With the start of a new year, we tend to look back to all we have accomplished in the last twelve months both as a society and as individuals. That is exactly what the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) has done for over a decade: every year, the world's leading public service broadcaster examines the globe in search of 100 women who have gone to great lengths just to make this world better.
In this article, we will tell you all about 12 inspiring Latinas on the BBC’s 100 Women list of 2023 who were not only groundbreakers in their respective fields but whose work is itself a pledge of a brighter tomorrow. To do that, each of these women's feats were divided into the following categories:
- Science, Health & Tech
- Entertainment & Sport
- Politics & Advocacy
- Culture & Education
Science, Health & Tech
Marcela Fernández is an environmental activist from Colombia and the founder of Cumbres Blancas (“white peaks” in English), a collective committed to the conservation of high mountain ecosystems and dedicated to raising awareness on the current state of glaciers in the country.
“In Colombia, we have 6 glaciers in four volcanoes and two closes. It is really a miracle to have snow in the Ecuador area. That’s why we are dedicated to protect them and to make scientific expeditions that help us understand how fast they are melting,” said the leader in a video from the local network Caracol Radio.
As one of Colombia’s 75 New Leaders according to this news channel, Fernández believes all of us are ambassadors of nature and we can work together to prevent these sources of freshwater from disappearing completely.
Anamaría Font Villaroel
Anamaría is a particle physicist from Venezuela. She graduated from Simón Bolívar University, obtained her PhD from UT Austin, and is now a professor at the University of Central Venezuela, where she teaches the next generation of women scientists.
“There are still a lot of cultural biases, such as moms or grandmothers of girls who think that going into science is not for women. When I started in string theory there were very few women, but now there are many young women in this field and many from Latin America,” Font said in an interview with El País.
The researcher was recognized with the Fundación Polar award and the International Prize for Women in Science, granted by Unesco and the L'Oréal Foundation, thanks to her contributions to the study of superstring theory.
Isabel Farías Meyer
Meyer is a journalist from Chile who seeks to destigmatize premature ovarian failure, a condition she has lived with since she was 18 years old. Her activism started when she experienced the secrecy around the disease.
“I fractured my spine in December last year due to osteoporosis as a result of early menopause, and in this long road of not finding many answers, not finding support among peers, and of course also knowing that there are other women who are having a hard time and need our support, was what motivated me to create this network,” she said during a conversation with Emol.
Early menopause is a rare condition that only affects 1% of women under 40, but in most cases, the causes remain unknown. Isabel launched Menopausia Precoz, a community to share information and find a safe space among others.
Fabiola Trejo is a social psychologist from Mexico specializing in women’s sexual pleasure, a topic she sees as a matter of social justice.
“Talking about masturbation ―and practicing it― implies a complete review of the history of the person who does it, their experiences and their relationship with sexual pleasure, which has the potential to reconfigure identity, discover desires, needs or wills,” he said in an interview with Malvestida.
Through talks, research, and even masturbation workshops, Fabiola helps people with vulvas to reconnect with their bodies and to find their place in a society where female sexuality remains a taboo topic.
Entertainment & Sport
Camila Pirelli is a heptathlon athlete from Paraguay. She competed in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games for the first time and became the best technical mark on the 100-meter hurdles.
“I am moved to tears by my mom's reaction as she encourages me through the TV... because after so many years... we BOTH fulfilled our dream of going to the Olympic Games and finally being able to present myself to everyone as Camila Pirelli, Olympic Athlete,” Camila wrote on a Facebook post with a video of her Olympic feat.
“Panther” Pirelli is an official EcoAthlete Champion, an advocacy role that helps her talk about climate change and how to fight it.
As a curator and cultural manager from Brazil, Andreza is the creator of PerifaCon, a free comic book convention for people living on the poor outskirts of Sao Paulo. This event features Black cartoonists and artists from different favelas, and became a cultural success: in 2023, 15,000 people walked through the doors in search of a more inclusive geek scene.
“People sometimes focus too much on the issue of peripheral production made just for themselves, and that's not it. We can produce very good content that has nothing to do with the periphery. There's a big challenge in demystifying the periphery, demystifying this audience as consumers so that people understand that there is a production, a desire for these people to be seen as producers of geek culture, but also as an audience,” she said during an interview with Mina de HQ.
Politics & Advocacy
Sonia Guajajara is a key figure in the indigenous rights movement in Brazil. As a daughter of illiterate parents, in 2023, she became a state minister from a native community, an unprecedented event that was celebrated by President Lula da Silva. As an activist and politician, she took part in a campaign called Sangue Indígena (“indigenous blood” in English), a delegation of indigenous representatives that traveled Europe to raise awareness on the assassination of green activists.
“We have been attacked throughout our history, but it has been centuries since we have seen racism, attempted indigenous genocide, and anti-environmentalism as an official government agenda in Brazil,” she wrote for the newspaper El País.
Because of her upbringing in Araribóia, located in the Amazon jungle, Sonia is a first-hand witness to the negative consequences climate change had on her home.
Alicia Cahuiya is also an indigenous rights activist and the head of the women’s division at Ecuador’s Confederation of Indigenous People. She shares Sônia’s fight against climate change in the Amazon.
“Our territory was large, everyone walked freely, fished, collected morete, ungurahua, cocoa… But when they displaced us without our consent, the oil companies entered with the help of the missionaries, and the destruction began,” she told the newspaper El País.
Because of her advocacy, the people from Ecuador voted to stop the drilling of new oil wells inside Yasuní National Park and to protect both the region’s ecosystem and the indigenous communities that live in it.
Speaking of climate advocacy, Christiana Figueres is a Diplomat and climate policy negotiator from Costa Rica, and she is the co-founder of Global Optimism. This organization helps companies take up green practices.
She was the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change during the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference and led a key role in the negotiations that took place among countries.
Thanks to her hard work, almost 200 nations signed the Paris Agreement of 2015, committing themselves to keep global temperature below 2,0°C.
Culture & Education
Clara Elizabeth Fragoso Ugarte
Clara is one of Mexico’s famous traileras, female truck drivers that move around the country’s most dangerous highways. As a mother of four and a grandmother of seven, she uses her nerves of steel to deliver goods from Mexico to the US and vice versa.
The cargo industry “has many issues that are not talked about. And as long as we don’t address the bad habits, it will never change,” said the driver during an interview with the BBC.
Fragoso’s work also takes place outside the vehicle, when she trains other young women drivers the tricks of the trade and inspires them to fight against gender disparity in the industry.
Lala is a lawyer, poet, and feminist activist from Argentina, who works to debunk female beauty standards that are filled with class, race, and gender prejudices. She is the creator of Mujeres que no fueron tapa (“Women who didn’t make the cover of a magazine”), a 2015 campaign that highlights both gender stereotypes and women’s representation in media and popular culture.
“We try to hack the mandate of femininity, creating and inhabiting new pedagogies, to be others, different from those we were told we had to be, different from the manual of femininity, but building together what we can be if we are not what we were told,” she said during an interview with the local newspaper Página 12.
Carolina Díaz Pimentel
Pimentel is a Peruvian journalist who was diagnosed with autism after her twentieth birthday. Ten years later, she specializes in neurodivergence and mental health. Her job consists of destigmatizing the life lived by those with autism and other psychosocial disabilities.
“One of the main prejudices is that we are seen as children, as little angels, as people with no voice or vote. There is a very great infantilization, and this is one of the main problems within autism. Now, fortunately, autistic people are being considered in the first person a little more,” she said during an interview with El Comercio.
Carolina is also the founder of several projects and nonprofits, such as Más que bipolar (“More than bipolar”), the Coalición Neurodivergente Peruana (“The Peruvian neurodivergent coalition”), and the Proyecto Atípico (“The atypical project”).