Latinas of the Year: 10 Most Inspirational Women of 2017

With 2017 wrapping up it's a reminder of how powerful this year has been for women, especially Latina women. These Latinas rocked 2017 with passion, purpose, and poder. Whether it was strutting to the top of the Billboard charts, wading in post-natural disaster floods to save their fellow citizens, or rallying women on the ground to protest Trump's election, these trailblazers were all about being seen and heard. Because they, like we, know that well-behaved women rarely make history. 

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1. Carmen Perez

It isn’t surprising that someone who spent 20 years working in America’s prisons, and is the executive director of Harry Belafonte’s Gathering for Justice (a criminal justice reform group), would become of one of four national co-chairs of the Women’s March on Washington. The historic event (held on January 21, which also happens to be Perez’s birthday) was a direct response to Donald Trump winning the presidential election. The rallying cry to join voices against the man who bragged about grabbing women “by the p*ssy” was humbling. An estimated 44o,000 people attended the protest—making it three times bigger than 45’s live inauguration audience. During Perez’s speech, she reminded the crowd about the importance of organizing against the enemy. And the Chicana Mexican-American granddaughter of farmers ended her talk with these poignant words: “Si no nos dejan soñar, no los vamos a dejar dormir.” Translation? If they won’t let us dream, we won’t let them sleep.

2. Selena Gomez

Selena Gomez may be the unofficial patron saint of health and wellness. Earlier this year, the tastemaker, who was named one of Time magazine’s “Women Who Are Changing the World” for being the first to reach 100 million Instagram followers, revealed she’d received a kidney from bestie Francia Raisa during transplant surgery. The pop star uses her platform to raise awareness for Lupus—the disease that caused her organ to fail—and raised $500,000 for the Lupus Research Alliance. And when 13 Reasons Why (based on Jay Asher’s book), a show about teen suicide that Gomez executive produced for Netflix, hit the controversy nerve with parents she defended it on Z100’s The Morning Show. “Kids today are exposed to things that I wouldn’t have comprehended when I was eight…If this is what we are going to talk about, [we’re going to do it] in a way that’s honest.” Clearly, (thankfully!) Gomez uses her voice to make physical and mental health a priority, for us all.

3. Carmen Yulín Cruz

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the viral image of San Juan’s Mayor, Carmen Yulín Cruz, wading in chest-high murky water to save fellow citizens after Hurricane Maria’s destruction spoke volumes. But Carmen would use her voice as well, to criticize President Donald Trump for dragging his feet to provide la isla with desperately needed food, fuel, medical supplies and safe drinking water. Still, Donald Trump, from the comfort of his private golf club in Bedminster, N.J. audaciously clapped back, attacking Cruz’s “poor leadership” skills; calling her “nasty” and saying the people of PR wanted everything done for them. Her response? She rocked a T-shirt with the word nasty emblazoned across her chest during a Univision interview and continued to come for the commander-in-chief with the itchy Twitter finger, saying in Spanish: “What is really nasty is that anyone would turn their back on the Puerto Rican people.” Mic drop.

4. Cristina Jiménez Moreta

At 13, Cristina Jiménez Moreta didn’t dream of being a social justice warrior; she wanted to be a dancer. “I didn’t go about this thinking, ‘I’m gonna change the world,’” explains the 33-year-old. But after facing the hardships of being undocumented—and of color—in America, Jiménez Moreta was motivated to act. “Growing up, I had to experience my dad having his wages stolen and figuring out how to get them back. My brother was stopped and frisked when he was just 11. My high school guidance counselor discouraged college because of my undocumented status. I felt a deep sense of injustice and I had to do something,” she remembers. In 2008, Jiménez Moreta co-founded United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the country. It pushed Obama to create Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival Program (DACA), which is now under attack. Because of her work, she was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Foundation fellowship, aka the “genius grant” in October. “I feel so much gratitude to my parents who left everything behind to give my brother and I a better life. This award really acknowledges the amazing resilience and spirit of my ancestors and community. Despite racist attacks and narratives used against Latinx, we are still here, raising our kids—fighting, yet hopeful.”

5. Geisha WIlliams

Working the cash register at her parents’ grocery store (called La Guajira) in New Jersey and doing her homework sitting on sacks of rice in the stock room, Cuban Émigré Geisha Jimenez (now Williams) cultivated her math and problem-solving skills. The leader-in-the-making studied engineering, getting a job at Florida Power & Light—where she remained for 24 years. When a mentor suggested Geisha take over the top job at the company, “Why not you?” he asked, it created a spark. In April, the 55-year-old became CEO of Pacific Gas & Electric Co., a $17.7 billion outfit, making her the first Latina to helm a Fortune 500 company. PG&E has since helped California connect more solar panels and electric cars than any other state. Of her accomplishments, Geisha says: “My hope is that many more Latinas feel inspired to pursue opportunities in business, leadership, science, technology, engineering, and math. Ask yourself: ‘Why not me?’”

6. Jennifer Lopez

This year, J.Lo stepped up for la gente in an epic way. First, the megastar donated $1 million from her Las Vegas residency to support relief efforts for Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Then, the puertorriqueña teamed up with Marc Anthony to create Somos Una Voz, an alliance of artists dedicated to rushing aid to those in need after those horrific natural disasters. And our Bronx homie and her delicious bae Alex Rodriguez took it a step further to create One Voice: Somos Live! a televised concert (which happened simultaneously in Miami and L.A.) that raised $35 million for PR. And if that wasn’t enough, J-Rod also collected a staggering $26 million by soliciting pledges and corporate donations from their high-powered sports, business, and entertainment friends. Now that’s how you use power for the people.

7. Ana Navarro

CNN commentator Ana Navarro’s Twitter bio should read, “not on my watch.” She famously demolished Donald Trump supporter Ed Martin—by saying “Don’t interrupt a Latina!”—when he tried to bulldoze his way into a conversation about the president’s racist rhetoric and the pardon of anti-immigrant Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Navarro also crushed former South Carolina Lt. Governor Andre Bauer as they debated the government’s slow response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. And on the network’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper, the Nicaraguan-American pundit said if Trump wants unity of command then “he’s got to shut up.” Though a Republican, Navarro knows her party’s flaws, saying earlier this year that they need to “grow a spine.” In a word, she’s fearless.

8. Cardi B

You will put some respect on Cardi B’s name. The firecracker, born Belcalis Almanzar, went from Instagram ish-talker with an untraditional brand of feminism to Love & Hip Hop fan favorite to reclaimer of the female rap crown. Her infectious jam “Bodak Yellow” dominated the summer and according to the New York Times rose to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 a mere seven weeks after release. And then the unthinkable happened, Cardi stole the No. 1 position on Billboard (sorry Taylor Swift)—becoming the first solo female rap artist (since Lauryn Hill) in 20 years to do so. She had every chica from Brooklyn to the Dominican Republic singing: “I don’t dance now, I make money moves.”

9. Dolores Huerta

“To me, organizing is like magic,” says activist and all around SHEro Dolores Huerta. “Organizers have these magic wands. They go into communities and say ‘We can do this, you have the power to do this. Then we see leaders— who never thought they could be leaders—rising up.’ As co-founder of the United Farm Workers organization, Huerta worked her own magic, bringing light to issues crucial to her community like the social injustices plaguing immigrants and farmworkers, the detrimental effects of pesticides on foods, and the need for Latinos to organize, vote, and run for office—a cause she currently spearheads at the Dolores Huerta Foundation. Huerta’s full contributions are being recognized with the new Carlos Santana-produced documentary, Dolores, which aims to give the 87-year-oldstill-active-activist a rightful place in HERstory. The proud feminist and mother of 11 credits the potent combo of aguante (endurance) and ganas (desire) as the force behind her staying power. And, of course, her magic mantra is “Si se puede,” the iconic phrase she coined than embodies the hope, determination, and resilience of Latinos everywhere. Yes, we can.

10. Gloria Calderón Kellet

Gloria Calderón Kellet (and partner Mike Royce) didn’t just reboot the classic TV show One Day At a Time, she sprinkled it with Cuban sabor. The show debuted to rave reviews and Netflix promptly blessed the team with a second season. And the showrunner whose writers’ room is probably one of the most diverse in the biz, is on her way to becoming the “Latina Shonda Rhimes.” This summer, the Imagen Award winner inked a two-year deal with Sony Pictures TV, the studio behind ODAAT’s revival. With this huge win on her résumé, Calderón Kellet will develop, produce, write, and direct projects for network, cable, and streaming platforms. The revolution will be colorized.