Latina women are the unsung heroes of women’s history

Illustration by Isabelle Roque

Monica Alarcon-Najarro, Contributing Writer

Like a flower blooming — just as Selena Quintanilla said in her song, “Como la Flor” — Latina women are taking over various industries in the U.S. 

It’s never too late to put our Latino roots in a country that has had so much systemic racism against the Latino community. Our homelands were colonized, but our lively culture and traditions remain in our hearts and in our actions.

Latina women have had some of the hardest times of their lives recently as news regarding the children of immigrant mothers being held captive in cages began last year. Influential Latina women have given others the strength to overcome seemingly impossible obstacles.

The actions they have made — whether it be changing the music and news industries or becoming an influential politician for Latinos — have had an astounding impact on how Latina women are being represented in the U.S.

When it comes to music, Selena shaped the lives of little girls, such as myself, by being one of the most influential Latina women to take on the pop music genre, which has historically been dominated by males. Selena took over the charts with Latin pop songs such as “Amor Prohibido” and “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” in 1994.

This led to a domino effect with Latina women taking over music charts. Today, we have Kali Uchis spreading her song “Telepatía” on TikTok. The song “10%” by Kaytranada featuring Uchis won a Grammy for best dance recording on Sunday.

Artist Bad Bunny has raised awareness on sexual assault in his song “Yo Perreo Sola,” pushing the Latino culture boundaries with his display of gender fluidity in the music video. His album “YHLQMDLG” also won a Grammy for best Latin pop or urban album at this year’s award show. 

Although it was an outstanding accomplishment for Selena to become the first female Tejano artist to win a Grammy for best Mexican American album in 1994, her everlasting effect shaped the lives of Latino migrants in America. She helped pave the way for newer Latino artists to win awards, such as the Grammys.

As a little girl, I remember my Guatemalan mother always turning on the stereo full volume with a Selena CD on repeat as she told my brother and I to help her clean the house. “Baila Esta Cumbia” became the one song to which my mom would sweep around the house, inviting me to dance with her as we filled our Sundays with a clean house, lively music and delicious food.

When it came to news, María Elena Salinas did an exceptional job with her reporting on “Noticiero Univision.” Salinas informed us about the daily news, which my parents watched every day. Her bold red lipstick always caught my eye when she appeared on television.

Now, as a college student studying journalism, Salinas inspires me. She is not only one of the many women I look up to in the journalism field, but she reassured me as a woman that I would one day be able to become a journalist despite the sexism she faced in the industry.

In the realm of harsh politics, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s sharp and witty comebacks have put rival politicians in their place. Not only has she taken Congress by storm, but she has also received widespread media coverage due to her boldness in fact-based arguments.

Ocasio-Cortez has paved the way for young Latina politicians who were inspired by her humanitarian efforts and political campaigning. She was the youngest woman, at 29 years old, to be elected into Congress.

She previously served as an education director at the National Hispanic Institute; her high titles give her the credibility to show just how far Latina women can get in the U.S.

These Latina women have not only influenced me, but other young girls that are first generation trying to find a way into their future careers as well. Their marks on the world prove that Latina women have the capability to reach these high titles where they can inspire other young girls to reach their fullest potential, despite how the U.S. tries to knock them down.

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