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9 Mexican Women Leaders Who Made History

Por: Dr. Roch, El 30 marzo, 2023

Mexican women leaders who have left their mark on the world

There is no shortage of Mexican women leaders who have honored Mexico. Politics, art, human rights…, their names ring loudly at the international level for their great achievements. I present to you 9 women, 9 Mexican leaders who have made and continue to make history: 

1. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651-1695)

One of the literary stars of the colonial period. She wrote poetry (some in the Nahuatl language), plays and essays. But above all, she was a fighter for women’s rights and equality. As Alatorre puts it: “Sor Juana, the undisputed pioneer (at least in the Spanish-speaking world) of the modern women’s liberation movement.”  

2. María Rebecca Latigo de Fernández (1896-1986)

This human rights activist worked to improve civic, economic, and educational opportunities for the Mexican-American community. In 1929, she helped organize the Order of the Knights of America, a committee dedicated to helping Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants. In 1932, Latigo de Fernández became the first female announcer on Mexican radio.  

3.  Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)

One of the greatest Mexican artists of all time. Her work ranges from paintings and drawings to sculptures and photographs, reflecting human experiences and emotions through themes related to Mexican culture. Kahlo was a political activist and feminist. Her work was inspired by her personal life, including her struggles against racial discrimination and Mexican patriarchy. She used her art to protest social injustice, especially racism and the oppression of women. Frida Kahlo’s work has become an international symbol of Latin American feminism and Mexican cultural pride.

4. Graciela Gil Olivarez (1928-1987)

She was the first woman and the first Latina to graduate from Notre Dame Law School. Along with Vilma Martinez, she is the first two women to serve on the presidential board of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. She worked as a volunteer to help the poor and physically disadvantaged and was appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1977 as director of the Community Services Administration. She was a law professor at the University of New Mexico until she became director of the Institute for Social Research and Development. In addition, the Notre Dame Hispanic Law Students Association presents an annual award in her name.

5. Vilma Martínez (1943- ¿?)

Knowing that she faced discrimination because she was Latina, this lawyer worked to ensure the rights of the most disadvantaged and underrepresented groups in society. As president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Martinez created a powerful civil rights organization and administration, establishing regional offices. She also served for a decade as a Regent of the University of California.   

6. Ellen Ochoa (1958- ¿?)

The only woman of Mexican descent to go into space. Her grandparents were from Sonora. In 1993, she served a nine-day mission aboard the shuttle Discovery. The astronauts studied the Earth’s ozone layer, and Ochoa patented an optical system for detecting defects in a repeating pattern. She has received NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal and the Hispanic Heritage Award. She is currently the Director of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center.  

7. Ana María Olabuenaga (1960- ¿?) 

She is currently President and CEO of Olabuenaga & Cuchí Consultoría, S.A. de C.V. She has participated in the creation of at least 2000 commercials. She was the director of the Olabuenaga Chemistri agency, the result of a partnership between Ana María and the Publicis Group. She is considered one of the 50 most important women in Mexico, according to Forbes. One of the 35 most important women in business in Mexico, according to Expansión, and one of the 300 leaders in the country, according to Líderes magazine. She is the only woman in Latin America to be inducted into the Latin American Advertising Hall of Fame. Renowned Mexican intellectual Carlos Monsivais called her: “The Empress of Ephemeral Impact”.

8. Elisa Carrillo (1981- ¿?)

Principal dancer of the Berlin Staatsballett and one of the 50 most influential people in Germany. In 2011, the city of Berlin named Elisa Carrillo one of the 50 most important people in the city where she has lived for more than a decade. She was the first Latin American woman to win the Benois de la Dans award. In 2013 she was awarded the “Best Couple Award” at the XII edition of the St. Petersburg International Dance Festival, one of the most important in the world. Medal of Merit in the Arts, awarded by the Legislative Assembly of the Federal District. Medal of Fine Arts, the highest award granted by the National Institute of Fine Arts of Mexico.

9. Viridiana Álvarez (1983- ¿?)

Mexican mountaineer Viridiana Álvarez became the first woman from the Americas to climb the world’s five highest mountains – Everest, K2, Kanchenjunga, Lhotse and Makalu. Álvarez gained fame in 2019 when she was awarded the Guinness World Record for the fastest ascent of the three highest mountains with supplemental oxygen, taking just one year and 364 days to reach the three highest peaks.

Different fields, but with one thing in common: these women have achieved great things and are examples to be followed. They are true leaders. They are true warriors.

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