Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
Among the first notable Latinas in history, this woman lived in the early years of New Spain, 1648 to 1701. Spain claimed the vast area, which is now Mexico, and she lived in a time of strict repression of women. A self-trained reader at age 3, she lived defiantly in a time that condemned education for women. She became a shining example of the powers of scholarship and a favorite of the Court of New Spain‚ as Governor. At 17, she taught Latin and literature to other girls. She wrote poetry and essays on science, and philosophy. She joined an Order of Nuns but later, under threat of censure, renounced her scholarly status, ceased writing, and sold all of her books and scientific instruments. She died at age 43 while attending to victims of a plague. Remembered in many ways including in the works of Mexico‚ as foremost writer Octavio Paz, her life and achievements have inspired women. She was among the first Latino poets in the New World. The Mexican Government honored her in many forms, including an engraving on the 200 Peso note.
The Mirabel Sisters
Among the she-roic accounts of Latinas in history, the Mirabel Sisters are an example of leadership in a national struggle for democracy. As a Dictator after 1952, Rafael Trujillo, ruled the Dominican Republic. The sisters, Patria Mercedes Mirabal Reyes (Patria), Bélgica Adela Mirabal Reyes (Dedé), María Argentina Minerva Mirabal Reyes (Minerva), and Antonia María Teresa Mirabal Reyes (Maria Teresa), formed a protest and revolutionary group called Movement of the Fourteenth of June. Named after a famous massacre by the forces of the Dictator Trujillo, the movement gathered protests and acts of armed rebellion against the corrupt Dictator. After years of repeated jailing and tortures of the sisters and their husbands, Trujillo‚ As men assassinated three of the sisters in 1960. The remaining sister, Dedé continued the mission and later dedicated her life to preserving the achievements of the fallen She-roes. Soon after the assassinations, the Trujillo regime fell with the assassination of the Dictator in 1961. Honored by a United Nations decree, their lives inspired many works of film and literature including the famous novel ‚In the Time of Butterflies‚ by Julia Alvarez.
Maria Teresa Kumar, along with Rosario Dawson, is the co-founder of Voto Latino. A bi-partisan national organization, that engages and encourages Latinos to make their voice heard in United States politics. Voto Latino is a contemporary, living example of Latinas in history because Latin voters make up more than 10% of the voters in states that account for 200 electoral votes. Of the 270 electoral votes needed for election, the Latino vote could decide the next President, and make further history. Their goal is to mobilize the voting power of more than 15 million young Latinos in the United States.
These women and many more before them have established a path of progress for women. One can add a United States Supreme Court Justice, The Honorable Sonia Sotomayor to the remarkable list of Latina achievements. Fields such as literature, the arts, science, politics, and engineering have exemplary Latinas. This should not obscure the fact that women still face greater difficulties than their male counterparts in every field of endeavor. There are still important unwritten chapters in Latina history.