Hispanic Heritage Month is an ideal time to highlight the efforts of some of Pennsylvania’s impactful Latina women.
Pennsylvania has ties to some pretty cool inventions, historical firsts, and interesting people, including some Latina women.
Between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15, the United States celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month to honor immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries and their descendants, recognizing how Hispanic Americans have made the US a better and more diverse place.
To celebrate, we’re lifting up six impactful Latinas with ties to the commonwealth.
Adriana Vázquez developed a new way for women to pump breast milk with a nursing bra that massages a woman’s breasts while she pumps milk to help her produce more, more easily.
Vázquez came up with the idea for the bra while she was working toward a master’s in integrated product design at the University of Pennsylvania.
She is now the CEO and cofounder of Liu, the company that sells her nursing bra.
Cristina Martinez is chef and owner of South Philly Barbacoa and Casa Mexico in Philadelphia. The year she opened South Philly Barbacoa, Bon Appetit magazine named it one of the 10 best new restaurants in the US.
Martinez has been featured on “Chef’s Table” and “Ugly Delicious” on Netflix, and won the James Beard Award in 2022 for Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic.
As Martinez has gained a national profile, she has tried to use her experience and spotlight to help undocumented workers across the US. She formed the Popular Alliance for Undocumented Workers’ Rights to advocate for undocumented workers and amplify their voices.
And throughout the pandemic, Martinez provided thousands of free meals to people in the community who needed them.
Quiara Alegría Hudes
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, lyricist, and essayist Quiara Alegría Hudes was born and raised in West Philadelphia. She is the co-writer and screenwriter of the Tony Award-winning musical “In the Heights.”
Key pieces of Hudes’ work are a trilogy of plays inspired by the life of her cousin, Elliot, an Iraq war veteran. She won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the second play, “Water by the Spoonful,” which is about a soldier’s return from the war and his struggle with addiction.
Actress Reagan Gomez-Preston was raised in Philadelphia where she started acting at a young age. She is most known for playing Zaria Peterson on “The Parent ‘Hood” and voicing Roberta Tubbs on “The Cleveland Show.”
Gisele Fetterman is much more than just the wife of US Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) and the former Second Lady of Pennsylvania; the Brazilian native is a community leader in her own right.
She founded Free Store 15104, a volunteer-driven organization that takes surplus and donated goods and distributes them at no cost to families in need, and 412 Food Rescue, an organization that takes food grocery stores and restaurants would normally throw away and distributes it to individuals and families who are experiencing food insecurity.
In addition, Fetterman co-founded For Good PGH, an organization focused on initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion in the Pittsburgh area. For Good PGH’s initiatives include the Hollander Project, a business incubator and co-working space for women; Hello Hijab, which makes and sells small hijabs for Barbies and other dolls, as a means of exposing young girls to the hijab; and Foster Good, an initiative that provides personalized suitcases for children in the foster care program.
Singer-songwriter Christina Aguilera, whose father was of Ecuadorian descent, grew up mostly in Western Pennsylvania. She graduated from North Allegheny High School.
At the age of 9, the tiny blonde girl wowed America with her powerful voice when she sang Etta James’ “Sunday Kind of Love” on “Star Search.”
Aguilera’s big break came at the age of 12, when she joined The Disney Channel’s “The New Mickey Mouse Club”, along with Britney Spears, Ryan Gosling, Justin Timberlake, and Keri Russell.
Aguilera released her first album and won her first Grammy before she turned 20.