Latinas in the U.S. have made significant contributions to various fields – from music and politics to space travel. Their stories of perseverance, strength and determination serve as an inspiration to many. Here are five Latina women you should know:
- Celia Cruz – Celia Cruz was a Cuban-American singer and the “Queen of Salsa” who became one of the most popular Latin music artists of the 20th century. Her career spanned six decades and she won multiple awards, including several Grammy Awards.
Now, Cruz is being honored by the United States by minting her image in the back of the U.S. quarter.
- Ellen Ochoa – Ellen Ochoa is an American engineer who, in 1993, became the first Hispanic female astronaut while aboard the Discovery shuttle. Ochoa made three space flights and spent nearly 1,000 hours in space. Ochoa was also the first Hispanic director of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, from 2013 to 2018, where she oversaw the development and implementation of NASA’s missions and programs.
Ochoa’s remarkable career as an astronaut and engineer not only broke barriers for Hispanic women in STEM, but also served as an inspiration for all women who aspire to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
- Katya Echazarreta – Katya Echazarreta is a Mexican-American electrical engineer and was chosen from 7,000 applicants to be one of the first citizen-astronauts in the world. At the age of 7, Echazarreta moved to San Diego, California, from Mexico, where she was raised. Echazarreta eventually worked at McDonald’s to help her family while being unable to attend college.
However, she worked hard and studied at a local community college, finally saving enough to attend a master’s program in electrical engineering at Johns Hopkins University. Today, while still in her 20s, Echazarreta is encouraging young people to pursue their dreams. There is no telling what Echazarreta will accomplish.
- Susana Martinez: Susana Martinez is a Mexican-American politician from New Mexico who faced multiple challenges while growing up. Her parents divorced when she was young, and her father passed away when she was only 18 years old. She also worked at her family’s security business as a guard to help provide for her family and older sister who had cerebral palsy and was developmentally disabled.
Despite these challenges, Martinez went on to earn a law degree and became a prosecutor. Her experience as a prosecutor propelled her into politics, and she ran for governor of New Mexico. However, some criticized her lack of experience in state-wide politics and questioned her ability to govern.
Nevertheless, Martinez persevered and became the first Latina governor in the United States. Martinez is a reminder to all Americans that anything is possible with hard work and determination.
- Mary Castro – Mary Castro was the first Mexican-American woman to enlist in the U.S. Army during World War II. She was born in El Paso, Texas, in 1924 and grew up during the Great Depression. In 1943, she joined the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) as a clerk-typist and stenographer for high-ranking military officials.
While today, countless Hispanic women proudly serve in the U.S. armed forces, Castro helped break down barriers for future generations of Latinas to serve in the military and make their mark. Her legacy is one of courage, perseverance and service to her country.
Latina women have made indispensable contributions to American society. From cultural enrichment and patriotism to venturing beyond our borders into the stars, there is nothing Latina women can’t accomplish. These women serve as an inspiration for all Americans to work hard and achieve their dreams.