Why Adrianna Quintero founded Voces Verdes

Adrianna Quintero reimagined as a climate justice comic book superhero./Dan Goldman for Yes Magazine.

Despite the tremendous mark her environmental work has made on the world, Adrianna Quintero hasn’t found peace. That’s because the earth’s resources are under threat and most people don’t seem to grasp that it could mean the end of the world as we know it. 

Adrianna Quintero speaks at a Bioneers Conference./YouTube screenshot.

Every year, Adrianna nervously anticipates the listing of U.S. regions with the most air pollution. She “feels a pang” when she sees all top five regions listed are in her home state of California, and are usually relatively low-income and heavily Latinx. This means our gente is breathing the dirtiest air. That reflects the reality that our most vulnerable populations tend to suffer the greatest consequences from climate change. 

Los Angeles smog./ scphysiciangroup.com

Adrianna took matters into her own hands by founding Voces Verdes in 2009. The organization builds environmental leadership among Latinxs to support sustainable environmental progress. Voces Verdes specializes in climate change, clean energy, clean air and clean water and they recruit leaders and other individuals to testify at congressional hearings, meet with legislators and serve as spokespeople. Their goal is to highlight the importance of strong and effective environmental policies. 

By giving power back to the people, Adrianna ensures our gente has a voice at the table when it comes to everything from clean energy to strong carbon limits and healthier air. In 2018, Adrianna went to work with the Energy Foundation, but her legacy and vision continue as the Voces Verdes team goes to task to advocate for a healthy Madre Tierra. 

Sarahi creates app so DREAMers can attend college

Sarahi Espinoza Salamanca./ Jesse Urrutia for Forbes

Sarahi Espinoza Salamanca couldn’t wait to start college and make her American dream a reality. As soon as she was able, Sarahi decided to apply for FAFSA, which gives qualifying students financial assistance for college. That’s when she was dismayed to find out she didn’t qualify for financial aid because of her undocumented status. To make matters worse, her school counselor told her “people like” her don’t go to college 🤦🏽‍♀️

Sarahi Espinoza Salamanca shows off the DREAMers Roadmap app./dmlcentral.net

As the youngest of 11 children, Sarahi was the first in her family to aspire for college. She decided she wouldn’t let her status stop her, and others, from reaching their full potential. So she developed DREAMers Roadmap, a nonprofit college financial aid mobile app specifically for undocumented students.

She knew she wasn’t alone in facing financial challenges due to her status. There are 1.2 million DREAMers with a social security number, which means the other two-thirds don’t have the digits required to apply for FAFSA. 

Lilly graduated from UCLA in 2017/dreamersroadmap.com

By creating DREAMers Roadmap, Sarahi made it possible for this vulnerable population to take open doors of opportunity. The app has helped more than 20,000 undocumented students afford college costs. Sarahi has come a long way since her parents decided to migrate from Mexico. In a testimonial, Lilly, one of the app users, said DREAMers Roadmap made it possible for her to attend the University of California-Los Angeles. Thanks in large part to the access the app gave her, Lilly was the first in her family to graduate college 🎓

Through this app, Sarahi is changing the future for Latinxs for generations to come!

Like Johana, trans immigrants are more vulnerable to abuse, neglect and death

Johana Medina. Diversidad Sin Fronteras on Facebook. 

Johana Medina Leon, a 25-year-old transgender asylum seeker from El Salvador, died while in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody. She’s not the first trans immigrant to die in federal detention and, sadly, may not be the last. 

News of Johana’s death caused immigrant advocates to raise the alarm for trans immigrants who are more vulnerable to injury, abuse and neglect in immigrant detention centers.

Christopher Dolan, center, filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security over the death of trans woman Johana Medina Leon. Photo: Meg Elison for Bay Area Reporter. 

Johana waited for months in Mexico for a chance to ask for asylum at a U.S. port of entry. Even after becoming sick, she didn’t give up hope and was eventually admitted as an asylum seeker on April 11. She spent seven weeks at an ICE detention center in New Mexico that’s notorious for claims of mistreatment of trans people.

Johana died in a hospital after experiencing chest pains on the same day a medical test confirmed she had a serious illness. A year prior, fellow trans immigrant Roxsana Hernandez Rodriguez died in ICE custody. Official autopsies found she’d died of dehydration, but an independent autopsy reports signs of abuse. ICE denies the allegation. 

“I don’t want to die because I’m trans. I also have a family. ” @Simone de Janeiro Dos Santos on Diversidad Sin Fronteras on Facebook. 

These tragic deaths, coupled with the history of sexual harassment and lack of medical care by ICE, reflects the vulnerable, abused and neglected circumstances of LGBTQ+ immigrants.

Is the future Latina?

The Future is Latina T-shirt./The Future is Latina Etsy Shop (currently on hiatus).

You’ve heard the empowering phrase, “The future is female.” Did you know that if we want to get specific, the future is actually Latina? Just ask college counselor Briana Roman. 

The Future is Latina T-shirt./The Future is Latina Etsy Shop (currently on hiatus).

Briana’s Puerto Rican 🇵🇷 mom had her when she was 22, and envisioned a path for her daughter that included school 🎓 career 🏦 and then a family. Briana fulfilled that vision by juggling college and work, and graduating within five years. She also found time to do internships that prepared her for her current career at Barnard College. 

America Ferrera

Briana plans to wait about 10 years to establish herself professionally before adding a family to the mix. This is in line with the path more Latinas are forging for themselves in the U.S. They take advantage of education and other opportunities.

Latina purchasing makeup./Cosmopolitan/Getty Images.

Latina millennials like Briana also have deeper pockets than their parents, which means they have more to contribute to the economy. The consumer economy, especially retail, has caught on to this group’s buying power and knows that these women eventually become heads of households. They’re increasingly wooing them with groceries, clothing, makeup and other products targeted at them specifically. 

Together, Latinxs account for $1.5 trillion, or 10.4% of total U.S. buying power. That’s a 212% jump since 2000. And it’s not slowing down anytime soon, given that Latinxs will make up 30% of the U.S. population by 2060. It’s about time the economy sees the true value of our mujeres.

Graffiti artists celebrate Latinx heritage across U.S.

Daniel Anguili in front of one of his art pieces. PR Wire

When Daniel Anguili arrived in Houston from Mexico, he barely spoke English. But he used his gift for graffiti art to express himself, and since then he’s painted over 100 murals across the city. 

An art piece made by Daniel Anguili./Open the Door Houston.

Daniel began painting graffiti at an early age, and built a reputation for using freight trains and walls as his canvases. His eye-catching work in Houston led him to build an international portfolio, and now his work is displayed in exhibits throughout the U.S. and Mexico, and as far as Peru, Spain and Italy. He now travels the world to learn about pre-colonial art and culture, which then informs his new work. 

An art piece made by Daniel Anguili./Open the Door Houston

Daniel says his work is profoundly inspired by his Mexican heritage, and he is grateful that the Houston community supports his art in public spaces. 

Image of Man One. Photo by: Namu Williams © www.AmericanPhotographic.com

Houston isn’t the only U.S. city that welcomes Latinx graffiti artists like Daniel. Los Angeles embraced Latino muralist and graffiti artist Man One. Like Daniel, Man One celebrates his Mexican heritage through art. He loves connecting with the community and interacting with  people around his murals.

Image of Lady Pink./ladypinknyc.com

There’s also Lady Pink, a Latina who found mainstream success making graffiti art on the subway cars and walls of 1980s New York. She’s a trailblazer in an industry that is still male-dominated. 

When these talented Latinx artists are emboldened to create masterpieces, our community wins!

Fed up, this Latina Republican judge switched parties

Elsa Alcala at the Texas Capitol/ Julia Robinson for The Texas Observer.

After more than 20 years as a Republican, former Texas criminal appeals judge Elsa Alcala switched over to the Democratic party and denounced President Trump’s racist ideology. Her public announcement came after Trump’s “go back” attack of four Democratic congresswomen of color on social media. 

Former judge Elsa Alcala/Texas Tribune.

In a damning Facebook post, Elsa called Trump the “worst president in the history of this country.” She said that nothing positive he’s accomplished during his time in office could “absolve him of his rotten core.” Elsa also rejects the Republican party because of their continued support of Trump amid his cruel and controversial policies, despite they party’s claim that they want to be more inclusive. 

President Trump/ gq.com

This judge wants to send a clear message at a time when political divisiveness has pitted Democrats and Republicans on everything from immigration policy to women’s reproductive rights. She hoped the Texas Republican party would treat people better. But, after serving on the state’s highest criminal court,  she became a prominent critic of the death penalty. 

Death penalty./Joe Raedle/Newsmakers/getty images/file

In 2016, she questioned whether confining death row inmates to a 60-square-foot cell was cruel, and whether the death penalty itself is unconstitutional since it disaproportionately affects people of color. Since all seven people sentenced to death in Texas in 2018 were of color, Elsa said there’s “no doubt” in her mind that there is underlying racism. She also noted that if the victim is a person of color, their accused murderer is less likely to get the death penalty. 

Diaz sisters make table tennis history and bring home the gold!

Adriana and Melanie Diaz of Puerto Rico won the gold medal in table tennis./Daily News

Adriana and Melanie Diaz are a table tennis dream team. The Puerto Rican sisters brought home the gold medal after their doubles victory in the Pan American Games of tenis de mesa in Lima, Peru 🥇

Adriana Diaz competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics./Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Hailed as the ‘Serena and Venus Williams’ of table tennis, the 18-year-old Adriana and 23-year-old Melanie duo come from a family of table tennis fans. Their parents, Bladimir and Marangely, and two other sisters played competitively in the past. Adriana made history as the first-ever Puerto Rican female table tennis player to qualify for the Olympic games, and she was named one of the world’s top 50 players. She’s set to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Meanwhile, Melanie made it into the tournament semifinals 

Adriana’s profile has risen since her table tennis win, and there’s hope that she could popularize the sport in the United States. When she was young, she tried playing with dolls but realized she was more of a “sporty girl” at heart. Her family helped table tennis gain popularity in Puerto Rico, and that ignited her love for the sport. Adriana credits her success to sister Melanie, who taught her moves and mental strategies, and also her dad’s encouragement. 

Daddy Yankee was so impressed with the sisters, that he helped sponsor them so they could compete in Switzerland and Austria last fall. The young women said they look up to the Williams sisters, but we think they may surpass them in their own right! 🔥🙌🏾

All-Latinx cast of stars in ‘Dora’ comes at the perfect time

“Dora and the Lost City of Gold” stars Michael Peña, Isabela Moner, Eva Longoria, Danny Trejo, and Eugenio Derbez./ Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

In 2019 it’s still rare to see a Hollywood summer flick targeted at Latinx families, let alone with an all-Latinx ensemble cast. But that disheartening trend may be changing now that Dora and the Lost City of Gold hit theatres nationwide 🍿

Madelyn Miranda and Eva Longoria in July. Rachel Murray/ Images for Paramount Pictures

Based on the near 20-year-old animated Nickelodeon show, Dora the Explorer, the movie brings to life a show that centered around empowering preschool Latinx kids and normalizing bilingualism. The big screen production re-imagines young adventurer Dora as a teenager, but keeps her signature bob haircut, pink shirt and purple backpack. 

Isabela Moner as Dora in “Dora and the Lost City of Gold”. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Dora, played by Isabela Moner, is on a mission to find lost treasure in the fictional lost Inca city of Parapata, located in the Amazon rainforest. Eva Longoria and Michael Peña portray her parents, Danny Trejo voices Boots and Benicio Del Toro voices the main antagonist Swiper the Fox. Mexican actor Eugenio Derbez serves as executive producer and actor. 

Eugenio says Dora is an icon for kids, especially now that Latinxs are being “harassed by President Donald Trump’s administration.” Isabela said the movie is an action-packed mix of Tomb Raider meets Indiana Jones. This family-friendly movie is breaking the mold and encouraging Hollywood to keep giving our children positive role models who look like them on the big screen.

A villain in film, Danny Trejo is a real hero!

Actor Danny Trejo is all smiles at a 2017 event./Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Actor Danny Trejo is hailed for portraying tough villainous characters in Hollywood, but it turns out Danny is even more hard-core in real life. Using quick thinking and his “superpowers,” he saved a boy from a flipped car. 

 

It all started when Danny was on his way to drop off his 1965 Buick Riviera for repairs and happened to see the driver of a sedan on the road next to him run a red light and hit a Ford Explorer. The silver SUV flipped over after the collision and the Machete star swiftly jumped into action by helping the mother pinned behind the crushed driver’s door. The hysterical mother told Danny and another bystander that her child was still trapped in his car seat. 

 

The 75-year-old California native and the other good Samaritan unbuckled and freed the child. Then Danny realized the boy was special needs and was panicking. Using skills he’s learned working with special needs kids, Danny distracted the young boy as firefighters worked on freeing the boy’s grandmother, who was also trapped in the flipped car. Danny told the boy, “we have to use our superpowers,” and the boy screamed “superpowers!” The duo yelled “superpowers” again and again until the grandmother was freed from the vehicle 👏🏽

Danny, who went from a California prison inmate to a popular Hollywood bad guy, was surprised that his actions went viral. Heroic acts like Danny’s remind us to see and seek the good around us. 

Despite challenges, these disabled Latinxs lead rich lives

A Latino child pushes his father in a wheelchair./heller.brandeis.edu

Tania Azevedo is a proud disabled Latina, even though her identity makes her more susceptible to social injustice. She says living with impaired muscle coordination caused by cerebral palsy is a challenge, but teaches her about life and her capabilities. 

The Mexican-Portuguese American is an English as a Second Language tutor, and a classroom assistant in San Diego, California. In her free time, she enjoys being with her family, often doing cultural activities. While her family has adapted to her needs, she has faced issues with society at large, including access to accommodations at school functions, mistreatment at previous jobs and dealing with how she is perceived. 

Photo courtesy of Rocio De Mateo Smith

Tania recognizes that society has come a long way, but still needs to evolve in terms of inclusion and true acceptance. Other disabled Latinxs feel the same way but, like Tania, refuse to allow ableism stop them from living enriching lives. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 26% of adults in the U.S. have some form of disability in the areas of mobility, cognition, independent living, hearing, vision and self-care. 

An autism spectrum illustration by Shannon Wright./NPR.

While Tania is employed, about 80% of disabled adults don’t have a job. More worrisome is that disabled people of color are more vulnerable to the consequences of ableism. Black and Latinx children are often overlooked when it comes to diagnosing autism. They get a diagnosis later in life, which means less chance for proper intervention and treatment. Despite the additional challenges, many Latinxs with disabilities are getting the help they need and living enriching, full lives.