Happy National Hispanic Heritage Month! Each year from September 15th to October 15th, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month by celebrating the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon B. Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to the current 30-day period.
September 15th is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence on September 16th and September 18th respectively. You can learn more at www.hispanicheritagemonth.gov/about/.
At Girl Scouts, we encourage all girls to celebrate their cultural heritage (and learn about new ones!) as they explore diversity, inclusion, and connect to their fellow Girl Scout sisters. Diversity is in our DNA and continues to be a major focal point as we prepare girls for a lifetime of leadership and ready them for any career path they may choose.
In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re sharing some of the most independent, gutsy, innovative, and successful Hispanic and Latina women in history this month, and they all happen to be Girl Scout alumnae! See if you recognize any inspirational figures from the list of famous formers below!
“Every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person a potential activist, every minute a chance to change the world.”
Dolores Huerta is an American labor leader and civil rights activist who was the co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers (UFW). She dedicated her life to correcting economic injustices and actively lobbied for laws to improve the lives of farmworkers. Ms. Huerta has received numerous awards for her community service and advocacy for workers’, immigrants’, and women’s rights, including the Eugene V. Debs Foundation Outstanding American Award, the United States Presidential Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was the first Latina inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993. Huerta founded the Dolores Huerta Foundation in 2002, which creates leadership opportunities for community organizing, leadership development, civic engagement, and policy advocacy in health & environment, education & youth development, and economic development. Today she remains civically active and serves on the boards of People for the American Way, Consumer Federation of California, and Feminist Majority Foundation.
“Doubt yourself and you doubt everything you see. Judge yourself and you see judges everywhere. But if you listen to the sound of your own voice, you can rise above doubt and judgment. And you can see forever.”
Nancy Lopez is a retired American professional golfer who quickly took the sport by storm. In 1977 during her rookie year, she became a member of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour and won 48 events, including three major championships. Lopez is the only golfer to win LPGA Rookie of the Year, Player of the Year, and the Vare Trophy in the same season (1978). Since 1986, she has hosted the Nancy Lopez Hospice Golf Classic in Georgia to raise money for Albany Community Hospice. Lopez was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1987. She currently resides in Florida, where she has hosted an annual golf tournament since 1981 to benefit the charity AIM (Adventures in Movement), an organization that helps mentally challenged, visually impaired, hearing impaired, physically handicapped and other children and adults with special needs.
“I’m bugged because I can’t believe I can’t speak every language there is. But I feel I can when I sit and am with somebody, and I can dance for them. Because dance is dialogue without language.”
Chita Rivera is an American actress, dancer, and singer best known for her roles in musical theatre. Throughout her career, she was cast in multiple famous roles that made her a Broadway icon. She has been nominated for the Tony Award ten times, which is a current record she shares with Julie Harris for the most individual Tony Award nominations. In 2002, Rivera became the first Hispanic woman and the first Latino American to receive a Kennedy Center Honors award for her lifetime of achievement in the performing arts. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 for her accomplishments on stage, with the White House citing her as an inspiration for women and Latinos.
Anna María Arías
“The contemporary Hispanic woman has been virtually ignored by general market media, and even the Hispanic media tends to under-represent the positive contributions made by Hispanic women. To redress this state, and address the needs of this growing market segment, LATINA Style magazine was born.”
Anna María Arías was an American journalist and entrepreneur of Hispanic descent. She founded Latina Style magazine in 1994, also serving as the magazine’s editor, with the mission to provide a positive image of Hispanic Americans. Five years later, the magazine was named Outstanding English or Bilingual Magazine by the National Association of Hispanic Publications. In the same year, Arias was named Entrepreneur of the Year by the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. She received a Congressional Hispanic Caucus fellowship and worked for the Democratic National Committee as a media and campaign organizer for presidential and local candidates. The Anna Maria Arias Foundation was created in 2002 to recognize Latina entrepreneurs. Today, the Mexican-American Women’s National Association (MANA) offers the Ana Maria Arias Scholarship to Hispanic women attending colleges in the United States.
“There is no such thing as making the miracle happen spontaneously and on the spot. You’ve got to work.”
Martina Arroyo is an American operatic soprano who had a major international opera career from the 1960s through the 1980s. She was part of the first generation of black opera singers of Puerto Rican descent to achieve wide success and is viewed as part of an instrumental group of performers who helped break down the barriers of racial prejudice in the opera world. Her last opera performance was in 1991, after which she has devoted her time to teaching singing at various universities in the United States and Europe. She founded the Martina Arroyo Foundation in 2003, which is dedicated to the development of emerging young opera singers by immersing them in complete role preparation courses. On December 8, 2013, Arroyo received a Kennedy Center Honor, which is bestowed upon individuals who have spent their lives elevating the cultural vibrancy of America.
“One lasting lesson I learned at Girl Scouts was the first person you have to convince of something is yourself. Once you develop that courage and confidence, no one can stop you.”
Girl Scouts of the USA’s very own CEO, Sylvia Acevedo, is an American engineer, businesswoman, and executive. As a child, she was active in her own local Brownie troop, where she was encouraged to pursue her scientific interests in school, despite receiving discouragement from the school’s faculty. She revealed that it was stargazing on her first Brownies Girl Scout trip that sparked her interest in science. In 1979 she earned her B.S. at New Mexico State University studying industrial engineering. She would later go on to attend Stanford University, where she became one of the first Hispanic students, male or female, to have earned a graduate engineering degree. Sylvia has worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, as a rocket scientist, where she was involved in Voyager 2’s flyby of Jupiter in 1979. She has also worked as an executive at Apple, Dell, and Autodesk.
During her time as Girl Scout’s CEO, a series of badges in robotics, coding, engineering, and cybersecurity have been introduced. The federal government of Mexico in 2011 honored Sylvia with the Ohtli Award, the country’s most prestigious civil rights recognition of non-Mexican nationals for her work in parental involvement in education. She was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2011 to serve as a Commissioner on the White House Initiative for Educational Excellence for Hispanics and continues to serve today. In 2018 Sylvia was featured among “America’s Top 50 Women in Tech” by Forbes.
Girl Scouts is for every girl, everywhere. We invite all girls to become a part of Girl Scouts, where we facilitate life-changing experiences for the trailblazers of tomorrow and allow them to discover their unlimited potential. We invite you to celebrate with Girl Scouts as we strive to provide young Latinas—and every girl—with the leadership skills and opportunities they need so they can make a powerful, positive, and profound contribution to their community—and to our world!