5 Latina Activists Achieving Transformative Change

Graphic showcasing five Latina activists: Juleyka Lantigua, Carmen Rojas, Rachel Carmona, Liz Alarcon and Irene Godinez

Second Installment of the “Latinas Who Lead” Series

Luz Media

Continuing with our summer series, “Latinas Who Lead,” we bring you another group of impressive Latina activists in the U.S. putting in the work in their communities to improve the lives of those they are representing. Whether you’re looking for Latina women to support and champion, or you need inspiration for your own activism, these women are examples of leadership, resilience, and empowerment. Check out the first installment if you missed it, but if you’re up-to-date, here are 5 Latina activists to keep an eye on:

Juleyka Lantigua 

Portrait of Juleyka Lantigua

Photo by Juleyka Lantigua

Juleyka Lantigua is a journalist and entrepreneur, Founder and CEO of award-winning digital media studio, LWC Studios, which focuses on making podcasts for clients who highlight stories that matter. LWC Studios also produces original podcasts, many of which are focused on Latino experiences and stories. Lantigua is the producer of the “Latina to Latina” podcast hosted by Alicia Menendez, a TV commentator, host, and author who also works on MSNBC’s “The Weekend,” a show that provides analysis of the big events of the week. “Latina to Latina” showcases remarkable Latinas in business, politics, arts, and more, giving a platform to Latinas making an impact across industries.

Her body of work is as diverse as it is award-winning. She also produces the “70 Million: One Jail at a Time” podcast, which focuses on the effects local jails have on people and communities, and sheds light on how communities across the country are addressing jail reform. The podcast was nominated in 2020 for a Peabody Award and won Best Narrative/Documentary Podcast at the New York Festivals Radio Award in 2020.

LWC Studios also recently launched “100 Latina Birthdays,” a documentary podcast that focuses on Latina health. It’s a narrative investigative series that reports on the key health issues Latinas face in the U.S. at every stage of their lives. The first season focuses on issues starting in utero to age 20. The following seasons will continue exploring different age groups through age 100.

Lantigua was born in the Dominican Republic, and her family moved to the U.S. when she was 10 years old. She grew up in the Bronx, went to Skidmore College, and was awarded a Fulbright scholarship, which provides grants for U.S. citizens to go abroad and citizens from other countries to come to the U.S. to study, teach, research, and share their talents and skills. Lantigua holds a Master's in Print Journalism and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction, which she has used to create platforms that the Latino community can benefit from for over 20 years, and in many ways, this is only the beginning for Lantigua.

Dr. Carmen Rojas

Portrait of Dr. Carmen Rojas

Photo by Dr. Carmen Rojas

Of Venezuelan and Nicaraguan descent, Dr. Carmen Rojas is the President and CEO of the Marguerite Casey Foundation, which works for a healthy democracy and a just economy. She has had this role since 2020 when she became the youngest Latina to lead a nationally endowed philanthropic foundation. The foundation’s mission is to help create a country where underrepresented communities are no longer ignored by the government. To achieve this goal, they fund organizations, initiatives, scholars, and leaders who work on shifting the power balance to communities that are constantly excluded from having any say in society.

Under Dr. Rojas’ leadership, the foundation launched the prestigious Freedom Scholars award, a program designed to support scholars with a one-time $250,000 award to further research in areas like feminist prison abolition, Indigenous erasure, global urbanism, alternatives to movement capture, and militarized policing. Since 2020, the program has granted over $130 million in funding to a variety of organizations and individuals including Angélica Cházaro, J.D, co-founder of La Resistencia, a grassroots organization focused on ending immigrant detention, deportations, and the Northwest Detention Center; Lorgia Garcia Peña, PhD, a scholar on Latinx studies, global Blackness, and Dominican diaspora studies; Sarah Haley, PhD, whose work focuses on gender and women’s history, prison abolition, Black feminist history and theory, and more; among others.

Dr. Rojas has dedicated her entire career to working with foundations, nonprofits, and financial institutions to make a difference in the lives of working people all over the U.S. She’s also a member of the boards of Nonprofit Quarterly, Blue Ridge Labs, San Francisco Federal Reserve's Community Advisory Council, and the Confluence Racial Equity Initiative Advisory Committee. It’s not easy being one of the few, but Rojas is an advocate who dreams boldly, is a passionate philanthropist, and is an inspiring figure in the world of philanthropy where systemic change is hard to come by.

Rachel Carmona

Portrait of Rachel Carmona

Photography by Kisha Bari

Rachel O’Leary Carmona is the current Executive Director at both Women’s March and Women’s March Network. Women’s March is one of the largest political platforms for women and the most impactful grassroots organization on the progressive spectrum. Carmona is a first-generation Mexican American, and she’s dedicated her career to inspiring, mobilizing, and empowering people to have a say in the actions and policies that affect their communities.

Carmona began as the Chief Operating Officer of Women’s March in 2018 and transitioned into her current role in 2019. She helped transform the organization by overseeing the creation of its infrastructure and the incorporation of the Women’s March Network. Carmona also established Women’s March Win, a Super PAC dedicated to empowering and mobilizing women politically.

Under Carmona’s leadership, the Women’s March has grown exponentially, mobilizing thousands of marchers every year, with 2018 boasting an estimated 300,000 marchers across the U.S. The Women’s March voter mobilization efforts played an important role in a national coalition that led to Trump’s loss in the 2020 elections.

Moreover, Carmona spearheaded a change in approach: the Women’s March isn’t just about an annual march in Washington D.C. They expanded their on-the-ground organizing efforts to take action throughout the year, with efforts focused on stopping abortion bans, standing against gun violence, rejecting white nationalism, demanding dignity for survivors, and more. Women’s March has mobilized tens of millions of individuals to work for a more feminist future, and they’re now consistently on the front lines of transformative social change.

Liz Alarcon

Portrait of Liz Alarcon

Photo by Liz Alarcon

Liz Alarcon is a Venezuelan American communicator, facilitator, social entrepreneur, political analyst, and speaker. She has held a variety of roles in her career, including Director of Strategic Partnerships for The Children's Movement of Florida, Producer and Reporter at Univision, Miami Director of the Leadership Program for the Millennium Campus Network, Debate Teacher at Archimedean Upper Conservatory, and Analyst at Bendixen & Amandi International. There doesn’t seem to be much this powerhouse can’t do.

Alarcon is a proud alumna of the University of Miami and Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and is another Fulbright Scholarship recipient. She is also the Founder and Executive Director of Pulso, a non-profit media outlet dedicated to sharing news and stories for and about Latinos. Pulso reaches a subscriber base of over 2 million Latinos across their media platforms, across the U.S., and is committed to building community for a population that rarely sees their history told accurately or their experiences reflected authentically.

Alarcon has written and provided commentary for publications like The New York Times, MSNBC, & The Atlantic, among others. One of the main focuses of her work is increasing people’s understanding of Latin America and empowering Latinos in the U.S., making them feel seen while also engaging them so they can increase their political power through civic participation and advocacy.

Irene Godinez

Portrait of Irene Godinez

Photo by Vote Run Lead

Irene Godinez is a force in the world of activism, particularly within the non-profit sector. With almost 15 years of dedicated service to her community, she’s left a mark on various organizations at local, state, and national levels. Of Mexican descent, Godinez is committed to causes close to her heart, including immigration, women's health and reproductive rights, civic engagement, and community outreach.

As the founder and executive director of Poder NC Action, Godinez is leading the fight for reproductive and economic justice in North Carolina. With a decade of experience in the abortion rights space, she anticipated the challenges that have now arisen in the space of abortion rights, and she sees them as a rallying cry for action. She’s determined to elect leaders who uphold and champion the rights of women to be whole and independent humans with full bodily autonomy.

Poder NC Action is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building people's power, investing in leadership development, and educating the public about critical issues and elections. At its core, Poder NC Action strives to cultivate a sense of belonging and efficacy among Latino individuals, challenging historical distrust of government and fostering a community rooted in shared values. Godinez envisions a world where political leadership reflects the diversity of its constituents, so she advocates for justice and equality, especially when it comes to reproductive rights for the Latino, Black, and LGBTQIA+ communities.

A photograph of Sylvia Rivera in a yellow dress during a march

Sylvia Rivera is a name you may have heard before, especially around Pride Month. Rivera is best known for her participation in the Stonewall Uprising, but the legacy she left behind for the transgender community in terms of her advocacy is a true testament to the fantastic nature of her work.

Keep ReadingShow less