24 Latinx Pop Culture and Political Milestones of the 2010s

The Latinx population has grown immensely in the past decade and with such power comes success and triumphs

AOC Capitol Riot

Photo: Flickr/Ståle Grut NRKbeta

The Latinx population has grown immensely in the past decade and with such power comes success and triumphs. This slideshow is all about Latinx milestones achieved throughout the 2010s in pop culture and politics. From the historic election of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to the massive success of Hamilton to “Despacito” shattering records, Latinx have made themselves seen and heard by millions. This list is not exhaustive but it does highlight some of the most important moments for the Latinx community that made history and/or broke records.

As we close out this decade in the midst of political turmoil, a border crisis, and DREAMers holding out for hope as DACA’s future remains unclear, it’s these triumphs that stand as reminders of what we’ve accomplished.


Latinos will be the largest minority ethnic or racial group in the electorate


In 2014, Latinos officially became the largest ethnic group in California, according to the Census Bureau. The results showed that on July 1, 2014, about 14.99 million Latinos/ living in California, just barely edging out the 14.92 million white people. California became the first large state and the third overall — following Hawaii and New Mexico — without a white majority, according to state officials. In Texas, the white population still dominates but barely, with a majority of 43 percent to 38.8 percent of Latinos. According to Pew Research Center, 69 counties had a Latinx majority in 2018. Nearly one in three U.S. residents will be Latinx by 2060, with minorities, including Asians and Latinx making up nearly 60 percent of the U.S. population. In 2020, there will be 32 million eligible Latinx voters in the U.S.


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez becomes the youngest woman to serve in U.S. Congress

In 2018, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman to serve in U.S. Congress when she was elected as a House representative for New York’s 14th District. In addition to being the youngest, she’s also known as the first representative to truly reflect the demographics of the 14th District which is about 50 percent Latinx. “Our district is 70 percent people of color, and we have never had a person of color represent us in American history,” she told NowThis. Known for her progressive politics, she’s become a major presence on social media, promoting policies including the Green New Deal and immigration and criminal justice reform. The Bronx native comes from a  working-class family with a Puerto Rican mom and dad who was a Bronx native of Puerto Rican descent and has become one of the most powerful Latinas in politics.


Cardi B is the first solo female artist & Latina to win a Grammy for Best Rap Album

Earlier this year, Dominican-Trinidadian rapper Cardi B, 27, made history when she became the first solo rapper to win for best rap album for her debut Invasion of Privacy. The only other woman to win in the past was Lauryn Hill as part of the hip-hop group Fugees in 1997. She received five nominations including Album of the Year, Song of the Year (“I Like It”), Best Rap Performance (“Be Careful”), and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for the Maroon 5 collab “Girls Like You.” But the record-breaking rapper didn’t stop there, she kicked off 2018 by becoming the first woman to have five top 10 singles simultaneously on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart. In September of 2017, “Bodak Yellow” topped Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, making it the first solo female song to hit No. 1 since Lauryn Hill’s “Doo Wop (That Thing)” in 1998. She also recently became the first female rapper to make it on the cover of Vogue, where she was featured holding daughter, Kulture.


Julián Castro was the only Latino Democratic presidential candidate for 2020

Democrat Julián Castro announced his 2020 presidential campaign in early 2019 as the sole Latino running for president. The former housing secretary and former mayor of San Antonio has been a vocal critic of Trump and a supporter of policies for immigration reform. He is of Mexican descent and has been open about not speaking Spanish fluently as a result of the discrimination Spanish speakers faced when he was growing up. “We say no to building a wall and say yes to building community. We say no to scapegoating immigrants and yes to Dreamers, yes to keeping families together, and yes to finally passing comprehensive immigration reform,” Castro said. Republicans Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz — both of Cuban descent — ran for president in 2016.


The massive success of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton

The phenomenon that became Hamilton was actually only supposed to have a month-long limited run when it debuted in 2015 but it quickly won over thousands upon thousands of fans, thanks to the original music, lyrics, and book by Puerto Rican playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda. In 2016, it won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama and 11 Tonys (with a record-breaking 16 noms) as well as a Grammy. The show is as much financial success as an artistic one, earning an average of $500K per week and estimated to have made more than $1 billion in New York alone. “I was swept up by the story. I thought it ‘out-Dickens’ Dickens in the unlikeliness of this man’s rise from his humble beginnings in Nevis in the Caribbean, changing and helping shape our young nation. And it’s uniquely an immigrant story and it’s uniquely a story about writers,” Miranda said. His first play, In the Heights, was also a Broadway hit and this year he began filming for the film adaptation coming out in the summer of 2020 and judging by the trailer, it’s also going to be a hit.


Tournament of roses elects first Latina President & Latina Co-Grand Marshals

In 2019 Laura Farber became the first Latina to become the president for the Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena in its 130-year history. The Argentinean-American worked her way up having been involved with the tournament for 26 years before taking on the role and she decided the theme of the parade would be “The Power of Hope.” “At a time when the country and the world is most divided, our celebration and our parade will bring everyone together,” Farber said. Latinx dominated in more ways than one with the announcement that there would be three grand marshals for 2020, and they’re all Latinas: icon Rita Moreno, actress Gina Torres, and Olympic gold medalist Laurie Hernandez.


Latinos/as made huge strides in local Government

In the past decade, the Latinx community has grown tremendously in the U.S. and though there’s still a ways to go as far as representation in government goes, the following politicians have made strides. New York’s Adriano Espaillat made history in 2017 when he became the first formerly undocumented immigrant and first Dominican-American sworn into Congress. The following year, Wendy Carrillo became one of the first Salvadorans sworn into California’s State Assembly and undocumented immigrant Lizbeth Mateo, an attorney and activist, was appointed to an advisory committee in California. Also in 2017, 35-year-old Air Force veteran Bruno “Ralphy” Lozano made history by becoming the first openly gay Latino candidate and the youngest elected to public office in Del Rio, a town in South Texas. Nury Martinez makes history in 2019 as the first Latina president of the L.A. City Council.  Peruvian-American Elizabeth Guzman and Hala Ayala were two of the first Latinas elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. Mexican-American Catherine Cortez Masto is the first Latina senator in the country as well as the first female senator of Nevada. In 2014, Cuban-American Mayra Peña Lindsay became the first female and first Latina Mayor of Key Biscayne, an island town in Florida. 


Sofia Vergara Named World’s Highest-Paid TV Actress for Seven Years in a Row

Colombian actress Sofia Vergara’s iconic role as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett on Modern Family has made her the highest-paid TV actress for seven straight years making$42.5 million. The hit ABC comedy isn’t her only source of income though, she also has endorsement and licensing deals that make up about 50 percent of the millions she’s making annually. In in 2019 she added another source of cash flow: her eponymous clothing and denim line with Walmart. Her endorsement deals (past and present) include Pepsi, Head & Shoulders, Ninja Coffee Bar, Covergirl, Cerveza Aguila, and furniture chain Rooms To Go.  In 2019 she was the second-highest paid actress (and only Latina) after Scarlett Johansson making $44.1 million.


Elizabeth Acevedo is First Woman of Color to Win Carnegie Medal

Dominican author Elizabeth Acevedo made history when in 2019 she won the prestigious Carnegie Medal for her debut book The Poet X. The British literary award goes to an outstanding English-language book for children or young adults and for the first time in its 83-year history it went to a woman of color. The win was that much more special considering the book – written in verse – is about an Afro-Latina. This historic moment came two years after the award was criticized for releasing a 20-book longlist of nominees that were all white writers. Acevedo is one of the most successful YA writers and Latinx authors of the last couple of years and her books – including her follow-up With the Fire on High and the upcoming Clap When you Land – all feature Afro-Latina leads.


DACA Launches in 2012 Aiding More than 800K Undocumented Immigrants


The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was created in 2012  during the Obama Administration to help undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. when they were children. It grants immigrants 31 years old and younger (in 2012) who came to the U.S. as children, a way to avoid deportation and get work permits renewable every two years. As of June of this year, the latest federal data show that there are 660,880 DACA recipients across the country, primarily in Los Angeles, New York, and Dallas. Since the program launched, roughly 800,000 undocumented immigrants have benefited from the program but it’s unclear if the program will continue in 2020 as the Trump administration has attempted to repeal the it.


Yalitza Aparicio is First Indigenous Latina Nominated for Best Actress Oscar

Roma actress Yalitza Aparicio made waves in her debut acting role in the Oscar-winning film and was recognized with an Oscar nod herself in 2019, becoming the first indigenous Latina to receive a nomination. The 26-year-old Oaxacan native was also named one of the 100 most influential people in the world that year by TIME. The former kindergarten teacher was on the cover of major magazines and became a figure for the indigenous community eventually being named the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Indigenous People. She is the second Mexican woman to receive a Best Actress Oscar nomination, Salma Hayek was nominated for her starring role in Frida.


Vogue Features Indigenous Women from Latin America on the Cover

Vogue México y Latinoamérica has been highlighting high fashion for decades and for its 20th anniversary special they had six covers including three featuring indigenous women from Latin America. The women included María Lorena Ramírez a runner and member of the Rarámuri tribe in the state of Chihuahua in Mexico; Cholitas Escaladoras who climb mountains in Bolivia; and Zapotec chef Abigail Mendoza Ruiz, renowned for her expertise in the indigenous cuisine common in Oaxaca. Later that year, they also featured a Zapotec woman known as a “muxe” for the first time ever. In Dec. 2018 Yalitza Aparicio became the first indigenous woman to make the cover of the magazine.


“Despacito” by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee is a Massive, Global Success

“Despacito” by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee (and later remixed with Justin Beiber) is a famous earworm which is why it became one of the most successful songs of the entire decade. Released in 2017, it became the most-watched Youtube video of all time with more than 3 billion views. It remained in the No.1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 for 16 weeks, tying with “One Sweet Day” by Mariah Carey featuring Boyz II Men for most weeks at the top. Its multi-genre appeal also made the third Spanish-language song in history to get to the No.1 spot in the U.S. and it also  became the Latin song with the most wins ever in the history of the Billboard Music Awards. To say you could hear it everywhere is an understatement – its global reach meant non-Spanish speakers everywhere knew at least one Spanish word that they’d sing on repeat. 


Alfonso Cuarón Makes Oscar History for his work on Roma

Alfonso Cuarón’s 2018 film Roma won the Oscar for best film but it was Cuarón’s nominations for director and cinema in the same year for the same film that made history. But he wasn’t only nominated, he won for both categories: “I want to thank the academy for recognizing a film center around an indigenous woman. One of the 70 million domestic workers in the world without works, without work rights, a character that historically had been really relegated in the background in cinema. As artists, our job is to look where others don’t. This responsibility becomes much more important in times when we are being encouraged to look away,” he said during his win. He was also nominated for best original screenplay, his second nomination in that category following his 2003 nom for Y Tu Mamá También. 


The Massive Success of John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons

John Leguizamo’s award-winning one-man show Latin History for Morons was inspired by the lack of education on Latin history, something he realized because of his own son’s lack of education on the contributions made by Latinos/as. He began educating himself and in the process developed the show to carve a space to discuss Latin history and contributions. The 90-minute long play covers 3,000 years of history, from the Aztec and Incan empires and highlighting Latinx pioneers and activists from Desi Arnaz of I Love Lucy to iconic artist Frida Kahlo to civil rights activist Sylvia Mendez. The show was awarded a special Tony and is also a Netflix special. “Education is the first step to empowerment,” Leguizamo told NBC News in an earlier interview. “We need to see the power of our contributions to feel more inside ourselves, more inside our bodies, more inside our culture. And now [after the experience of putting together “Latin History for Morons”] I feel like we Latinx people created America.”


Cristela Alonzo Makes TV History with her Primetime Comedy Series

Mexican-American comedian Cristela Alonzo wrote and starred in Cristela, an ABC series that aired for one season 2014-2015. She became the first Latina to ever star and write in her own prime time comedy show, which she also co-created and executive produced. “I think with Latinos, we are just at that time where we’re finally a big enough number that you can’t ignore that we’re here anymore. We’re such a big part of the country that you have to have something, someone [on TV] that represents who we are,” she told NALIP. Though the series didn’t last, she made her mark in TV history and helped pave the way for Latinx representation on TV. She recently released a memoir, Music to My Years: A Mixtape Memoir of Growing Up and Standing Up, and is currently co-starring with  Lin-Manuel Miranda on HBO’s His Dark Materials.


Jharrel Jerome Became the First Ever Afro-Latino to Win an Emmy

Dominican actor Jharrel Jerome made history when the 21-year-old Bronx native became the first Afro-Latino to win an Emmy for acting for his role in When They See Us. “It’s an honor,” he said backstage after his win. “It’s a blessing, and I hope this is a step forward for Dominicans, for Latinos, for Afro-Latinos. It’s about time we are here.” The four-part series on Netflix told the story of the wrongful conviction of five teenage boys of color in the Central Park Five (now the Exonerated Five) case in 1989. Jerome was acclaimed for his portrayal of Korey Wise and he was the only actor who played both the teen and the adult  version of his character.


J Balvin is First Latino Headliner at Lollapalooza

In 2019 Colombian reggaeton singer J Balvin became the first Latino headliner for Lollapalooza. In the music festival’s 28-year history there had been Latinx performers but never a headliner until this year. Balvin tweeted about the historic moment saying, “This is dedicated to dreamers to Latinos and those who know that in life everything is cause and effect, and that we deserve to be here.” Earlier this year, Balvin was also the first reggaeton star to perform on Saturday Night Live, and first reggaeton act to perform on the main stage at Coachella. In 2018  Balvin was the most streamed artist worldwide on Spotify with 3 billion streams and 131 million fans.  Another milestone to celebrate is how Latin music listening increased by 110 percent in 2017, according to Spotify.


Adrienne Bailon is First Latina Daytime TV Host on English-language television

Former Cheetah Girl Adrienne Bailon-Houghton is the first Latina daytime TV host in an English-language show thanks to her work on talk show The Real. The Ecuadorian-Puerto Rican singer/actress started out when she was 14 as the lead singer of R&B girl group, 3LW back in 2001 and later became even popular as part of the girl group and Disney Channel film, The Cheetah Girls. She’d had experience as a host with work on BET’s 106 and Park as well as on VH1’s Morning Buzz throughout the 2010s as well as host of Nail’d It!, a nail art competition show. In 2014 she became an official co-host of the Fox talk show The Real with Loni Love, Jeannie Mai, and Tamera Mowry-Housley. Since then the show has won a Daytime Emmy and NAACP awards and been recognized for elevating the voices of women of color on television.


Disney Debuts Elena of Avalor, Their First-Ever Latina Princess

Princess Elena Castillo Flores made her debut on the Disney channel show Elena of Avalor, and though she hasn’t made it to the big screen (yet!) she still made history as the first-ever Latina Disney princess. Actress Aimee Carrero, whose mother is Dominican and father Puerto Rican, voices the animated princess: “We’ve been waiting a long time for this – not just our generation, but many generations before us,” she told Fox News Latino. The 16-year-old princess rules her magical kingdom alongside her sister, Princess Isabel, and her grandparents Francisco and Luisa. In addition to the expected (music with Latin influences) there’s also other elements of Latin culture including the character of Zuzo, a fox that acts as a spirit guide. The character is inspired by the Mayan belief that everyone has a kindred spirit in the animal word. Earlier this year, the network also debuted the first ever Jewish Latina princess played by Cuban-Jewish actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler.


The Success of Latinx Shows Like Jane the Virgin, Vida, and One Day at a Time

Latinx representation on television has historically been limited and a majority of the Latino/a roles that existed were stereotypes. Shows like Jane the Virgin and One Day at a Time -which premiered 2014 and 2017, respectively – showed a nuanced portrayal of a Latinx family played by Latinx actors. From religion to sexuality to machismo and other cultural issues not often seen on the small screen, these award-winning shows told our stories in an authentic way with the help of Latinx writers (also a rarity in Hollywood). Meanwhile, Vida is the first show to have an all-Latinx cast and crew with story lines that prominently featured brujeria and Latinx LGBTQ relationships. Other successful Latinx shows to premiere during the last decade include Charmed (reboot), Devious Maids, Los Espookys, Mr. Iglesias, Seis Manos, Undone, and The Casagrandes.


The Rising Success of Latina Entrepreneurs and Businesses

Latinas are no stranger to the hustle but in the last decade they showed up in the business world like never before. Latina-majority owned businesses totaled nearly 1.5 million, representing an 87 percent growth over the past five years in 2017, more than Latino-owned firms (39 percent) and women-owned firms (27 percent). For every 10 women-owned businesses launched since 2007, eight were owned by WOC, according to the 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report. Latinas like Julissa Prado of Rizos Curls, Patty Delgado of Hija de tu Madre, Rachel Gomez of Viva la Bonita, and Brittany Castro with ShopLatinx are just some of the young Latinas making jefa moves in the traditionally white, male-dominated world of business.


The Creation of Comic Book Latinx Superheroes

Puerto Rican graphic novelist and Marvel writer Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez created Puerto Rican comic book superhero La Borinqueña in 2016 and she made her first appearance at the National Puerto Rican Day Parade with a costume featuring the colors of the Puerto Rican flag. She was created in response to the humanitarian crisis happening in Puerto Rico and resonated with thousands of fans leading to a second graphic novel release in 2018.  Earlier this year it was revealed that Miranda-Rodriguez had been working with actor John Leguizamo to create another comic book character named PhenomX.


Jennifer Lopez and Shakira Headline Super Bowl Half-Time 2020


J.Lo and Shakira earned the coveted opportunity to headline the Super Bowl Half-Time show for 2020 happening Feb. 2 in Miami. Though in recent years many artists have denied the chance to headline in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, there’s no denying this is a major moment for the Latinx community. This marks the first time two Latinas will headline the show in the Super Bowl’s 54-year history and they’re the fifth and sixth Latino/a performers to the headline the show. Cuban icon Gloria Estefan was the first Latino/a performer in 1992 and again in 1999 followed by Christina Aguilera and Enrique Iglesias in 2000. The announcement comes the same year as JLo celebrates her acclaimed role in Hustlers and came off her “It’s My Party” tour in honor of her 50th birthday. But these two fierce Latinas won’t be the only Latinx on the stage, they’ll be joined by Swing Latino, a salsa dancing academy from Cali, Colombia.

In this Article

Latinx history Latinxs in Hollywood Latinxs in music Latinxs in politics
More on this topic