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Meet Three WOC Who Won the MacArthur “Genius” Award


Every year, since 1981, the MacArthur Fellows Program has awarded more than a thousand people a significant monetary award to people who are creating a positive change through their work. In other words, the MacArthur Award is a huge deal, that’s why it’s exciting to hear that three of the recipients of the MacArthur Fellows Award for 2019 are Latinas!

Twenty-six people were named MacArthur Fellows this year, each will get $625,000, and the two Latinas include writer Valeria Luiselli and neuroscientist Vanessa Ruta.

Other women of color who were granted the award this year include attorney and restorative justice practitioner Sujatha Baliga, literary scholar and cultural historian Saidiya Hartman, and evolutionary anthropologist and geneticist Jenny Tung.

You may be wondering how someone gets awarded this prestigious award. The MacArthur Award Program takes this process very seriously. Each year they pick between 20 and 30 people who show “exceptional creativity, show promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishments, and show the potential for the Fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.”

All of that is to say is the people awarded this year are doing exceptional work in their field, and the MacArthur Award Program is finally recognizing that. Meet two Latinas that wholeheartedly deserve this award and congratulations to the other women of color who were also recognized for their amazing work!

Valeria Luiselli, 36, Writer, Bard College Annandale-on-Hudson, New York 


The MacArthur Fellows Program states that Luiselli is “Challenging conventional notions of authorship in fiction, essays, and inventive hybrids of the two that pose profound questions about the various ways we piece together stories and document the lives of others.”

Kelly Lytle Hernández, 45, Historian, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles

The MacArthur Fellows Program states Hernández is “Challenging long-held beliefs about the origins, ideology, and evolution of incarceration and immigrant detention practices in the United States.”

Vanessa Ruta, 45, Neuroscientist, Rockefeller University, New York

The MacArthur Fellows Program states that Ruta is “Investigating how stimuli in the physical world shape the function of neural circuits and are translated into innate and learned behaviors.”

Sandra Cisneros, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Junot Díaz have also been named MacArthur Fellows in the past.

Back in 2015, when Miranda was named a MacArthur Fellow, he tweeted, “Gmorning. My sister told my nephew that his tío got an award for being a genius. Is Tío a genius? His response,” his tweet said. Then the video in the tweet shows his nephew saying, “Maybe. Yes, he is! They all are! Congrats to all the winners!

EDITOR’S NOTE: 

October 2, 2019: HipLatina wrongfully stated that Kelly Lytle Hernández was one of the three Latinas to be awarded the MacArthur “Genius” Award. Kelly Lytle Hernández is not Latina. We have updated the article to reflect that.