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Hispanic Heritage Month 2012

Hispanic Heritage Month spans from September 15 - October 15. To commemorate the month, we are recognizing important hispanic women who have laid the paths to social change in the United States.

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Juanita Diaz-Cotto

Dr. Diaz-Cotto has authored several books advocating for Latinas and other people of color including Chicana Lives and Criminal Justice: Voices from El Barrio and Gender, Ethnicity, and the State: Latina and Latino Prison Politics. Under the name Juanita Ramos, she compiled a set of oral histories, short stories, and artwork in the book Compañeras: Latina Lesbians.  This anthology, originally published in 1987, was the first of its kind, providing an outlet for Latina women to speak about their experiences. Dr. Diaz-Cotto now teaches at the State University of New York at Binghamton. She is a Professor of Sociology, Latin American and Caribbean Area Studies (LACAS), and Women’s Studies, as well as the director of their LACAS program.

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Gloria Anzaldua

Anzaldua self-describes as a “Chicana/Tejana/lesbian/dyke/feminist/writer/poet/cultural theorist”.  After receiving her Master’s from the University of Texas-Austin in 1972, she taught a course called “La Mujer Chicana.” Teaching this class engaged her with feminism and queer theory, which fueled her later work. In 1977, disappointed with the lack of representation of women of color, she began to focus on her own writing, which included her involvement with the Feminist Writers Guild. In the 1980s and early 90s Anzaldua published two books, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color and Making Face Making Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Feminists of ColorAnzaldua received the National Endowment of the Arts Fiction Award and the Lambda Lesbian Small Press Book Award.

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Sonia Sotomayor

Justice Sotomayor studied at Princeton University as an undergraduate and went on to obtain her law degree from Yale Law School. She was a New York County District Attorney’s Office prosecutor and worked in private practice before she was nominated to serve as a federal judge by George H. W. Bush in 1991. She was then nominated by William J. Clinton in 1997 to the U.S. Court of Appeals. In May 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Justice Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court to fill Justice David Souter’s seat. She was confirmed in August 2009.  Justice Sotomayor is the third woman to serve on the Supreme Court and the first Hispanic Justice.

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Felisa Rincón de Gautier

Rincón de Gautier was a woman of many trades. After high school, she became a pharmacist and before moving to New York City to study fashion design. Upon returning to her native Puerto Rico, she opened a flower shop. Rincón de Gautier was always a strong supporter of women’s right to vote and was active in the suffragist movement. She was involved with the Liberal Party of Puerto Rico, and left the party in 1938 to assist in the organization of the Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico. In 1946 Rincón de Gautier was elected mayor of San Juan, making her the first woman to serve as the mayor of a capital city in the Americas. She pioneered the implementation of preschool programs, which became the inspiration of the Head Start program in the U.S. Rincón de Gautier also made great strides in revamping San Juan’s public health system and established its School of Medicine. After her 22 year term as San Juan’s mayor, she served as the American Goodwill Ambassador  under four U.S. Presidents.

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Frida Kahlo

Kahlo was an influential and prolific artist active in the 20th century. Her story is fraught with tragedy:  polio, a terrible bus accident, and many surgeries; despite the catastrophes she faced, Kahlo was an avid painter, using her life as inspiration for her work. Kahlo was very political, actively demonstrating her support for communism. She married painter Diego Rivera, but was very open about her bisexuality. Kahlo is viewed as a feminist and a pillar of strength in many communities.

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