Even if the media didn't always portray accurate representations of Latina girls, there was one place we could turn to see ourselves: literature.
Seeing our stories reflected in books was almost even more powerful than seeing them on screen. The intricate ways in which Latina authors wove and stitched a character just perfectly to align with the experience of brown and Black girls everywhere, the reader can tell that the story was just like anything our mamis or abuelas made for us: hecho con mucho amor.
The leading little ladies of these stories stay with us till this day. Check out some of the characters who we welcomed into our lives as young ones, but still remember fondly today.
1. Latina Book Characters
Anita de la Torre from "Before We Were Free"
Anita's story as a Dominican 12-year-old in the 1960s, during Rafael Trujillo's regime, might sound unrelatable at first glance. But look closer and you'll see a young woman whose family moves to New York City for a better opportunity. Anita experiences a timeless struggle that many Latinas deal with: trying to stay grounded but also feeling conflicted and betrayed by the way our homelands' politics are seemingly set up against us.
2. Latina Book Characters
Naomi León from "Becoming Naomi León"
Naomi's story can be relatable off the bat. Coming from a low-income trailer park neighborhood in California with complicated family dynamics, she lives with her abuela and little brother, who has special needs. She also deals with something that is unfortunately instilled in many Latinas from a young age: speaking up and recognizing our worth. But as her family dynamics are threatened with a sudden change, she comes into who she is and realizes what she wants for herself.
3. Latina Book Characters
Gabí Mercado of the "Get Ready for Gabí" Series
A personal favorite, Gabí's story can be reflected in that of many young second-generation Latinas. A spunky, outspoken Puerto Rican third-grader, she is pressured by her parents to stop speaking Spanglish, learns the significance of the acccento over the "i" in her name and acquires so many valuable lessons from her abuelita.
4. Latina Book Characters
Maria Isabel from "My Name is Maria Isabel"
When Maria Isabel is nicknamed "Mary" by her teacher because "there are already two Marias in the class" (insert eye-roll here), she initially feels defeated and wronged. But as she discovers more about her heritage and where her name comes from, she is empowered to speak up for herself and her roots.
5. Latina Book Characters
Esperanza Ortega from "Esperanza Rising"
A crowd favorite, Esperanza's story is one of resiliance through immigration and national turmoil. Armed with the wisdom passed on to her from her grandmother and her will to survive, Esperanza demonstrates true grit in the face of adversity.
6. Latina Book Characters
Esmeralda Santiago from "When I Was Puerto Rican"
Esmeralda's memoir perfectly demonstrates the feeling of never feeling neither "Latina" nor "American" enough. Although she was born and raised in Puerto Rico, when Esmeralda moves to New York, she is criticized for being Americanized and no longer being of the island. Her internal struggle of clinging to both cultures is illustrated perfectly in this book.