Sara Martinez: A Latinitas Story

Eleven years ago, Sara Martinez joined one of the first Latinitas after school programs at Martin Middle School in Austin, TX.  Her journey from then to now – becoming a musician, travelling to Japan, studying cosmetology, using that skill to afford college and apply to the University of Texas at Austin and now plans to be an international journalist is more than inspiring and impressive – it’s the dream we had for every chica who walked in Latinitas’ door!  Below Sara shares what Latinitas meant to her growing up, but also, more so, what a dynamic and thoughtful person she has always been.

What did you like about cutting hair/studying cosmetology?

SM: Ever since I was a little girl. Something that I cared about was my hair because I felt like it was part of my identity. A different style, color or cut can dramatically change a person’s image and self confidence, and that was something that attracted me to cosmetology. I liked studying cosmetology because I enjoyed watching how a person’s self confidence would go up after getting something done to their hair. Seeing their smile after seeing the finished product was something that kept me going throughout my years at cosmetology school.

What is it that draws you to journalism?

SM: When I was younger, I was very shy and stuttered frequently. I felt like I had no voice so I really liked to express myself through writing and social media which I discovered through Latinitas in middle school. Deep down inside through my years in high school, I felt that I wanted to study in college something that would help improve myself as a person. Because of my love of journalism, I have a physical voice now because I want to be heard. My stuttering and shyness in front of big groups of people has gone away because of my love of expressing my opinion. Majoring in journalism not only gives me the chance to be a voice but to also make sure that other people’s voices are being heard as well.

What’s next for Sara Martinez?

SM: My dream is to become an international music and fashion journalist. I’m expected to graduate with a degree in Journalism and a minor in fashion design next year. I’ve been studying Japanese for about four years now and I got a chance to live there during the summer of 2013; it is an experience that I hold very dear to my heart. I’m hoping to relocate to Japan after graduation so I can become a native speaker and attend a Japanese language school while looking for work. I want to find work in the Japanese television and magazine industry because that is a big market in Japan. During my trip, I discovered that although American pop culture is well known there, our actual culture is confusing to understand at times because it is completely different compared to Japanese culture. I want to become a bridge and a voice that will help Japanese people understand as to why things are the way they are in America. My love of learning and culture is something that has set me apart from a typical Latina and I think its because of my mixed heritage and being a first-generation american in my family. Given the chance to go to one of the top universities in the world and being part of a top ranked program has taught me that if I try really hard and follow my heart, then amazing things are possible. I want to be a person that can be looked up to.

What’s something about you that sets you apart as a “Latinita?”

SM: Latinitas was the reason why I was able to work my way to becoming the person that I am today. Coming from a family that is considered lower class here, made me think that I wouldn’t be able accomplish much in life. But looking back, I feel that I have accomplished so much and I haven’t even graduated college yet. Being a Latinita brought my self-confidence up and has given me the drive to make a difference like Laura, the CEO of Latinitas Magazine. What sets me apart as a “Latinita” is that I am confident and although I know that I make mistakes, that will never bring me down. Being mentored by Laura taught me that many things are possible and that dreams do come true if you are strong enough to pull through all the hard obstacles that come our way. Being a “Latinita” is something important because wherever this life takes me, the lessons and experiences with Latinitas will always be with me and giving me the drive to make a difference.

Former Austin ISD Principal Raffy Garza-Viscaino

“It is I who is honored to support you and the wonderful work you do. I saw firsthand the positive difference Latinitas makes in the lives of our Martin Middle School girls. I am thrilled to see that Latinitas has continued to grow and touch the lives of young women. I am so honored to support this awesome organization.”

The Music You (Latinitas) and I (Child of the 80s) Love

Music2Every October tens of thousands gather in America’s new city sweetheart, Austin, TX for a music festival that lasts two-straight weekends: Austin City Limits Festival.  Emerging and established bands convene for an eclectic expression of new and old music and Latinitas was there to cover as much as possible – exploring new and old loves:

Nightbox – this Irish quartet was, to me, what would have happened if the 80s band New Order could have had a baby – really if any band of that time could have reproduced its DNA -Psychedelic Furs, Depeche Mode- even the Pet Shop-Boys.  What I loved the most about this performance was how Irish folk threads are married with danceable techno.  The bands lead is a new generation of dreamy and though this is a new, little heard band in the U.S., it’s roots to British new age made me feel like a “Latinita” again. (I’m a little over the age limit.)

Dawn and Hawkes – swinging the pendulum from club sound to Austin’s own folk duo that suceeded as finalists on “The Voice” and  touched, yes touched Adam Levine - the team took stage at the festival on my favorite stage, located centrally and smaller, the show is truly intimate and melodic and graceful songwriting gets its due.  Dawn is Miranda Dawn, half-Mexican American, half White – her voice is as beautiful as she.  She and Chris Hawkes, so young, so fresh – sing, though, like they have been writing folk songs for centuries.

Spanish Gold – A Latina publication has to check out anything that says  ”Spanish” of course. This collaboration of Band of Horses members and Austin and Laredo native son Adrian Quesada, founder of numerous other musical projects including Grupo Fantasma, Brownout and the newly formed Brown Sabbath, a commemorative, but Latin perspective on Ozzy’s Black Sabbath hits, Spanish Gold is its own brand of authentic new sound.  The entirety stays lyrically true to themes of rural meandering and Southwest origins, but as with many of the bands at ACL fest this year – they entreated audience members with something unexpected: their version of  the 90s hit “Poison” by Bell Biv Devoe.  It was refreshingly refreshing.

Tuneyards – They are not Latinas, they are not even women of color though they sound like they are and I wouldn’t stop Henry Louis Gates from doing some DNA history on this band to find out if I’m wrong about their cultural origins.  They may have some Mahalia Jackson in that lineage somewhere.  Experimenting in percussion, throaty vocals and opera-like expressions of music intention, Tuneyards get you pumped up, active – seeking purpose.  Does anyone remember Sweet Honey from the Rock?  This band loved Sweet Honey from the Rock, but also loves Red Bull and other caffeinated products, I think.  Love the energy of the Tuneyards. It’s the type of the music that slips between performance art and revolution – easily.

Zoé – if you are 30ish and Mexican, you know Zoe. If you are a Latinita living in Southwest, United States or Los Angeles, well you too are familiar with this Spanglish/ Mexican rock band that has been around for a while, but just peeking it’s head into American mainstream with the minor onslaught of more pop en Español radio stations emerging in popularity.  Zoé epitomizes what is becoming “American” music. It is no longer rockabilly folks. It’s electric guitar with cumbia undertones.

I left reviews of Juanes and Eminem to our younger Latinitas dying to see these icons, but when Pearl Jam was poised as the headliner as a Sunday headliner, well I was immediately transported to sophomore year of college.   For some of you Latinitas that was last semester – for me – that was another decade.  I couldn’t have enjoyed Pearl Jam more.  Eddie Vedder, my middle age peer is as adamant about injustice as he ever was in the early 90s grunge era. His hair is neater, but he, Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament and the Pearl Jam band restored faith in history, rock that comes from the heart and from pain.  Izzy Azalea played earlier and her act, to me, looked like the boring cheerleading practice from my high school – while Pearl Jam reeled off “State of Love and Trust,” “Alive,” and other classics like they were plugged into a whole other musical universe.  I thank ACL fest for bringing worlds such as these together because music is music – manufactured or primal.  It’s all worth a chance.

Foundation Communities

“What I value about the media and technology lessons that Latinitas provides is the hands-on experience that the girls are getting and the encouragement for application of these lessons in their lives. Girls who may not identity as “tech-savvy” gain confidence in their ability to use technology to express themselves and explore topics of importance to them.”

Leashya Padma Munyon

Program Manager, Foundation Communities Sierra Vista campus


“In today’s tech-loaded world it’s more important than ever to expose our youth to technology. As a growing career field that is predominately held by men, I value Latinita’s ability to engage young girls in technology and hopefully inspire them to pursue a rewarding career in a STEM field.”

Megan Wilkins

Site Coordinator, Foundation Communities Sierra Vista campus

Denise Riojas: Mentee Becomes the Mentor

104_0655Denise Riojas joined Latinitas in the 7th grade at Martin Middle School and participated until she graduated 8th grade.  Quiet and thoughtful, Denise took a little time coming out of her shell, but when she did, her take on Latinas and media representation opened up. “Latinitas made me feel proud of my culture, something I had been waiting for since I was a girl. I know Latinitas has made me a more confident person.”  Denise really enjoyed the opportunity to express herself through media making websites, producing ‘zines and short “webisodes” about life in middle school.  Now a junior at the University of Texas Austin studying nursing, Denise returns to help Latinitas in a leadership capacity making presentations on health and fitness during our summer camp series and by managing workshops at Latinitas’ annual Chica conferences focused on tech in 2012 and college attainment in 2013.  Denise helped girls produce their public services announcements on using technology for good and topics related to going to college.  Denise is certainly paying it forward in the cycle of mentorship.

Launching a Latinitas Print Issue

AUSTIN, TX – Ten years ago when Latinitas began as the first and still only digital magazine made for and by young Latinas, trends pointed to a publishing world that was going entirely digital.  A decade later, a majority of Hispanic girls are still struggling for internet and technology access, still wedged in a digital divide because of cost and lack of bilingual content.

Understanding bicultural and bilingual print media is as relevant as ever for Latina youth, Latinitas launched its first Kickstarter campaign ending Oct 26th to cover costs of publishing its magazine in its first “slick” edition.  Backers will receive an actual copy and other Austin or El Paso, TX centric prizes, where Latinitas Magazine and outreach is based.  The current issue is focused on Latina health and wellness and will be 16 pages long.

Established in 2002, Latinitas, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization, whose mission is to empower young Latinas through media and technology, has been a vital part of young Latinas’ lives through after school programs, teen internships, Saturday and Summer camps, special events, and the very first digital magazine for young Latinas— The bilingual magazine, written for and by young Latinas, provides a vehicle whereby these girls and young women not only see themselves positively reflected, but are also a part of the production.  Latinitas programs have served more than 20,000 girls and teens with empowering lessons about culture, identity and media expression. has published over 1500 articles for and by girls and hosts its own social media network: with 1,000 registered users.
The magazine will be distributed overall to public and high school libraries in Latino-dominant cities in Texas such as Austin, El Paso, Dallas and San Antonio and New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami.

Donate to the campaign here:



Latinitas to Host Inaugural Dallas College Chica Conference

The day of media and technology workshops aims to help Young Latinas realize that college is attainable

DALLAS, Tex. (April 12, 2013) – Latinitas, the first and only magazine made for and by young Latinas, is partnering with Dallas-based Latinas Inspiring Vision and Excellence (L.I.V.E.) for a fun day of digital media education centered around college attainment, financing and culture.

Girls ages 9-18 are invited to attend Latinitas’ inaugural Dallas College Chica conference, which will include workshops, a college student panel at lunch and a local keynote speaker presenting on the value of academic pursuit.

Sessions on video production, photography and blogging will feature investigative activities on why college is important, what it is like and how to afford it.

Latinitas, a national 501(c)3 non-profit, is hosting the Dallas College Chica Conference on May 25 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30pm at the Eastfield College Pleasant Grove Campus at 802 South Buckner. The event is free and no previous digital media experience is required. Visit or call 469.834.3766 to register.

College Chica is Latinitas’ signature conference and will be traveling to Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and El Paso, Tex. throughout the year.  Young Latinas are suffering the highest rates of school drop out of all their peers and College Chica is a direct effort to curb those statistics by demystifying the college experience for Hispanics and other youth.

About Latinitas

Established in 2002 by Laura Donnelly-Gonzalez and Alicia Rascon, Latinitas aims to empower young Latinas through media and technology. The 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization has been a vital part of young Latinas’ lives through after-school programs, teen internships, Saturday and Summer camps, special events, and the very first on-line e-zine for young Latinas— The bilingual magazine – written for and by young Latinas – provides a vehicle whereby these girls and young women not only see themselves positively reflected, but are also a part of the production.

Latinitas has:

• served over 20,000 elementary, middle and high school Latinas through its after-school enrichment programs and spring and summer camps

• published over 1,500 empowering articles for and by Hispanic girls and teens

• incorporated mentors, interns and community partners to enrich the program and provide positive role models for the girls

• expanded to ten cities and opened a new office in El Paso

• developed a Teen Reporter in Training program for high school students

• approximately 35,000 readers per month accessing

About L.I.V.E.

L.I.V.E. (Latinas Inspiring Vision and Excellence) Inc. has blossomed into a place for girls to bond with other girls and to increase their social skills. Girls can practice speaking in front of an audience and learn how to present their own creations.

Latinitas Celebrates 10 Years Publishing with Premiere Photo Auction

Event Honors Media Icon Elizabeth Avellan

Ten years ago, news outlets reported for the first time Latinos were America’s largest minority. At the same time, statistics coming down the pike about Latino youth were devastating. Fifty two percent of Latina teens were getting pregnant at a rate that was twice the national average, reports showed one out of every seven Latina teens attempts suicide, and 41 percent of Hispanic females nationwide were not graduating with their class in four years.

Tackling the issues and needs of Latina youth, Latinitas magazine, the first digital magazine made for and by young Latinas was born in a class with the efforts of then-students Laura Donnelly Gonzalez and Alicia Rascon.  To get at the core of Latina youth’s challenges, the two also developed programs based in self-esteem, awareness and cultural pride using media and technology, reaching over 20,000 chicas ages 9-18 since.

To celebrate a decade of incisive, girl-produced articles and a place for young Latinas to express themselves –Donnelly- Gonzalez and Rascon are dedicating their annual fundraiser Fotos de Mi Alma Photography Auction to Latinitas’ 10th Anniversary of publishing with their next print issue and honored guest, Austin favorite daughter Elizabeth Avellan, Hollywood producer and creator of the Spy Kids franchise.

Fotos de Mi Alma auction, May 16, 6-8pm at the Emma Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center features donated photography from some of the hottest contemporary photographers in Latin America, Iran and the U.S.. The night will also honor true “Latinitas” media maker and Food and drink will be served. Admission is $20 in advance, $25 and the door. Proceeds benefit Latinitas 30 after school programs, dozens of free Saturday and week-long camps.   Purchase your tickets here:

Established in 2002, Latinitas, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization, whose mission is to empower young Latinas through media and technology, has been a vital part of young Latinas’ lives through after school programs, teen internships, Saturday and summer camps, special events, and the very first online e-zine for young Latinas— The bilingual magazine, written for and by young Latinas, provides a vehicle whereby these girls and young women not only see themselves positively reflected, but are also a part of the production.

To date Latinitas has:

  • 30,000 readers per month accessing
  • Served 20,000 elementary, middle and high school Latinas with after school enrichment programs
  • Provided over 19,000 hours of free digital media production and literacy lessons
  • Published over 1500 empowering articles for and by Hispanic girls and teens
  • Developed Spring & Summer camps
  • Incorporated mentors, interns and community partners to enrich the program and provide positive role models for the girls.
  • Expanded the program to ten cities; new office opened in El Paso
  • Developed a Teen Reporter in Training program for high school students


Desiree Rios, Club Leader

I had no idea that this organization would make such a huge impact on my life. Latinitas has transformed my college experience into something I never imagined it could become. I feel a sense of community and purpose as an intern and club leader.  It is a privilege to have the opportunity to be a part of an organization that stands for something so dear to my own heart: the advancement and empowerment of young Latinas. A lot of people talk about change, or wanting to make a difference, Latinitas is that chance to do both. When you are a club leader, you are introducing these girls to concepts they’ve never heard of before, teaching them how to use their voice, you change the way they see themselves and the world around them. I see many girls who are truly a reflection of myself, they dream like I once dreamed. I hope that seeing my success as a Latina pursuing her dreams, keeps theirs alive.


Spotlight: Author Junot Díaz

Latinitas met with New Jersey/Dominican Republic native writer Junot Díaz on his most recent book tour through Austin, TX.  Díaz’s first novella Drown was received with national critical acclaim. He followed it with a Pulitzer-prize winning novel: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a story that flips back and forth between the awkward life of a comic-book reading Latino geek to the intricate history of the Dominican Republic from the 20s on, a rugged depiction of the despised and tragic Trujillo dictatorship.  Diaz’s newest: This is How You Lose Her, restores Drown’s main character…Yunior as he traverses in and outside the psyche of women, young and old, tethered and lonely, haggard and vibrant.

Latinitas: Who influenced you to write?

Junot: It started at my school library.  My future in writing was made in my love of books. The idea of books and the community of books. More than one person will read a book out of the library.  Fifty people may have touched the book you are reading, or more. Books, in some ways, travel through time. What you are reading, someone may have read 20 years ago.  It was in the school library where my love of books exploded in my brain.

The book that comes to mind that changed my life is Sandra Cisneros’ Woman Hollering Creek.  It told me the quotidian challenges of our community could be art.  It was the first vocabulary I read of a Latino writer.  The immensity of my debt to Sandra Cisneros is too large to be described, what I owe to her.

Latinitas: How much of being a 1st generation American made you write?

Junot: I don’t know if I didn’t wrestle with immigration if I would have written at all.  I am also attempting a bridge back to my former life. At the heart of my writing lays my Dominican-ness, my links to African Diaspora.

Latinitas: Book reviewers seem to want to peg you as your main character Yunior in your other books.  What are your thoughts about that?

Junot: It’s a way to avoid talking about the artistry and avoids and denigrates the interesting things I write, trying to reduce my writing to memoir.

Latinitas: What do you think of the DREAMers, the undocumented students in the U.S. trying to achieve citizenship?

Junot: They are the bravest part of our civic experiment today.  The prejudice against these kids reveals the craven cruelties of our leadership, and their treatment will prove a hideous vindication of society. There courage and leadership of youth is phenomenal. Obama and Romney come awfully short on acknowledging this group.

Latinitas: What do you read?

Junot: Everything.

Latinitas: Everything, huh? You are saying you read science fiction to women’s romance novels?

Junot: Hah! My partner authors women’s romance novels and I’ve learned this is the most voracious reading crowd of all.  I am reading histories lately and an anthropology book called Cruel Optimism, that talks about why poor people side with corporations and corrupt leaders.  I just read Salmon Rushdie’s newest and check with my friends…The New York Review of Books is probably the best source of good stuff coming out.

Latinitas: What is it like to write a book?

Junot: It’s like running a high altitude marathon.  Each book, though takes a different set of muscles. This is How You Lose Her, a reporter pointed out, is a series of apocalypses – relationships, cultures, destruction, rebuilding.

Latinitas: Critics get on you about writing women too, maybe even going as far as calling you a macho. I like how you write women. It might be uncomfortable to see our self-esteem challenges illustrated, but I think you tell our story pretty accurately.

Junot: I am writing of a masculinity I observed.  Women have it just hard.  I don’t have to be hot, if I’m confident as a man. I don’t have to be confident if I’m prosperous. It doesn’t matter what a woman does, achieves - she is being judged for her looks. And,  1 out of 6 women will report sexual abuse or rape in their life. This is problem with masculinity.  And she’s shamed for it or gets no justice.

Latinitas: Speaking of injustice…how does the publishing industry treat Latinos?

Junot: As does the whole country. Not well!  We are weened on a steady diet of anti-Latino venom right now breeding a monster afflicting our Latino identity.  Our country looks at Latino identity and does everything to afflict her, yet we couldn’t live without her. She is “Atlas” holding up this country.

Latinitas:  Your readers assume your characters reflect some components of you, the comic book lover, the voracious reader or even a Dungeons & Dragons player. If you were a teen boy today with all the emerging technology/social media, how do you think you would geek out?

Junot: I guess I’d geek in ways that weren’t popular.  I’d probably still be playing Dungeons and Dragons.


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