The bronze statue of Adelfa Callejo, a staunch civil rights advocate believed to be the first practicing Latina lawyer in Dallas, will soon land in a downtown park — right next to the University of North Texas Dallas College of Law and the municipal court building.
A Dallas City Council committee on Tuesday accepted the $100,000 sculpture as a donation with plans to place it in Main Street Garden. It would be Dallas’ first sculpture of a Latina, according to city staffers.
Dallas city officials and the Botello-Callejo Foundation Board agreed to the new location after Mayor Pro Tem Adam Medrano quietly delayed the plan to place it in the lobby of the Dallas Love Field Airport, which is in his district. Medrano didn’t respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
The Dallas City Council is expected to approve the donation at its Feb. 12 meeting. The board wanted to tie the sculpture’s public unveiling to the six-year anniversary of Callejo’s death, which was in January 2014, after a battle with brain cancer.
The foundation’s board commissioned the roughly 1,000-pound piece by Mexican artist Germán Michel shortly after she died. It is currently being stored in a Dallas warehouse.
Callejo’s nephew J.D. Gonzales said he was thrilled the sculpture will be downtown near the university, where it’ll be visible to students and attest to her trailblazing in education and law.
“I hope that what Adelfa stood for, and what she did and what she accomplished lives on forever,” Gonzales said.
Monica Lira Bravo, chairwoman of the Botello-Callejo Foundation Board, said she met with Medrano and Council member Omar Narvaez last month to discuss where to place the sculpture.
Lira Bravo said she suggested Main Street Garden Park as an alternative after the two council members expressed concerns over the Dallas Love Field Airport option.
Reynaldo Rivera didn’t pick up a camera with the intention of making art. The Yashica he retrieved from a pile of his father’s things was a way of bringing order to a peripatetic life that had him bouncing between the care of his mother, his grandmother and his father, between Mexicali and Los Angeles, between Stockton and San Diego de la Unión, a small, agricultural outpost in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato.
“I did it out of this need to have something stable in my life,” he says. “Photography makes time stand still. And for someone who has had a crazy life, hectic and moving (I left home when I was very young), it gave me some kind of normalcy. … It allowed me to freeze time in moments that were special to me, and I was able to relive them over and over.”
Those frozen moments are the slivers of Los Angeles of the 1980s and ‘90s, pieces of city that no longer exist or have been rendered unrecognizable.
For Rivera’s L.A. was a city of $300 apartments and low-budget art happenings. It was a singer roaring into a mic at a house party. It was a turbaned performer swaddled in feathers, staring imperiously at the camera.
The book gathers 190 images from Rivera’s early career, a time when he was avidly recording his milieu for no purpose other than his own. Rivera photographed artists, writers and curators hamming it up at apartment parties, post-punk bands rocking club stages and Latino drag queens and trans performers in shining gowns putting on resplendent floor shows in old-school Silver Lake bars. It’s a milieu that, like Los Angeles, is largely Latino — straddling both sides of a border along with its in-between states.
Rivera, whose career has been as peripatetic as his life, has shown his work infrequently. But as L.A. has evolved and the neighborhoods he once frequented have been gentrified — and the Latino presence in those neighborhoods has been overwritten — he says he felt an urgency to publish a record of the city as it once was.
“To find things about Latinos, you have to read other people’s footnotes,” he says. “I wanted a book about us in L.A. where we are not the footnote.”
Our Latinx community is full of talent. From musicians to writers, and everything in between, Latinx are creative minds that continue thriving in their spaces while opening paths to their audiences to do the same.
It is a fruitful cycle that will only continue to ignite our upcoming talents — and in this case, we see it exemplified through the experience of Florida-born and Bolivian author Isabel Ibañez.
Ibañez made her debut in the publishing world last year, with her book Woven in Moonlight, which TIME categorized 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time, praising “every detail is rich with meaning and nuance.”
The wave of praise she received for her second book, Written in Starlight, which just came out this month, is much more than anticipated. As a result, we had
(Photo courtesy of Isabel Ibañez)
to dig into Ibañez’s mind to see what and how this author embraces in her Latinx roots, what inspirations she gives to upcoming authors, and of course, how she is staying creative during this pandemic.
Here’s what she had to say!
Tell us about yourself and how your Bolivian roots inspired you both as a writer and in your newest work, Written in Starlight.
Both my books draw from my personal experience of growing up in Bolivia, where most of my family lives. To me, Bolivia is a vibrant and colorful place, with delicious food and incredible art, deeply rooted in artisanal crafting and weaving. Writing about a place I love so much felt natural to me — because my upbringing really shaped me to embrace all aspects of my heritage.
This story is particularly special to me, as it’s primarily inspired by my father and where he was born and raised — the Bolivian Amazon. This book is filled with the foods he ate, what his home looked like, even the bamboo stalks he slept on. It has the river that runs like veins through his pueblo, and where he traveled by canoe.
Written In Starlight also features a lost city — Paititi — that was once thought to be in Bolivia. I’ve always been fascinated by this legend, and I think the last known explorer to go searching for it went into the Bolivian Amazon in 1997, and he never came back out. I don’t know if this city will ever be found and where, but it felt like the perfect home for the Illari, who were largely inspired by Andean peoples in the Bolivian region who were conquered and displaced by the Incas.
The former curator at the Louvre in Paris will take on the task of reinvigorating the struggling museum, which has been closed for renovations since 2017.
Guillaume Kientz, a Velázquez and El Greco expert and former curator at the Louvre in Paris, has been named director and chief executive of the Hispanic Society Museum & Library in New York, which boasts one of the world’s greatest collections of Spanish art and literature but has faced financial struggles and has been closed
(Image credit – Robert LaPrelle/The New York Times)
since 2017 for renovations.
“The Hispanic Society Museum & Library is on the cusp of transformation physically and intellectually,” Mr. Kientz said in an interview on Wednesday. “And now is the perfect time to rethink and rebuild the museum.”
Mr. Kientz succeeds Mitchell Codding, who retired on Sept. 30 after directing the organization for 25 years. Margaret Connors McQuade, the society’s assistant director and curator of decorative arts, had been serving as acting director.
The museum and reference library, which was founded in 1904 by the philanthropist Archer M. Huntington, has long struggled to raise its profile and better connect with its mainly Latino neighborhood in Washington Heights. Though the collection of roughly 750,000 paintings, manuscripts and other objects primarily celebrates art from Spain and Portugal and includes work by El Greco, Velázquez and Goya, the name suggests a connection to Latin America.
Are you still supporting diverse businesses this holiday season? Here are some gift ideas from Latinx-owned brands.
You might be hoping 2020 and all of its problems will disappear come the new year, and you wouldn’t be alone. While some things are starting to look up (we see you, coronavirus vaccine), we still have a lot of work to do for a more equitable society.
Supporting marginalized communities and voices of color shouldn’t be a one-time thing. It’s important to continue educating ourselves and others through reading books about anti-racism and activism, donating to organizations that support BIPOC, women and queer folks, and by supporting Latinx-owned businesses.
This holiday season, continue supporting Latinx-owned businesses and brands while checking off a few gifts from your holiday shopping list. After all, where you choose to
(Image credit – society6)
spend your money can make a powerful statement, and perhaps you’ll inspire the person who gets your gift to do the same.
For inspo, there are plenty of Latinx-owned jewelry brands on Etsy if you’re looking to give the gift of glamour. We’ve also found prints and paintings by Latinx artists and books by Latinx authors that are perfect for the creatives in your life.
Visit HuffPost to see the 15 best gift ideas from Latinx-Owned Brands.
This year has been a huge year for Zoom, as families and friends around the world have turned to the video chat service to stay in touch during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Microsoft Teams just barreled into the room to make Zoom look a little silly by comparison.
According to The Verge, Microsoft’s primarily business-focused video call app is getting a free tier with a 24-hour time limit on calls just in time for the holidays.
As many as 300 people can jam into one room, with a gallery view that can display up to 49 of them on one screen. (Zoom has a max of 100 participants for Basic and Pro users.) There’s also a feature called Together Mode that will arrange everyone’s video feeds so it looks like they’re sitting together in a theater or coffee shop. If your family is that big, feel free to go nuts with Microsoft Teams — and good luck following the conversation.
Calls can be started and joined from a web browser so you don’t need to download an app. Whoever starts the call will need a Microsoft account, which you should have on hand if you’ve ever used Office or an Xbox but is pretty easy to set up if you haven’t. Crucially, folks who don’t have Microsoft accounts can join calls.
Continue on to Mashable to read the complete article.
This inspiring group of innovators is changing the Latinx community’s perspective, featuring plus-size model Ady Del Valle, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, WNBA Diana Taurasi, writer, actor, rapper, and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda and activist Luis Miranda, supreme court judge Sonia Sotomayor, fiction and non-fiction author Carmen Maria Machado.
Luis A. Miranda, Jr., left and Lin-Manuel Miranda at the
IMDb Studio at Acura Festival Village.
(Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Acura)
Lin-Manuel Miranda and Luis Miranda Writer, actor, rapper, and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda has grown quite the platform since the success of his Broadway hit musical Hamilton. But even before the hip-hop musical’s success, Miranda has used his growing platform to advocate for causes that are important to him, from issues of racial equality to the need to vote, and has done so with his long-time activist father, Luis Miranda. Luis has been an integral part of Latino rights in the United States, working directly on Senate campaigns, serving as the Director of Hispanic Affairs in New York City, educating Latinx people on voting, and in his latest endeavor, providing direct relief to Puerto Rico after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. In honor of Luis’s dedication to activism, Lin and Luis have produced the HBO documentary, Siempre, Luis, which follows Luis Miranda’s life fighting for equality and preservation. The documentary aired on October 6, with the goal of using the Miranda family’s platform to educate more people and to raise awareness of Latinx issues.
Ady Del Valle and the Latinx Creative The modeling and fashion industries have shaped the world’s perception of beauty for years, but the models displaying these beauty standards are often portraying only one body type, race, and sexuality. However, plus-size Latinx model Ady Del Valle decided it was time to share the voices that often aren’t heard. Through his organization, The Latinx Creative, Del Valle has showcased an array of Hispanic creatives and their work, including other plus-size models. Del Valle, in collaboration with other Latinx plus size models Frankie Tavares, Luis Cruz, Taylee De Castro, Yaznil Baez, and Kengie Smith, has been credited to sparking a “plus-size revolution” serving as a representation of beauty that defies the norm. De Valle further uses his platform for inclusivity to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and defying gender norms.
Alex Padilla California Secretary of State Alex Padilla has been a beacon of change throughout his entire political career. Padilla has been on government committees since he was just 26 years old and served as the first Latino and youngest president of the Los Angeles City Council at age 28. Working in the very community he was brought up in when his parents immigrated to the United States, Padilla has used his role on City Council and as the Chair of the Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Communications to advocate for the needs of the community. Under Padilla’s leadership, Los Angeles has received improved legislations on public and private educations, stopping crime rates, increasing budget, decreasing obesity and diabetes cases, better utilize technology, and much more. In Padilla’s new position as State Secretary, he has focused much of 2020 on properly handling COVID-19 health procedures and ensuring voting accessibility throughout the state of California.
Diana Taurasi The recipient of countless WNBA awards, four Olympic gold medals, five scoring titles, three FIBA world cups, and numerous offers to play for the All-Star teams, Diana Taurasi is one of the biggest names in basketball in the modern age. Playing for the Phoenix Mercury since 2004, Taurasi has become the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer, often making the crucial last-minute plays that give Phoenix its victories. Despite suffering recent injuries, Taurasi has been using this year to better improve her game and the world around her. She worked diligently to honor Kobe Bryant after his passing in early March, is an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, and is back to playing at peak performance post-injury, giving her great consideration to be the WNBA’s MVP of the Year.
Sonia Sotomayor Even before she became the first Latina supreme court judge in 2009, Justice Sonia Sotomayor has always worked hard for her success. Being inspired by her single mother, who always emphasized the importance of receiving an education, Sotomayor attended Princeton University and Yale Law School, earning her J.D. and passing the bar exam by the age of 26. After working as a trial lawyer for a District Attorney and within her own practice, Sotomayor was appointed to the Southern District of New York at age 38, Bush the U.S. Second Circuit Court at age 43, and the Supreme Court at age 55. On the Supreme Court, Sotomayor has played an integral role in advocating for equal opportunity and civil liberties, helping pass the Affordable Health Care Act and the legalization of gay marriage. As of 2020, Sonia Sotomayor has been donating much of her time to advocating for immigrants, racial equality, and protection from COVID-19.
Carmen Maria Machado Carmen Maria Machado is a fiction and non-fiction author who uses a blend of genres to create stories that raise awareness of social issues in a Jordan Peele like fashion. Of the 20 plus stories she has written, Machado has received an especially high amount of success for her books, Her Body and Other Parties, an analogy on the dehumanization of the woman’s body, and In the Dream House, the heavily inspired true story of Machado’s abusive relationship. Her stories have earned her published spots in big-name titles such as The New York Times and The New Yorker, has received tremendous praise and an overwhelming number of awards, nominations, fellowships, grants, and residencies. Machado’s non-fiction works also contribute to enhancing conversation and bringing awareness as she often writes of personal experiences, Latinx culture, and women’s rights.
“Sí se puede” is a powerful phrase that was coined by labor activist Dolores Huerta, who pushed for better working conditions and rights for farmworkers.
(It was also used as an empowering chant by a group of Latina cheerleaders in the Disney Channel Original Movie, Gotta Kick it Up! featuring award-winning actress America Ferrera).
Today, the phrase continues to serve as an empowering message for Latinas in the form of a new nonpartisan digital community platform known as “She Se Puede” (with a particular emphasis on the word, “she”).
She Se Puede—launched by actress-activists Eva Longoria Baston and America Ferrera, and a group of passionate Latina leaders—aims to empower Latinas “to realize and act on their own power.”
The platform gives Latinas an opportunity to celebrate their impact and achievements, connect with community resources, and be inspired by diverse lifestyle content highlighting Latinas.
“America and I worked with Dolores for decades and we just wanted to have her blessings because there’s such history in ‘Sí se puede,'” Eva told GMA.
“It was birthed from me and America and Zoe Saldana, and we were all campaigning in Florida, advocating for yet another candidate on a stage, giving talking points and we were going, ‘Why aren’t we advocating for ourselves? Where’s the community? And not only of Latinos, but specifically of Latinas,'” Eva said.
Too often, Latinas are underrepresented in entertainment, government, and other aspects of society. Their voices are often excluded from the narrative, which is why the idea for “She Se Puede” came into conception to embolden and inspire Latinas to trust in their power.
“Unless and until we believe in our own potential and realize our own power, we will remain underrepresented as a political and cultural force,” said America Ferrera.
The goal for “She Se Puede” is to build a unique digital community and lifestyle platform “for Latinas, by Latinas” by publishing relatable and inspiring, everyday lifestyle content ranging from health, food parenting, beauty, to civic engagement. It’s also an opportunity to help provide Latinas with the tools they need to own their power.
Eva and America have both encouraged Latinas to share their “She Se Puede” moments on social media to engage and inspire a growing and close-knit Latina community where women see themselves reflected through everyday, raw moments.
Eva recently shared a Facebook photo of herself breastfeeding her son while working on set as a director. Eva posted, “This is my She Se Puede moment! This [photograph] was taken when I was directing right after my son was born. Breastfeeding on set, pumping milk on my breaks, and directing a television show was challenging. But I did it! And I knew I could because we (Latinas) can accomplish anything! Follow @she_sepuede and celebrate a moment you’re proud of with #shesepuede for a chance to be featured.”
In September—just a few weeks before the presidential election—She Se Puede posted a call out on Instagram encouraging Latinas interested to join the “She Se Puede Power Squad.” It was part of an effort to encourage Latinas from across the country to step up and transform their lives, communities, and country by acting as community ambassadors.
For Eva, the platform is very much an empowering state of mind for Latinas:
“So when we say empowerment, we mean we want Latinas to feel empowered in everything that they do, from their careers, to their workouts, to what food they eat, and even how they can request their mail-in ballot,” said Eva.
The digital platform was officially created by a team of Latina leaders passionate about mobilizing and creating change in the community: Alex Martínez Kondracke, America Ferrera, Carmen Perez, Christy Haubegger, Elsa Collins, Eva Longoria Bastón, Jess Morales Rocketto, Mónica Ramírez, Olga Segura, and Stephanie Valencia.
Eva Longoria: From Desperate Housewives to Political Activist
Eva has used her influence as a Latina actress, director, producer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist to make a positive impact in the Latina community.
Known as the character Gabrielle Solis in the comedy-drama series, Desperate Housewives, Eva has often looked to the show’s storytelling and execution in her own journey as a producer. The show first aired its pilot in October 2004, putting her in the spotlight.
“For her, the Desperate Housewives pilot was a masterclass in how to create and launch a TV show, and she says she still uses what she learned from that experience as a producer launching her own shows,” Variety said.
The 2017 Philanthropist of the Year has also used her platform as an actress to shed light on other critical issues ranging from politics to better education and entrepreneurship opportunities for Latinas.
Eva has also been a prominent advocate for disability rights and amplifying the voices of Latinos in politics.
She has been associated with many different charities and foundations over the years, with a focus on advocating for various causes affecting women and children.
In 2006, she co-founded Eva’s Heroes, an organization that aims to enrich the lives of individuals with intellectual special needs.
Eva’s Heroes is an organization that is very near and dear to her heart, as she has a sister with special needs. “I am blessed with a sister who has special needs. Now, I want to impact the lives of similar young adults nationwide,” said Eva.
With her entrepreneurial spirit and inspiring advocacy career, Eva has long been fighting for more representation of Latino political leaders, co-founding Latino Victory Fund, a progressive political committee to help grow Latino political power and influence.
Most recently, she headlined and opened up the 2020 Democratic National Convention with an inspiring speech about saving our democracy and making our voices heard:
“So, tonight we stand together, united by the values we cherish: Decency, respect, justice, and the opportunity to rise up. We always hear that line about this being the most important election of our lifetimes, but this year, it really is.”
In her keynote speech, she also acknowledged the lives lost and impacted by COVID-19, compounded by immense job loss and division. “Yet, in the middle of the fear and sorrow and uncertainty, people have come together because they know we are better than this. America is better than this,” she added.
It wasn’t long until Eva received criticism for headlining the convention from Marco Rubio in a tweet that said, “Brilliant move! No one is more in touch with the challenges & obstacles faced by everyday Americans than actors & celebrities.”
Eva hosted the DNC, not just as an actress, but also as a Latina woman with immense influence and advocacy for different important causes affecting women and the Latino community, said Refinery29.
Beyond her trailblazing work and committing to better Latino representation, she is also committed to empowering and supporting the Latino community through education and entrepreneurship opportunities.
In 2013, Eva received her master’s degree in Chicano Studies from California State University, Northridge. She has also worked tirelessly to help advocate for more Latino representation and job opportunities for Latinos in the Hollywood entertainment industry. USC Annenberg reported that between 2007 and 2013, only 3 percent of films featured leads or co-leads with Latino actors. And, of the films that were analyzed, only 4.5 percent of all speaking characters were Latino in the past decade.
Through her work with the Eva Longoria Foundation, Eva has been committed to investing in Latino community leaders and entrepreneurs. She recently joined forces with the Latino Community Foundation to continue supporting Latina entrepreneurs in California during the “Coming of Age” 15th anniversary gala in May 2020.
During the gala, Eva announced a new initiative aimed at investing and supporting Latina entrepreneurs in California. Proceeds from the gala supported Latino organizations that provide vital services to low-income families that are impacted by wage loss as well as California farmworkers and their families.
Eva has long been an outspoken advocate for Latino representation and has empowered Latina youth through various mentorship and STEM programs at the Eva Longoria Foundation.
The foundation’s programs help narrow the opportunity gap that many Latinas face through culturally relevant programs, such as STEM education, mentorship, parent engagement, and entrepreneurship.
The Eva Longoria Foundation says Latinas are a rapidly growing demographic with immense potential, but they “disproportionately lack educational opportunities and face economic challenges.”
The goal of the foundation is to close the education gap and help Latinas build better futures through education and entrepreneurship.
Along with supporting and empowering Latino youth, Eva is passionate about civic engagement, empowering Latino voters, and advocating for more Latino representation in politics.
She co-founded the Latino Victory Project—a progressive political action committee–to elevate the voices of Latinos through politics and increase representation “at every level of government.”
In July, Eva headlined a kickoff event announcing Latino Victory Fund’s launch of the First Latinas program geared toward electing “trailblazing Latinas” to increase Latina representation in government and other aspects of political life.
Whether it’s saving our democracy to empowering youth and advocating for women, Eva has become an outspoken and much-needed voice in the Latina community.
America Ferrera: From Ugly Betty to Advocating for the Rights of Women
As an award-winning actress, producer, director, activist, organizer, and the proud daughter of immigrants from Honduras, America Ferrera has paved the way for Latina representation, speaking out about pressing political issues, and encouraging women to be in “decision-making roles” by getting a seat at the table.
In the early 2000s, America appeared as a Latina lead in the cult-favorite ABC comedy series Ugly Betty and the movie Real Women Have Curves, along with countless other groundbreaking lead roles. She has also gone on to star in the NBC show Superstore and has produced and directed several TV shows.
She has also received countless awards and was recognized as the first Latina to win an Outstanding Lead Actress Emmy for her lead role in Ugly Betty.
“I don’t fit in traditional boxes for women on screen. When I became an actress, my mere presence was a revolution because I wasn’t supposed to exist in this industry,” America told net-a-porter in an interview.
America has spoken out about the need for Latinas to see themselves represented on television. In an interview with the New York Times, America talked about the importance of diverse storytelling and representation:
“Our writers aren’t sort of pulling issues from the headlines. They are mostly driven by the characters in the show. And this is where the real necessity for diversity is exemplified. It’s so that the storytelling is rich and compelling and relevant to today because that is what our world actually looks like. That is what our culture should be reflective of—all the different points of view and real-life experiences that one has as an America.”
America is also a storyteller herself: She wrote a New York Times bestselling book, American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures, which highlights the experience of growing up between cultures.
Perhaps America’s most notable role off-screen is one as an advocate for women and helping Latinas and women of color recognize their true power and influence.
She has continued to advocate for women across the globe. She recently served as a keynote speaker for the Texas Women’s Foundation virtual luncheon September 29, 2020.
Her keynote address highlighted the importance of creating opportunities for women and empowering them to speak out about their experiences. It was also an opportunity to discuss her book, which features essays of 31 other first-generation American artists and activists who share their personal accounts of assimilating in America and staying connected to their roots.
One of her most impactful and life-changing moments was when she was invited as the opening speaker at the historic inaugural Women’s March in D.C. in 2017, where she used her platform as an actress and women and civil rights advocate to create and inspire change.
America is no stranger to speaking out against injustices. She has also spoken out about various issues concerning immigration, the environment, and healthcare. She talked about the importance of the Women’s March and how that day continued to impact and inspire change:
“None of us knew how historical the march would be. We’ve lost so much ground in this country going backwards, making people’s lives less equal and dignified. I think back to that day: we’re not alone, people will show up,” America told net-a-porter.
America’s experience at the historic Women’s March was something that continued to inspire her advocacy through her nonprofit organization, Harness. She began thinking of innovative ways to mobilize and bring communities together through the power of love, relationship building, and sustaining movements.
In an excerpt from “Together We Rise: Behind the Scenes at the Protest Heard Around the World” as quoted by Time Magazine, America talked about the impact of the Women’s March and the need to continue talking about channeling energy into sustaining the movement: “Our gatherings grew into an organization called Harness. We bring people together in the hope that those wanting to use their voices can do it from a deeper, more rooted place, because they are invested in real, personal relationships. That’s the fuel. The people you meet, the bodies you hug, the stories you hear. We don’t have to worry about people going home and forgetting what they heard and what they need to do. You don’t forget about people you know and love—you carry them in your heart. If we can bring that ethic of community and love into our daily lives, I believe we can sustain the movement.”
In 2016, America addressed the Democratic National Convention and later that year. After the events that transpired after the election, she launched Harness, along with her husband, Ryan Pier Williams, and Wilmer Valderrama.
The organization features a robust community of artists, activists, as well as entertainment leaders to elevate the experiences of marginalized communities. Today, Harness is more critical than ever during a pandemic that has claimed the lives of 200,000 Americans and continued racial injustice.
In an interview with Vogue, America talked about the decisions that others make about the lives of others and the importance of art and spreading political awareness:
“People make decisions every single day that impact my life—the air I breathe, my ability to walk down the street and be safe, how much money I make for the job I do, whether I can choose what happens to my body. And at every important social moment in our history, artists have played a role. It doesn’t have to be about marching. The art itself has a role to play. At the end of the day, it’s about wielding that sword with awareness.”
America also hasn’t shied away from getting political and speaking out about inequalities and injustice to women. She shared her personal experience as a survivor of childhood sexual assault during #MeToo:
“First time I can remember being sexually assaulted I was 9 years old…I told no one and lived with the shame and guilt thinking all along that I, a 9-year-old child, was somehow responsible for the actions of a grown man,” America told Variety.
She also went on to show solidarity with leaders and activists during the launch of the Time’s Up Movement, an initiative that aims to address issues related to sexual harassment in the workplace and the need for more advocacy for women. Several Hollywood leaders and celebrities like America and Shonda Rhimes committed to the movement’s mission in solidarity.
According to InStyle, America was one of the “first women in Hollywood who listened when 700,000 blue-collar women wrote an open letter offering support for those who’ve publicly shared their sexual harassment stories.”
In 2019, America helped mobilize and lead a group of actors including Eva, Kerry Washington, and others to meet with immigrant lawyers and migrant families seeking asylum.
America was deeply concerned about the Trump Administration policies and treatment of refugees. She told NBC News that the visit to the shelter in Tijuana was an opportunity to educate others on important issues.
She referenced being a mom and holding her newborn just the previous year, and thinking about the lack of running water or clean food that many refugees who are trying to seek asylum are denied: “How dire would my situation have to be to grab this brand new child and walk for a month, with no access to clean water and food, not knowing what I would meet along the way, to try and seek asylum and safety and refuge because my situation was so bad?” America questioned.
Over the years, America has become an empowering force in the Latina community. She’s been a much-needed voice speaking out about issues that concern women.
The Future of ‘She Se Puede’
Both America and Eva have made an impact speaking out about important issues affecting our communities, while empowering Latinas to tap into their inner strength and power.
The launch of She Se Puede comes at a critical time in the wake of important movements amplifying the impact of women, particularly Latinas.
As prominent Latina women with immense influence, both Eva and America are committed to continuing to uplift the voices of Latina women both online and offline.
She Se Puede continues to be a hopeful and optimistic digital community platform that addresses Latinas’ unique needs and provides ongoing support and resources to empower change.
“She Se Puede is the destination for the modern Latina who wants to level up her life. We celebrate our diverse experiences and dreams, and provide the tools we need to own our power. She Se Puede is a community for Latinas, by Latinas.”
Even for celebrated Latinx performers like John Leguizamo, finding success in the entertainment industry is a hard-fought and seemingly never-ending battle. But as a newcomer to the business, Leguizamo recalls being galvanized by the struggle into telling his own stories.
“I just kept getting put into these really negative roles that I felt I was contributing to the downgrade of the Latinx image in the media,” he tells Variety. “I wanted to write my own stuff, so I could portray my people the way I saw them and felt them.” And that’s exactly what the Leguizamo did. His 1991 off-Broadway production of “Mambo Mouth” was a hit. Despite being forced to perform in the hallway of the theater, the show brought in big names including Arthur Miller, Al Pacino and John F. Kennedy Jr.
“All of a sudden I felt like I have something to offer,” Leguizamo says. “I have something that white America, Black America, that Latin America wants. This became the impetus of my whole life.”
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, Variety brought together prominent Latinx creatives who have all had to carve their own path on the road of success in Hollywood. Cristela Alonzo, Benjamin Bratt, Stephanie Beatriz, Julio Torres and Leguizamo joined Variety’s film awards editor Clayton Davis for a “#Represent” roundtable discussion looking to learn what each individual’s definition of career prosperity is, and what that looks like moving forward for Latinx creators and artists in the future.
Torres, a former “Saturday Night Live” writer who has made both a comedy special and series with HBO, says he uses the word “success” very cautiously. “I have that immigrant thing where I feel like it can go away any second,” he explains. But he reveals that a highlight of his career, thus far, has been developing his standup special “My Favorite Shapes,” which prominently features a rotating selection of objects to which he has a special connection.
“One of my happiest moments was going to the warehouse where this conveyor belt was being made for this show. I thought like, ‘Oh my God, how’d I trick HBO into greenlighting this thing?’” he says. “I feel like I fooled enough people into investing in me.”
Alonzo first felt like a success when she signed a deal with ABC to develop her own show. “I was writing for other Latinos and I could actually control the authenticity,” she explains.
“Cristela” ran for one 22-episode season on the network between 2014 and 2015 before its cancellation. The show debuted alongside “Black-ish” and the now-canceled “Fresh Off the Boat” — both series that have accumulated well over 100 episodes to date. Making the case that representation must extend behind the scenes and into the executive suite, Alonzo says that “Fresh Off the Boat” and “Black-ish” had the benefit of having Black and Asian executives in their corners, something her show lacked.
“There were no Latino executives or anybody at that network [that worked on ‘Cristela’]. I had to fight with them all the time to explain my existence,” Alonzo says. “If my story didn’t fit their version of what Latino life is, it was inauthentic to them.”
Advocating for authenticity has long been a priority for the actor and comedian, who says her own creative ambitions were born out of a desire to push beyond stereotypes. Alonzo started doing stand-up comedy because she “wanted to write the words” she was going to say. “I was sick and tired of playing the maid… Every audition, the accent got thicker and thicker,” she recalls, adding that she even went so far as to refuse auditions for those roles, a move her agent advised against.
Sunny Hostin will never forget where she came from. Before the Emmy Award-winning co-host joined the cast of The View in 2016, she was a senior legal correspondent for ABC News, a legal analyst for CNN and before that a federal prosecutor.
“I’m a lawyer first,” says Hostin, an active member of the National Black Prosecutors Association. As a lawyer, advocacy—especially for underserved youth of color—has always been a big priority. “The 15-year-old kid who got arrested for marijuana possession, does that have to be a felony?” asks Hostin. “Or can that be a diversion program where he gets drug treatment or he gets community service and it gets wiped off his record?”
As a television host and correspondent, she’s sought to advocate for social justice issues. But when it came to systemic racism, it didn’t occur to Hostin until recently that her testimony could expose and, hopefully, help correct it. That realization informed the basis of her new book, I Am These Truths, a detailed account of her journey from the housing projects of the South Bronx to her seat on The View.
Hostin, a proud “Afro-Latina” woman, as she calls herself, hasn’t always embraced her multicultural roots. Born in 1968 to a Puerto Rican mother and a Black father, she spent much of her life feeling ostracized for checking more than one box. “I grew up living in the grey,” she says. “I was otherized.”
The memoir, published in English and Spanish at the suggestion of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, was published in September. It was originally slated to be one of two books released by Hostin this year. But the other, Summer on the Bluffs, her debut novelabout the Black beach community of Martha’s Vineyard, was postponed until 2021. In light of heightened police brutality and racial injustice, Hostin believed releasing her memoir was more important.
“When you’re telling a story, you have to humanize it; people need testimony,” says Hostin. “I thought, ‘I’ll be the face of this story.’” It wasn’t an easy feat for a journalist used to telling others’ stories. But the book is filled with honest, unfiltered stories, including one about her parents’ experience with housing discrimination.
The book is, in many ways, a risk for Hostin, who exposes a great deal about the discrimination she’s faced as a public-facing media professional, even at her current employer, Disney. Requests to remove such content didn’t hold her back. Hostin’s experiences not receiving her own dressing room like other hosts, being told to “stay in her lane” when it came to coverage and getting paid less than her white colleagues with fewer credentials all made it into the memoir. “I think it’s important to call out that kind of behavior,” Hostin says. “Whether it was intentional or not.”
Gymnast Laurie Hernandez’s living room is decorated with many photographs. But two are the most special—one shows her parents praying before her performance at the 2016 Olympics and the other is of them hugging her afterwards.
“I love those photos,” Hernandez told NBC News. “Going to the Olympics, competing and then looking into the crowd and seeing my parents, that was one of the sweetest things I could possibly ever have witnessed…It’s just a big reminder as to how much support my parents have given me in all of this.”
Her Puerto Rican parents, Wanda and Anthony Hernandez, were watching their then-teenage daughter make history as the first Latina gymnast to represent the United States at the Olympics since 2004 — while also bringing home some medals. Hernandez won silver on the balance beam and gold on the team event alongside fellow USA gymnasts, Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, and Madison Kocian.
“There was so much representation, from Black women to white women, a Hispanic girl, so I think that was a really important thing for just the globe to see,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez said her fans will learn more about how she trains during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as “how I was raised and who my parents are” in the new Peacock Original documentary series “True Colors,” starring her and other Hispanic trailblazers, such as the actor Mario Lopez, the former professional baseball player Alex Rodriguez and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, among others.
“You’ll be able to get a really good feel as to why I am the way I am and why my siblings are the way we are,” Hernandez, who’s currently training for the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo, said. “It’s been, definitely, a crazy ride. I’m only 20 and I feel like I’ve lived three lives already.”
Hernandez remembers being very passionate about the sport since a very young age. When she was still just a little girl training in New Jersey, she looked at her parents and said: “Hey, like I want to go to the Olympics. … I have all these crazy dreams.”
“They could have very easily been like, ‘You’re a child. You came out of the womb nine years ago, maybe let’s try something else.’ But they didn’t. Instead, they hit me with the ‘well, if this is what you want, then how can we help you?'” Hernandez recalled.
At the 2016 Olympics, her parents were praying “that I don’t wipe out,” while competing, she said.
“I didn’t realize it until after Rio. We had all sat down away from cameras and talked about it. And they were like, we really questioned if we were being good parents by letting you stay in it because you’re getting hurt over and over again, which is part of the sport,” Hernandez said. “But after getting surgery in 2014, they saw how determined I was and they were like, ‘OK, we can’t pull that away from her.'”