Activism and Feminism:10 Latinas who changed the world
With the objective of always represent the uniqueness of diversity in the world, Womenbeing brings you an article with a selection of incredible latin women who changed gender status and redefined stereotypes not only in central and South America but in the entire world. In order to honor every type of activist and fight for equality we encourage our readers to tell us more about their own stories, activism and change in the world.
Considered one of the Mexico’s greatest artist, Frida Kahlo was born on July 6, 1907 in Coyocoan, Mexico.The Mexican Revolution began in 1910 when Kahlo was three years old. Later, however, Kahlo claimed that she was born in 1910 so people would directly associate her with the revolution. Active communist sympathizers, Kahlo and Rivera befriended Leon Trotsky as he sought political sanctuary from Joseph Stalin’s regime in the Soviet Union. Initially, Trotsky lived with Rivera and then at Kahlo’s home. Frida Kahlo began painting after she was severely injured in a bus accident. Kahlo later became politically active and married fellow communist artist Diego Rivera in 1929. She exhibited her paintings in Paris and Mexico before her death in 1954.
The Cuban prima ballerina and choreographer changed the Cuban ballet, despite being afflicted with an eye defect that left her partially blind at the age of nineteen. She became famous for her portrayals of Giselle and the ballet version of Carmen in New York and Havana, where she founded the Ballet Nacional de Cuba and continues to direct to this day. Alonso danced with many companies, including the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo from 1955 to 1959. Her own company was renamed Ballet de Cuba in 1955, but it closed the following year because of financial difficulties. In 1957 she became the first Western dancer invited to perform in the Soviet Union. After Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba in 1959, Alonso returned home and formed a new ballet company, Ballet Nacional de Cuba (National Ballet of Cuba). In addition to serving as its director, she continued to dance, though tensions between Cuba and the United States prevented her from performing in the latter country for a number of years. In 1995 Alonso gave her last public performance. UNESCO awarded her the Pablo Picasso Medal, its award for notable contributions to arts or culture, in 1999.
Born and raised in New York City with Puerto Rican and Venezuelan roots, Sylvia Rivera was a pioneer for trans women and drag queens of color. Struggling with addiction, homelessness, jail time, and abuse because of her identity, Rivera spent her lifetime championing intersectional awareness within the gay and lesbian community and is credited with helping add the “T” to LGBTQ. After protesting together during the Stonewall riots of 1969, Rivera founded the Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries (STAR) with friend and activist Marsha P. Johnson to provide housing and support for homeless queens and queers in New York City. Since her 2002 death, Rivera’s life has been depicted in several musicals and a short film. Her legacy has continued through The Sylvia Rivera Law Project, which pushes for legislative and political change in support of gender expression. The corner of Hudson Street and Christopher Street were renamed in her honor to Sylvia Rivera Way and her portrait was added to the National Portrait Gallery collection in 2015.
The Mirabal Sisters
Patria, Dedé, Minerva, and María Teresa Mirabal were four sisters from the Dominican Republic who bravely rejected the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo and became know as Las Mariposas (The Butterflies). Ignited to action after witnessing a massacre executed by the regime on June 14, 1959, the sisters formed the Movement of the Fourteenth of June and sought to dismantle Trujillo’s rule through public protest. They created and shared pamphlets outlining the massacre and as a result were repeatedly subjected to torturing and imprisonment. While en route to visit their jailed husbands, Minerva, María Teresa, and Patria were detained and beaten to death by Trujillo’s lackeys who attempted to stage their deaths as accidental by placing them back into their Jeep and running it off of a road. After her sisters’ assassinations, Dedé continued her sisters’ legacies by founding the Mirabel Sisters Museum, raising their six children alongside her own, and published her own memoir, Vivas en su Jardín, in 2009. The sisters are a symbol of feminist resistance and radical activism in Latin America and have been memorialized through pop culture, on the 200 Dominican peso bill, and annually on their death anniversary of November 25—the UN-designated International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, named in their honor.
Asociación Civil Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo
The ‘Asociación Civil Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo’ is a human rights organization in Argentina and it’s goal is to find and bring together families all the kidnaped/missing kids during the military dictatorship (1976-1983) and punish the responsible people for this terrible crimes.It was founded in 1977 to locate children kidnapped during the repression, some of them born to mothers in prison who were later “disappeared”, and to return the children to their surviving biological families. The work of the Grandmothers, assisted by United States genetics scientist Mary-Claire King, by 1998 had led to the location of more than 10 percent of the estimated 500 children kidnapped or born in detention during the military era and illegally adopted, with their identities hidden. Las Abuelas restored 1151 kids to their families and where nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize 5 times.
María Jesús Alvarado Rivera
Regarded as the “first modern champion of women’s rights in Peru,” María Jesús Alvarado Rivera was a journalist, teacher, and activist from Chincha Alta, Peru. Alvarado Rivera spent her lifetime dedicated to empowering women through the establishment and expansion of educational programs, access to work, and political representation. Her advocacy focused on progressive models of childhood and adult education, sexual health awareness, reintegration programs for sex workers, and land rights for the indigenous. Alvarado Rivera was an international figure and her lectures are considered the first examples of public feminist discourse in Peru. In addition to establishing the first women’s committee, Alvarado Rivera also successfully campaigned for nine years to change legislation preventing women from holding directorial positions in public welfare. Her radical activism was increasingly met with opposition and she spent three months in solitary confinement before being exiled to Argentina for 12 years where she continued to teach and write. Upon her return to Peru, Alvarado Rivera continued efforts for women’s voting rights and witnessed the change in 1955.
Rigoberta Menchú Tum
Rigoberta Menchú Tum is a prominent K’iche’ activist and 1992 Nobel Peace Prize recipient with a lifelong dedication to furthering indigenous rights within the Americas. Born in Laj Chimel, Guatemala, Menchú’s foray into political activism began in the 1970’s while speaking out against the Guatemalan army’s human rights violations during the country’s civil war. Along with an estimated 1700 Ixil Mayans, Menchú lost her father, mother, and two brothers during the Guatemalan genocide. At the age of 23, she collaborated with Venezuelan author Elizabeth Burgos to tell her story in the memoir I, Rigoberta Menchú, which catapulted the struggles of indigenous peoples in her country to international awareness. Although her autobiographical accounts have been challenged, Menchú continues to serve as the president of the organization Salud Para Todos, which seeks to provide indigenous people with affordable medicine, and has run for President of Guatemala twice since 2007.
Dolores Huerta is a Mexican American labor leader and civil rights activist known for founding the United Farm Workers alongside Cesar Chavez and for her continued advocacy for the rights of immigrants, agricultural workers, and women. She began her career in activism in the 1950’s as an organizer for farm workers’ rights. In 1960, she began lobbying for legislation in support of Spanish speakers and undocumented people. In addition to carving out space for herself in the world of politics, she spent two years advocating for increased Latina representation in office around the country through a project by the Feminist Majority. Over her impressive career, she has been arrested 22 times for non-violent protests and still has received a long list of accolades and awards for her work including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights. She’ll also officially became the first Latina to be portrayed in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery last summer.
María Teresa Ferrari
María Teresa Ferrari was an Argentine doctor, educator, and pioneer in women’s health care. Born in Buenos Aires, she founded the local military hospital’s first maternity ward and introduced gynecological services in 1925. Two years later, after a battle of over a decade, Ferrari became the first female university professor in all of Latin American. Her research on radiation use for uterine tumors and development of a vaginoscope revolutionized women’s health services in her home country as well as in Brazil. Ferrari also remained a firm advocate of women’s rights and in 1936 established the Argentina Federation of University Women which sought to increase female professorship and further social and political gains for women.
Eva Perón was a beloved political figure and the First Lady of Argentina from 1946 through 1952. Born into poverty in Buenos Aires, Perón achieved her dream of becoming an actress and started her very own entertainment business at the age of 20 before marrying Colonel Juan Perón. Eva revolutionized the role of the First Lady and became a highly active, outspoken advocate for women’s suffrage and the poor. Barred from carrying the First Lady tradition of joining Buenos Aires’ society for charity work due to her own low socioeconomic status and education, Perón created the Eva Perón Foundation which sought to provide financial support to build homes, school, orphanages, and hospitals. She founded the first large-scale female political party and is attributed with gaining the right to vote for Argentine women in 1946. Her political achievements also include a declined nomination for vice presidency a year before her death from cervical cancer. Since her death, Perón’s political and social legacy continues in Argentina and beyond as an international symbol of cult sainthood within popular culture.
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