Whether is be through a bullhorn or on a stage, from commencement ceremonies to award shows, these seven Latinas inspired us all with their words. Actresses like America Ferrera tell us to view our identity as our strength, not our weakness and activists like Dolores Huerta fight for the rights of farm workers. Then there’s first-gen student Brenda Alvarez-Lagunas, the daughter of farm workers who got a full-ride to Stanford for her efforts in school and gave an inspiring speech that went viral. We continue to celebrate the icons that have broken barriers and paved the way for future generations to succeed. Here are seven speeches that will give you all the feels and make you proud.
In 2019, America Ferrera gave a TED Talk on her life in the spotlight and how she learned to use her identity to her advantage rather than let it be an obstacle for her career. She spoke about how Hollywood does not depict what real people go through or how they actually live. “Who we see thriving in the world teaches us how to see ourselves, how to think about our own value, how to dream about our futures,” she says as she calls for more culturally diverse stories in the media.
Civil rights activist Dolores Huerta fought for the rights of migrant farmworkers in the U.S. She coined the phrase “Si Se Puede” and it’s become an empowering statement for overcoming what seems impossible. She is the co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association now known as the United Farm Workers and is considered one of the most influential labor activists of the 20th century.
Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres protected indigenous rights and fought against illegal logging and dam building near her community. In 2015, she received the Goldman Prize for Central and South America, considered one of the world’s most prestigious awards for grassroots environmental efforts. “We must shake our conscience free of the rapacious capitalism, racism, and patriarchy that will only assure our own self-destruction,” she said during the speech. She was shot and killed in her home by armed intruders on March 2, 2016.
Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez
Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez is the founder of Latina Rebels and author of For Brown Girls with Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts. In this speech she talks about the beauty and struggles of being bilingual, of not feeling like you belong in your homeland or the U.S., and the evolution of language in Latin America following colonization. “Spanglish is the language of my people” she exclaims, “In that tongue I carry resistance to both world, in that tongue I carry Spanglish.”
Mexican immigrant Larissa Martinez gave a powerful commencement speech challenging her peers to look past what the media portrays immigrants to be and see them for who they truly are: people. “People with dreams, aspirations, hopes, and loved ones. People like me.” Martinez goes on to share her story of coming to the U.S. and urges everyone to look through the lens of an undocumented immigrant trying to make a life in a new world.
Brenda Alvarez-Lagunas’ family came to the U.S. from Teloloapan, Mexico, to work the farms in Florida and she dedicated this viral speech to them. She brought out strawberries from the fields, representing “dirt”, “sweat” and the “blazing sun” among other motivators in her life. She was six years told when she joined her parents in the fields and shared “My motivation has been rooted in my migrant culture. I am the daughter of two farm workers who have worked tirelessly, sunup to sundown.” She was accepted into Stanford University on a full, four-year ride, something statistically she said wasn’t really supposed to happen. “Current statistics say that I should not make it. I am from a single-parent household and will be the first in my family to graduate from high school.”
Sonia Sotomayor is an associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. In this inspiring speech, Sotomayor discusses overcoming obstacles to reach her dreams and eventually, helping others do the same. “Your sense of compassion and moral courage would lead to a lifetime of humanitarian endeavor, and a passion for law would propel you to the highest court in the land,” she says and goes on to say how her life parallels with those who are graduating. She encourages students to “keep dreaming” and enjoy the process of new discoveries.