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Don't Overlook Latina Women During International Women's Month
By Danielle Arze
Femicide is defined as the killing of a girl or woman, particularly by a man, because of her gender. This month millions of Mexican women stayed home, not going to work or school in a protest named ‘A Day Without Us’. It is estimated that 10 women are killed each day in Mexico, with the police investigating over 700 cases of femicide. For years, women in many Central American countries have been talking about the unequal treatment they receive and the deadly consequences. In 2014, 531 Honduran women were killed during the year.
There’s never a more apt time to talk about these issues than International Women’s Month and more specifically, Latin women. Most Latin Americans did not get the right to vote until 1965, and the wage gap for Latin women and white men is the farthest gap in this country. Latinas are consistently hyper-sexualized and undervalued, in this article I will highlight trailblazing Latinas for their contribution to society. Although it should be noted that even without huge contributions to society every woman’s life, whether cis or trans, any race, is important.
Ellen Ochoa, born May 1958 was the first Latin woman to go to space, on a nine-day mission aboard the space shuttle the Discovery. Ochoa’s parents immigrated from Mexico to California where she grew up, and where she later obtained her doctorate degree from Stanford. Her career with NASA was prolific and filled with accomplishments and she eventually became the first Latina and second woman director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
Julia de Burgos was a Puerto Rican poet born in February of 1914 who was a civil rights activist for Afro-Caribbean writers and women. While she had a notoriety for her poetry in her native Puerto Rico she struggled to find the recognition she deserved in the continental U.S. due to her being an Afro-Latina. Her poems spoke widely of her experience as an Afro-Latina and therefore were greatly unpopular. She set a foundation for many Latinx writers who would follow her, keeping themes of feminism and social justice key to her writing.
Sylvia Rivera gained notoriety through being a Latina trans woman advocating for queer rights. She was a tireless advocate who dedicated her life to being a voice for the queer people of color in New York City. A close friend to Marsha P. Johnson, the two spearheaded the movement for LGBTQ+ activism during their lives. Rivera worked to create Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) which worked to provide homes for homeless trans youth.
These women have been just a few overlooked Latina women that have made huge contributions to society. Every woman deserves to feel safe and secure and a top issue during this International Women’s Month should be the lack of safety that Latina women experience in their own countries.
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