her as an American icon whose unique persona and music are world renowned. Her name is synonymous with rhythm, flavor and Azúcar! She has the distinction of being immortalized in a commemorative U.S. Postal Service stamp. Celia achieved all of this success without knowing a word of English, arriving to our country after fleeing from Castro’s Cuba. Success didn’t come easy. She struggled like many new immigrants, but her perseverance, hard work and incomparable talent made her an international icon of Cuban music. Who could think of Cuban music without picturing Celia? Celia’s musical influence and stage presence remain second to none and her influence is ever-present in many of the new, upcoming talent trying to emulate her style and charisma.
Another Latina that transcended culture and language with her art is Frida Kahlo; this famous artist continues to headline the list of important and outstanding women. Frida’s health issues were very well known and publicized throughout her entire life, but those very circumstances were her fountain of inner strength and inspiration, giving her a peculiar way of looking at life that captivates audiences to this day. Modern audiences revisited her life through Salma Hayek’s portrayal of her tumultuous life in an Oscar-nominated role that showcased all these traumas and virtues that accompanied her until her untimely death.
As Latinas our future is bright and full of possibilities. Supreme Court Justice, the Honorable Sonia Sotomayor reminds us to dream big. Sotomayor grew up in the South Bronx, considered by many a neighborhood where people can decide to rise above it all as she did, or get side tracked by the distractions. Having suffered the passing of her father at a young age, she stayed the course, looking forward. She obtained one of the highest ranking and most important jobs in the country. How? Sotomayor is the first to acknowledge that it was due to the hard work and sacrifice of one of the most influential Latinas in her life–her mother. I highly recommend reading her book, ‘My Beloved World’ to learn more about Justice Sotomayor’s path to success, the obstacles she faced and how she overcame them. Times have changed. Our country accepts its rich diversity, and rewards individual achievements not based on ethnicity, but on the merit of hard work and excellence.
The legacy of these exceptional women has given us a message of hope and reminds us of the winning attitude every Latina woman in the United States brings to their own life and work environment on a daily basis. It’s very important to give recognition to all Hispanic women in our society, as this will strengthen our community and motivate the younger generations to aspire to bigger and better things in life. At AARP, we will continue providing tools and resources to empower and help women make their aspirations a real possibility.