Our Take

Celebrating Latinx Leaders

Latinx leaders have shaped history and continue to make history all year round—far beyond a single month on the calendar. As the official Latinx Heritage Month draws to a close, we’re reflecting on some of the activists, artists, and others whose lives and accomplishments influence and inspire us every day of the year.

César Chávez

“In the late ‘70s and then again in the mid ‘80s, we did not eat grapes in our house, in support of the striking farm workers, led by César Chávez and others. His ability to translate words into action and to spread the movement far, far beyond geographical boundaries is still a lesson to all of us today.”

Ari Rozman, Founding Partner

Frida Kahlo

“‘They thought I was a Surrealist but I wasn’t,’ the artist Frida Kahlo once said. ‘I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.’ And man, what a reality it was, full of incredible complexity and contradiction: pain intertwined with passion, lust for life streaked with shadows of death, beauty and ugliness interlocked. Kahlo captured it all in a way no one else had while defying the full catalog of gender stereotypes and cultural conventions. I find so much to admire in her: her bravery, her vision, her perseverance, her spirit—and of course her art.”

—David Keeling, Founding Partner

Patria, María Teresa, and Minerva Mirabal

“The Mirabal sisters were integral members of an underground group working to overthrow the 30-year dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic in the 1950s. Known as "Las Mariposas," they joined the resistance on the premise that they could not allow their children to grow up in the corrupt regime they were living under. Growing up in the States, I knew that my mom's family had found a way to leave the DR in the aftermath of Trujillo's assassination, but did not know until later on what a key role these three strong women—Patria, María Teresa, and Minerva—had played in mobilizing the resistance that led to his downfall. The sisters were assassinated on November 25, 1960 by Trujillo's secret police force, but not formally recognized for their efforts until 1997, when they were granted recognition as martyrs in history textbooks. They continue to be icons of popular and feminist resistance in the DR and beyond.”

Elysa Severinghaus, Executive Director and Navigator, Boston

Sylvia Mendez

“I took an educational law class in grad school that introduced me to the landmark case Mendez v. Westminster, in which Sylvia Mendez’s parents sued an all-white school district when they denied Sylvia and her siblings entry. I’d always thought Brown v. Board of Education was the first case of its kind, but I learned that Sylvia Mendez and her family set a lasting precedent, and I’m very grateful for their leadership and courage.

Whitney Henderson, Navigator-in-Chief

Rita Moreno

“One of the most influential Latinx figures in my life is Rita Moreno. Rita Moreno is a well-known Puerto Rican actress who starred in West Side Story, but a lot of people tend to be unaware of just how much of what a powerhouse exactly she is. She was the first Latina ‘EGOT’—an individual who has won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. There are only 15 EGOT winners in history! She also won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004 and the National Medal of Arts in 2009. In interviews, Rita often talks about how there were no role models for her to look up to in the media when she was younger, which is why she’s grateful that she gets to be a role model to so many young Latina women. Actresses like Jennifer Lopez and Rosie Perez have openly shared that they felt they had a viable chance at a career in Hollywood because of the path that Rita Moreno trailblazed.”

—Ileana Ortiz, New Orleans Navigator

Pablo Neruda

“Pablo Neruda was one of the first poets I ever really gravitated toward. Though Neruda was Chilean, I first read his writing on a trip to Spain in college. His poems helped me feel connected to the country I was in, which was new to me. But they also helped me feel connected to the ones I loved back home. Plus, the diversity of his work was always inspiring to me.”

—Meghan Stroh, New Orleans Navigator

Sonia Sotomayor 

“The first Latina to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Sotomayor is a true powerhouse when it comes to protecting the rights of Americans from all backgrounds. She has famously asserted that a judge’s personal experiences shape their decisions—and been criticized for that point of view by some—but it’s exactly why I’m so grateful to have her voice and experiences represented in our nation’s highest court.”

—Kate McGovern, Editorial Director