Las Primeras: Latinas Who Made History by Daring to Be the First

Walking on uncharted territory can be scary to a paralyzing point, but that didn't stop these inspiring Latinas from being first and making history. From lawmakers to actresses to astronauts, these pioneers dared to be the first and sometimes the only ones to accomplish historic breakthroughs in their fields and pave the way for the next generation of mujeres who are changing the face of this country. Let their experiences inspire you to take your next step, because, as one of our primeras, Isabel Allende, says, "You create your own narrative, and only you can create your own legend."

Victoria Volkóva

Mexican blogger, model, and influencer Victoria Volkóva was the first trans woman to appear on Playboy México's cover, and she just published her first book, Victoria. Mi Camino Hacia el Amor Propio. "I wrote this book with a lot of love for those who feel like they don't belong and for those who didn't know it is possible to love yourself but dare to do it anyway," she wrote in Spanish when she announced the launch of her memoir on Instagram.

Isabel Allende
Lori Barra

Isabel Allende

After publishing more than 25 books — all of them written in Spanish and then translated to more than 35 languages — the Chilean writer was the first-ever Spanish-language author to receive the National Book Foundation's Medal Dor Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. The House of the Spirits author is back in the news because of HBO's new show based on her life, Isabel, and the publication of her new feminist memoir, Mujeres del Alma Mia.

Rita Moreno
Getty/Valerie Macon

Rita Moreno

The Puerto Rican American actress and singer is the first and only Latina who has won the EGOT (an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony). At 89, she is still acting, and we'll see her back on the big screen in the West Side Story remake that comes out next December 2021.

Yalitza Aparicio
Getty/Steve Grannitz

Yalitza Aparicio

In 2018, the Oaxaca native became the Oscars' first Indigenous woman nominated for best actress for her leading role in Roma. Until starring in Alfonso Cuarón's movie, she had never been in a film before. She shares her birthdate with Rita Moreno. Coincidence? We think not.

Margaret Montoya
Eric Williams

Margaret Montoya

Montoya was the first Latina admitted to Harvard Law School. She is also the founder of LatCrit, an organization of legal scholars who work on developing critical race, queer, and feminist theories and activism around the Latinx experiences.

Jennifer M. Peña

Peña was the first — and is still the only — Latina to serve as a White House physician. She was also the first Latina to be the primary doctor of a vice president. A true heroine, the Puerto Rican doctor left her job at a health insurance company to go back to working at a hospital to help with the COVID-19 response when the pandemic started.

Katy Jurado
Getty/Pictorial Parade

Katy Jurado

Born María Cristina Estela Marcela Jurado García, Jurado was the first Latina to win a Golden Globe. She earned the award for her role in the Western classic High Noon (1952), in which she shared the screen with Grace Kelly.

Gabriela Rodriguez
Getty/Frazer Harrison

Gabriela Rodriguez

Rodriguez, the first Latina nominated for an Oscar as a producer, got her start in movies working as the personal assistant to director Alfonso Cuarón right after graduating from college. After 15 years on Cuarón's team, this Venezuelan made history through her work in the movie Roma.

Sonia Sotomayor
Getty/Nicholas Kamm

Sonia Sotomayor

A native New Yorker of Puerto Rican parents, Sotomayor is the first Latina justice and third woman to be a member of the United States Supreme Court. She was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2009, and in January 2020 she made history again by swearing in our first woman vice president, Kamala Harris.

Ellen Ochoa
Getty/NASA

Ellen Ochoa

Ochoa became the first Latina to go to space in 1993 on board the space shuttle Discovery. She was also the first Latina and the second woman to serve as director of NASA's Johnson Space Center.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Getty/Chris Maddaloni/Roll Call

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Born in Cuba, Ros-Lehtinen arrived in Miami when she was 8 years old and went on to become the first Latina in the Florida House of Representatives and the first to serve in Congress too. Speaking of firsts, she was also the first in the Republican party to support marriage equality!