The stats on representation and inclusion for the Latinx community are not great. One 2021 report found that collectively Latinxs are drastically underrepresented in the media, with an additional report from 2020 stating that “Latinos and non-white Hispanics get a total of 5.5 percent of screen time although they make up 18.8 percent of the population.”
So what can be done about these statistics? We can continue to advocate for our community and work towards our goals. If you are looking for inspiration, these five Latinas are proof that you can follow your dreams, be unabashedly yourself, and create your own path to success – all while making a difference.
Maria Hinojosa, an author and award-winning journalist who has worked with many highly respected news outlets such as NPR, PBS, CBS, and CNN, is also the founder of The Futuro Media Group, a non-profit organization dedicated to producing multimedia journalism. Her goal in creating this space was to “give a critical voice to the diverse American experience.” Her public radio program, Latino USA is the longest running national Latino news and cultural public radio program, and focuses on everything from interviewing cultural icons such as Dr. Ana Maria Polo (of Caso Cerrado fame), to examining why Latinos aren’t graduating from college (although they are enrolling at rates higher than ever before). Additionally, Futuro Studios, a new division of Futuro Media Group is envelope pusing and award-winning new podcasts and programming like Ídolo: The Ballad of Chalino Sanchez (produced in association with Sin Miedo productions – more on why that matters in a second).
Patty Rodriguez, who was given her own day in Los Angeles this year (February 18!), has been one of the most significant Latinas in radio for almost 20 years, as a producer and co-host of On Air with Ryan Seacrest. Her new passion project, Sin Miedo Productions, which she co founded with longtime friend Erick Galindo, is currently working on a podcast about the children whose parents received legal residency during the Reagan and Bush administrations. According to Galindo’s website, the company has a three-year deal with iHeart Radio to produce on demand audio, plus TV and film projects. Rodriguez is also planning a continued expansion of her publishing house Lil’ Libros to go beyond board books, adding picture books and even a children’s cookbook authored by celebrity chef Marcela Valladolid.
In children’s entertainment, Sonia Manzano is an absolute icon. Not only did she have a 44 year career on Sesame Street playing the character Maria (she won FIFTEEN Emmy’s), but she was also part of the writing team that helped shape the way that Latinos were portrayed on TV. Now, she brings her talents to a new generation of children with her animated series Alma’s Way, which features a Puerto Rican family from The Bronx. Her contributions to television are ensuring that more children see themselves on screen, and encourages them to explore the world around them.
Michaela Jaé Rodriguez
Someone else to turn to for inspiration is Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, who made history this past January as the first transgender actress to win a Golden Globe. Her portrayal of Blanca on the FX series Pose is the one that secured her win, as well as an Emmy nomination in 2021. Rodriguez shared her excitement about her Golden Globe win on Instagram, saying “This is the door that is going to open the door for many more talented individuals. They will see that it is more than possible. They will see that a young Black Latina girl from Newark, New Jersey who had a dream to change the minds of others would WITH LOVE. LOVE WINS. To my young LGBTQAI babies WE ARE HERE the door is now open now reach the stars!!!!!”
Lastly, we cannot close out this list of influential Latinas without including the legendary Rita Moreno. The roles offered to her post her Academy Award win in 1962 left her feeling disillusioned – she was often asked to play negatively stereotyped characters. She took a hiatus from films, performing in theater and on television instead. Eventually, her talent and determination led her to be one of an elite group of 16 EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony awards) winners. The story of her life and career is detailed in her 2021 Netflix documentary Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It.