5 Latinas in U.S History We Bet You Didn’t Know About

from left to right: ana mendieta, emma tenayuca, gloria e. anzaldua, marta moreno-vega and pura belpre

Latina women have been part of U.S history since its founding. They’ve left their footprint on science, art, politics, and more. They’ve been an important part of U.S. history and through their presence and actions have represented the Latino community well, though you wouldn’t get that sense from the history books and historical narratives that often erases U.S. Latino contributions.

Part of correcting history is ensuring Latinas no longer go unrecognized. Luz put together a list of little-known Latinas who should be known. Read on and share widely.

Gloria E. Anzaldúa

Gloria E. Anzald\u00faa

Source: The University of Arizona

Gloria was a queer Chicana writer/poet who questioned her place in the white patriarchal system. Her work was significant for the feminist movement, where she ventured into the loss of identity, race issues, and womanhood. For her work, Anzaldúa was awarded the Lambda Lesbian Small Book Press Award, a Sappho Award of Distinction, and an NEA Fiction Award, among others.

Pura Belpré

Pura Belpr\u00e9 holding puppets

Source: NPR

She was the first Puerto Rican librarian to work in the New York Public Library system. Pura Belpré brought Spanish language stories to Latino children and noticed the lack of representation for kids and decided to write stories for them.

She read stories both in Spanish and in English, giving Latino children the opportunity to listen to amazing stories and become passionate about storytelling. Her talent brought joy to the young and recognition to children who wanted to hear tales in a language other than English.

Ana Mendieta

Ana Mendieta holding photos

Source: Zona Franca

Ana Mendieta was a Cuban-American artist that tested the limits of art. Her work was a reflection of her loss of identity when migrating to the U.S and the violence women are subjected to. Mendieta created photos, performances, and art that spoke about her grievances and shared her feminist views. In 1978 Mendieta joined Artists in Residence Inc (A.I.R. Gallery), the first gallery for women in the United States, where she criticized the mostly white feminist movement that they represented.

Emma Tenayuca

Emma Tenayuca

Source: Lit hub

Emma Tenayuca was a Mexican American woman who pushed forward civil rights. As a labor organizer, she led and inspired women in Texas to strike and demand better work conditions in the 1930s. She fought for Mexican Americans who were discriminated against when applying to New Deal jobs and aid programs that were supposed to help workers recover from the Depression. Her activism inspired workers to fight for dignified lives and their own civil rights.

Marta Moreno-Vega

Marta Moreno-Vega, daughter of Puerto Rican parents of Yoruba descent, established the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI) in 1976. An organization that promotes cultural equity, racial and social justice for African descendant communities. Her work focuses on making known the heritage of African people and its impact on the world while also lifting up those severely unheard voices.

a photograph of Gloria Anzaldúa with a hat with the sea behind her

In the heart of the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, a beacon of hope and resilience was born. On September 26, 1942, Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa came into a world that wasn't quite ready for her. As a Chicana, a lesbian, and a feminist, Anzaldúa was set to challenge a predominantly Anglo-American and heteronormative society in a way that would forever change the discourse surrounding queer and Chicano identities.

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