10 Biographies of Influential Hispanic Women

Learn about these Latina women who left a remarkable impact on the world. 

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  • Photo Credit: Featured photo: Ksenia / Unsplash

As a Mexican American woman, I’m sad to confess that although I had heard of some of the women on this list prior, there were more that I had never learned about. Unfortunately, these Hispanic history-makers aren’t usually highlighted in our textbooks in school and aren’t celebrated as much as they ought to be for the lasting positive effect of their activism, whether through the art they create or the protests they lead. 

They have fought for the right to express their gender and sexuality, for humane working conditions and for the opportunity to go after their dream career as women of color. If you haven’t had the opportunity to learn about these incredibly resilient Latina women, here is a list of 10 biographies that will inform you about their invaluable influence on the world. 

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo

By Maria Hesse

Author María Hesse tells the story of the complex and incredibly rich life—both filled with immense beauty and tragedy—of the Mexican surrealist painter Frida Kahlo. She is beloved for her magical realist paintings that explore a multitude of themes, including womanhood, gender expression, her Mexican heritage, her traumatic bus accident that left her bedridden for months and her tumultuous relationship with another famous Mexican painter, Diego Rivera. 

Kahlo never shied away from expressing the deep sorrow and joy that came with capturing her reality on canvas. In Frida Kahlo: An Illustrated Life, Frida Kahlo’s experiences and art pieces are rendered in graphic novel form through vibrant illustrations that honor one of the most significant artists of the 20th century.  

Evita, First Lady

Evita, First Lady

By John Barnes

In this biography, author John Barnes recounts the life of Eva Perón, or Evita, as the people who admired her called her—an Argentine politician, activist, philanthropist and First Lady of Argentina from 1946 until her death in 1952. Known for being a staunch proponent of labor rights, she eventually founded and ran the Eva Perón Foundation, rallied for women's suffrage in Argentina, and founded and ran Argentina’s first large-scale female political party, known as the Female Peronist Party. 

This biography explains how Evita defied the odds coming from an impoverished rural village and rose to become one of the most influential women in the world, while also describing the reasons this complex figure was despised by some as much as she was beloved by others.  


Ellen Ochoa

By Annie Buckley

A breakdown of Ellen Ochoa’s life from childhood to adulthood shows readers Ellen’s journey to becoming the first Hispanic woman to go to space during a nine-day mission to study the Earth's ozone layer aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1993. After achieving around 1000 hours in space, Ellen retired from spacecraft operations and served as the first Hispanic and only second female director of the Johnson Space Center. 

In Annie Buckley’s well-researched biography, she explains how Ellen Ochoa’s passion for engineering and the marvels of space fuel her determination to earn a doctorate from Stanford, which eventually helps enable her to explore space while encouraging young Hispanic girls to reach for the stars as well.  


To Selena, With Love

By Chris Pérez

This biography gives readers a rare opportunity to learn about the personal life of the “Queen of Tejano Music,” Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, through the perspective of someone who loved her—her husband, Chris Pérez. Initially debuting as a young girl in her family band, Selena y Los Dinos, Selena would eventually rise to become such a popular singer that she would be considered responsible for allowing Tejano music to have its first marketable era as a Latin music subgenre. Beloved by many adoring fans, in 1994, she became the first female Tejano artist to win the Best Mexican/American Album at the Grammy Awards.

Chris Pérez allows us to understand in a far deeper way who Selena was and why he fell in love with her in their short time together, cut short by her murder when she was merely 23 years old. Readers who wish to better understand the life of this talented star will appreciate how authentic and open Chris Pérez chooses to be to honor his late wife. 


Dolores Huerta Stands Strong: The Woman Who Demanded Justice

By Marlene Targ Brill

Have you ever wondered who came up with the passionate rallying cry, “Sí, se puede!”? Civil rights activist Dolores Huerta is responsible! The phrase she coined as the motto of the United Farm Workers of America Association, which she co-founded with Cesar Chavez to protect the rights of immigrant workers, is still used today by civil rights groups, especially during U.S. immigration reform protests. 

Author Targ Brill describes and connects the events of Dolores Huerta’s life that led her to become an unrelenting advocate for farmworkers, women, and the LGBTQ+ community. By the time you finish this biography, you’ll understand why she was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2012 and why she was the first Latina inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993.   


My Beloved World

By Sonia Sotomayor

A story of hope about how a young Puerto Rican girl, who was raised by a single mother after her father died of alcoholism, became the first Hispanic and third woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court. 

In this touching, inspirational memoir, Sonia Sotomayor expresses her journey in her own words while clarifying to readers how all of her life experiences shaped her views and pushed her to be passionate about issues of race, ethnic, gender identity and criminal justice reform. 


The Mirabal Sisters: From Caterpillars to Butterflies

By Raynelda Calderon

An International Latino Book Awards Honorable Mention, this biography by Raynelda Calderon proves that standing up for your beliefs can make a lasting impact for years to come. It tells the story of four Dominican sisters: Patria, Dedé, Minerva, and María Teresa. All but Dedé, who was not politically involved in the movement, were eventually assassinated for their active role in speaking out against the dictator Rafael Trujillo.

Known as Las Mariposas (or The Butterflies), these young women worked to educate their community about the injustices of Trujillo’s regime by making known the many individuals that the dictator killed. Although they did not get to see the lasting impact they made, this biography reminds readers why learning about their courageous story is necessary. 


The Cinema of Sara Gómez: Reframing Revolution

By Edited by Susan Lord, María Caridad Cumaná et al.

This anthology, interspersed with powerful images, introduces readers to Sara Gómez, an Afro-Cuban filmmaker who was the first and, during her lifetime, only female director of the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC). Most known for her film De Cierta Manera (or One Way or Another), she made numerous documentary films exploring women’s issues, racial discrimination, and class inequality with a specific emphasis on the experiences of the Afro-Cuban community.

Not only is her work innovative since she brought attention to her culture during a time that tried to undermine her community, but she also inspired future filmmakers with her inventive creativity. The Cinema of Sara Gómez: Reframing Revolution describes her fascinating life by presenting scholarly criticism and including interviews with friends and collaborators to present an accurate and thorough portrayal of Sara Gómez’s impact. 


I, Rigoberta Menchú : An Indian Woman in Guatemala

By Rigoberta Menchú

Although she was always an active advocate for the rights of Indigenous farmers, even as a young girl, after her brother, mother and father were killed by the Guatemalan Army, Rigoberta Menchú became even more determined to promote the Indigenous rights of Guatemala’s people during and after the Guatemalan Civil War. 

In this autobiography, Menchú recounts her continuous fight for justice and how she has learned to draw strength from her Catholic and Mayan spirituality, which earned her a Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for her social justice work.    


Hispanic Star: Sylvia Rivera

By Claudia Romo Edelman and J. Gia Loving

Sylvia Rivera never let her incredibly difficult upbringing deter her from becoming one of the most notable gay liberation and transgender rights activists who worked to make sure that people of color, drag queens and transgender women were included in the movement. Leaving her close-minded grandmother’s house at 10 years old to live on the streets of New York after she was abandoned by her birth father and orphaned at three after her mother committed suicide, Rivera found her “chosen family” in an accepting community of drag queens, including fellow activist Marsha P. Johnson. 

This account educates readers about how the two activists founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), an organization that provided support to unhoused LGBTQ+ people. She remains an inspirational figure for those who identify as queer today. 

Featured photo: Ksenia / Unsplash