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International Women's Day 2012: Latinas Who Are Breaking Barriers (PHOTOS)

Posted: 03/08/2012 10:28 am

Last year, only one U.S. Latina made it into the "150 Women Who Shake the World" list compiled by the Women in the World Foundation and The Daily Beast on International Women’s Day.

The slight was not lost on journalist Pilar Marrero, who wrote this critique in La Opinion:

The list is short, considering that it is global, but they still found room for 62 women in the United States, including actresses like Ashley Judd and Angelina Jolie, who are included for their social and philanthropic work. The only U.S. Latina is swimmer Dara Torres...Without detracting from Torres, it seems incredible that a publication [like] The Daily Beast could not consider any other U.S. Latinas as worthy of a place on the list.

Translated into English from Spanish by Latina Lista.

And this year, how many U.S. Latinas made it onto the "150 Fearless Women" list ? Two: Colonel Maritza Saenz Ryan and environmentalist Susan De Anda.

So here at LatinoVoices, we've decided to make our own list of fellow Latinas who we think our breaking barriers. Below you will find our own humble compilation. While it's by no means a complete list, we hope you'll take the time to celebrate Latinas breaking barriers all over the country. And please feel free to let us know who you think we left off or should make next year's slideshow.

In keeping with this year’s U.N. theme: Empower Women – End Hunger and Poverty, we include some fearless women and notable Latinas who have worked towards uprooting hunger and poverty, in all of its forms.


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  • The Civil Rights Leader: Dolores Huerta

    Mexican-American civil rights leader and activist Dolores Huerta co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) with labor organizer Cesar Chavez in 1962, and served as the first vice president the United Farm Workers (UFW). Today, she is President of the <a href="" target="_hplink">Dolores Huerta Foundation</a> (DHF), and Secretary-Treasurer Emeritus of the UFW. The DHF continues to organize with communities in California's Central Valley. Among her many accolades, Huerta is the recipient of the 2002 Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship, which recognizes those who've "challenged the status quo through distinctive, courageous, imaginative and socially responsible work of significance." In 1993, she was <a href=" " target="_hplink">inducted into the National Women's History Museum</a>. She is set to be portrayed by actress Rosario Dawson in the film "Chavez."

  • The Journalist: Maria Hinojosa

    Mexican-American journalist, Maria Hinojosa's <a href=" " target="_hplink">resume is out the door.</a> Formerly host of <a href="" target="_hplink">Latino USA on NPR</a>, and senior correspondent for NOW on PBS, she is the recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for Reporting on the Disadvantaged. Last year, she developed radio program, "<a href="" target="_hplink">Re-Humanizing Immigrants: Reflections by Maria Hinojosa</a>" which delved into the lives of and experiences of immigrants in detention. As well, she contributed interviews with prominent Latinos -- Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Eva Longoria, Sonia Sotomayor, John Leguizamo, and Pitbull among others -- for Timothy Greenfield-Sanders' HBO documentary "<a href="" target="_hplink">The Latino List</a>," which aired in time for Hispanic Heritage Month last September.

  • The Co-Founder: Rosario Dawson

    Actress Rosario Dawson is the co-founder of <a href=" " target="_hplink">Voto Latino</a>, a non-partisan organization dedicated to "bringing new and diverse voices into the political process by engaging youth, media, technology and celebrities to promote positive change." Since its founding in 2004, the organization's civic engagement campaigns have reached 55 million Latino households nationwide and registered more than 120,000 Latino youth to vote. She is also <a href=" " target="_hplink">set to play iconic labor organizer and activist</a> Dolores Huerta in the film, "Chavez," about United Farm Worker's co-founder Cesar Chavez. In this photo, actress Rosario Dawson attends the MALDEF and Voto Latino launch of the Multimedia Campaign for the 2010 Census at Miguel Contreras Learning Complex School on March 10, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

  • Head of the U.S. Department of Labor: Hilda Solis

    Appointed in 2009 by the Obama Administration, Solis is the<a href=" " target="_hplink"> first Latina to hold the post of U.S. Secretary of Labor</a>. But this is not the first time she has made history. Solis is also the first woman of Hispanic descent to be elected onto the California State Senate. In 2000, she was <a href=" " target="_hplink">awarded the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award</a> for her environmental work.

  • The Philanthropist: Eva Longoria

    Named Philanthropist of the Year in 2009 by the Hollywood Reporter, the actress's charitable contributions and involvement with countless organizations is <a href="" target="_hplink">too long to list</a>. Most recently, she launched the Eva Longoria Foundation. In a <a href="" target="_hplink">blog post published on the Huffington Post</a>, she writes that, "Our mission is to help Latinas build better futures for themselves and their families through education and entrepreneurship. We will support programs which help Latinas become college ready and college graduates. And we will provide Latinas with career training, mentorship, capital and opportunity." In this photo, actress Eva Longoria attends the Vanity Fair and Chrysler celebration of The Eva Longoria Foundation at Beso Hollywood. (Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images for VF)

  • The Environmentalist: Susan De Anda

    Environmental activist, Susan De Anda is the Founder and Co-Executive Director of <a href="" target="_hplink">Community Water Center (CWC)</a> in Visalia, California located in the state's very own breadbasket of the world. In a podcast with <a href="" target="_hplink"></a>, De Anda said this about CWC's mission: "We work directly with a number of low income, primarily Latino communities to address problems that range from chronic drinking water contamination to working with local government water boards. Our center ultimately seeks to ensure that all low income, people of color communities here in California have access to safe, clean and affordable drinking water. Our mission is to create community- driven water solutions through direct organizing [and] education advocacy here in California. We believe that clean water is a basic human right, not a privilege." She is one of two U.S. Latinas named among the "<a href=" " target="_hplink">150 Fearless Women</a>" in the world by the Women in the World Foundation and The Daily Beast in honor of this year's International Women's Day.

  • The UNICEF Ambassador: Shakira

    The Colmbian singer and global education advocate was named <a href="" target="_hplink">2011 Person Of The Year</a> by the Latin Recording Academy. The award took into account not only her musical accomplishments but her worldwide humanitarian efforts as well, including her leadership with the <a href="" target="_hplink">Pies Descalzos Foundation</a>, which provides educational opportunities to underprivileged children in Colombia. The foundation opened five schools in different regions of the country, and serves more than 4,000 children with educational, nutritional and psychological resources. Shakira also has worked as a <a href="" target="_hplink">UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador</a>. In this picture, a woman teachers her how to process rice grains in the Modhu Shudanpur village of the Rajshahi district in Bangladesh. As a UNICEF ambassador, Shakira visited coastal villages that were affected by the November 2007 cyclone. (Photo by Shehzad Noorani/UNICEF via Getty Images).

  • The Colonel and Military Attorney: Maritza Saenz Ryan

    Colonel Maritza Saenz Ryan is Deputy Head of the Department of Law at West Point Military Academy, which makes her <a href=" " target="_hplink">the first woman and first person of Hispanic origin</a> to serve in that capacity in West Point's 210-year history. You can watch more on her life and career at the <a href=" " target="_hplink">American Bar Vimeo page</a>. She is one of two U.S. Latinas named among the "<a href=" " target="_hplink">150 Fearless Women</a>" in the world by the Women in the World Foundation and The Daily Beast in honor of this year's International Women's Day.

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Filed by Andrea Long Chavez  |