Hispanic Heritage month kicks off today and in honor, we took a look at some groundbreaking ladies who have made history through their work as politicians, activists and in pop culture. We can never get enough of our faves like Gloria Estefan and Selena, who put Latinas on the music map in the U.S. But we wanted to introduce you to some lesser known ladies who have had equally fabulous firsts.
Dolores del Río
Often credited as the first Latin crossover actress in Hollywood in the 1920s, Dolores made a name for Latinas on the big screen. She took what she learned stateside and brought it back to Mexico, kicking off the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema from 1936 to 1959. She was instrumental in popularizing Mexican cinema throughout all of Latin America. And if you thought J.Lo was versatile, Dolores’ multi-faceted career spanned silent film, the first “talkies”, TV, and radio.
Baez is known for bringing folk music back into the spotlight in America. Her lyrics pack a punch and she’s not afraid to tackle issues like civil rights and environmental protection. Fluent in both Spanish and English, she has also recorded songs from some of our favorite Latina folk singers, like Violeta Parra. She also joined the select group of Latinos in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!
Laura Martinez Harring
After living in Mexico until she was 10, Laura relocated to San Antonio, Texas where she went on to become Miss Texas. In 1985, she became the first Latina to win Miss USA. After winning the title she set off on a trip through Asia and worked as a social worker in India. She also has a claim to fame in acting, where she’s most famous for her dual role in the complex psychological thriller, Mulholland Drive.
When you think of Miami—it’s probably the nightlife, Cuban sandwiches, and beaches that come to mind. But ice skating? Not so much. Nicknamed “Miami Ice,” Jennifer Rodriguez was the first Latina to win a medal during the Winter Olympics in speed skating. So next time you’re in Miami, you might want to pack your ice skates along with that bikini.
It’s no secret that we love Rita Moreno here at HipLatina! We didn’t want to leave her out of our pop culture firsts since she holds the impressive title of first and only Latina to earn an EGOT — Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. Her role in West Side Story was based heavily on Puerto Rican stereotypes at the time where the role required her to wear makeup to darken her complexion. But her Oscar win for that same role in 1961 put her in a spotlight that she has consistently used to fight racism and stereotypes.