Girl Talk: Teen Pregnancy

Gabby Silva shares her thoughts on teen pregnancy:

Latinas have had the highest rate on teen pregnancies since 1995 over all the major ethnicities in the country. Only 80% of teenagers do not receive any type of sexual education before they encounter their first sexual relationship. Lack of sexual education is problematic for Latinas, especially when 51% of Latinas become pregnant before they turn 20.

One out four teenagers that end up pregnant are in between the ages of 15 and 17 and eight out of ten of the teenage fathers do not stay with the mother. The list of disadvantages of being a teenage mom can be long, but it is important when it comes to having sexual relationships teenagers have the accurate information.

Teenagers do not see how drastically a baby can change their lives, especially with how a baby affects their education. Balancing an education and a child is incredibly difficult. Only 38% of teenage moms earn a high school diploma! Having to manage all the homework/study time while taking care of their baby also means less than 2% graduate with a college degree by the time they turn 30. Think it stops with the mom? NOPE! Their kids will also show low performance in school. In fact, 50% of the kids will fail a grade level.

There are serious and negative consequences for having a baby at such a young age, but it does not mean that every teenage mom is doomed to fail. But  having a baby should be a two people’s agreement, and not an accident where teenagers are going to be forced to support the baby.


Favorite Cultural Traditions

Chicas share their favorite cultural tradition. 

“My favorite Mexican culture tradition is the food. Which is not exactly a tradition, but it’s the best thing ever.

Mexican food is great! What I love the most about it is how there’s a classic dish that we all love at every family gathering. This is what makes me feel happy, not only for enjoying the food, but also because of what it means. After years and years of trying different types of food, nothing tastes as good as Mexican food to me. I always go back to tacos (the real ones), to enchiladas, mole or whatever is on the table.

Mexican food makes me proud because it is recognized everywhere in the world. This food is from where I belong. Mexican food is best prepared in my home country and, even if someday I get to be far from home, I’ll always remember my family and my hometown because of it.” – Fandi Zapien, 19


“My grandmother has always been devoted to La Virgen de Guadalupe. Since we were young she taught us her story, her prayers and how much faith she had in her.

I remember loving when December 12 would come around. Buñuelos, calientitos, champurrado, and posole were some of the food items that were never missing. My favorite part, of course, were the matachines guadalupanos, dancers that would move to the beat of the drums. They would make  so much noise with their colorful attires with every step they took. Also, they would dance in front of a statue of La Virgen de Guadalupe, decorated with flowers and twinkly lights, and would carry her with so much love and care and would dance for her and in her honor. Then, these men dressed in black and with very peculiar masks would dance around, play tricks on people and try to distract the dancers with no success. My mother would tell me it was all part of the performance and it would reassure everyone’s faith.

I also loved how the whole neighborhood would gather around. After the dancers performed they were invited to eat with us. We would serve them and everyone would eat together all the delicious food my grandmother and her vecinas cooked all day long.

At that age I only understood that it was a religious tradition. Something my grandmother, tías, mom, and everyone I knew, had so much faith in. When I grew up I learned more about it. Why people dance for her, why they continue to have faith in her and her whole story, which many don’t know goes way back to when her name was actually Tonantzin. I was so glad to find out that this was something that connected us to our indigenous roots, something I’ve always loved, and it only made me love this day and her story even more.

Now it is my favorite tradition. To me it is more than a religious ceremony or event. It is about family traditions, cultural values and indigenous roots. Things I believe one should never forget.” – Itzel Barraza, 24


“My favorite cultural tradition is September 16. I love Mexican food, so I really enjoy this celebration, as well as the dances. I think that this celebration makes people who are far from Mexico become close with their beloved country. The food is so delicious! I love the taquitos, enchiladas, churros, entomatadas, the beverages like limonada, jamaica. GOD! I can go over everything. I really enjoy that people dress as charros and adelitas. I mean, what other cultural tradition can be better than this one? If I were far from my Mexico, this would be the tradition that I would celebrate to get close to my culture. Mexico has many rich and colorful cultural traditions that make it unique and special.” – Ariadne Venegas, 23


“My favorite part about my culture is definitely the food. It’s what makes me, me. I love it, I worship it! (not really) but it is awesome! The Enchiladas, the tacos, tostadas, the spiciness, flautas, guacamole, and everything in between! When I think of the food, my face transforms into the emoji with the heart eyes and a smile!– Polet Espinoza, 23

Finding Your Identity

Chicas share how they found their identity through their culture. 

“There was a time in my life where I was confused and hurt, to the point of being embarrassed, of being Latina. I felt this all the way up to high school. I didn’t get the racist remarks that were being thrown around, especially hurtful comments coming from other Latinos.

I don’t think anybody wants to be targeted just because of hate full stereotypes. So growing up and listening to people blaming things like the economy on immigrants or “go back to your country,” was pretty hard to swallow.

The way that I began to accept and see my heritage in a positive light was to respect and admire my parents. They are the epitome of hard workers in a country where their heritage is ridiculed. Once I realized the amazing sacrifice they made for my family, it was the moment when I stopped being ashamed. This of course applies to all parents from Latin American countries, where some of us wouldn’t even be here.

The next step was something that I already followed. This was appreciating the beauty of my culture. I mean in the telenovelas are the bomb, well some of them, especially comedic ones like La Fea Más Bella. I’ve always loved Mexico’s beautiful scenery and its various cities.

Another thing that helped me was to know that one’s culture is so much more than what the haters have to say, who really are just full of ignorance. When you are really full of positivity there is not much to pull you out of there.” –Sarai Melchor, 21




“My parents and I have always identified as Hispanic. Despite my grandparents being from Mexico (except for my Chinese maternal grandfather), my parents grew accustom to the culture where they were born and raised in: Belize. For those of you who do not know, Belize is the only country in Central America that doesn’t have Spanish as the official language; however, more than 50% of Belizeans’ first language is Spanish and identifies as Hispanic/Latino. Much like the United States, Belize is a multicultural nation, and the term Hispanic is prominently used to describe someone from a Spanish-speaking family.

The first time I self-identified as Latina instead of Hispanic was in the fourth grade. It started when a bleach blonde-haired boy asked me the common question: “What are you?”

I could’ve answered human and pranced away like a clever goddess, but 10-year old me wasn’t quite yet fluent in quick sarcasm.

“I’m Asian — and Latina,” I answered cautiously.

My schoolchildren peers’ eyes widened in shock. Their reactions were similar to if I had blurted one of the seven words you should never say on television (by the way, don’t look that up, kiddos!). However, their expressions went from shock to slight disgust quickly.

“Isn’t that, like.. I thought that…that’s a bad word,” stumbled the bleach blonde-haired boy.

A bad word? I thought. I stood there quietly (I was an extremely timid child).

The now-blushing, naive bleach blonde-haired boy continued, “Well, you know, that is used for dirty girls.. BIG girls.. like, women.. who are, you know.. they’re in those music videos and other dirty videos.. and they’re oily and they try to be s-e-x-y.”

If someone was to say that to the present-day me, I would’ve sit them down and school them with my Big Book of Radical Intersectional Feminism: The Woke Latina Edition (coming to a hippie book fair near you!). But 10-year old me just walked away.

I think the media’s portrayal of Latinas is partially to blame for the contribution of the bleach-blonde haired boy’s offensive perception of Latinas. We are often stereotyped as sultry mistresses, and if we’re not the sultry mistress, we are the “no-speak-English” maids. For example, the talented Columbian actress Sofia Vergara, mostly known for her character, Gloria, in the tv series Modern Family, can be incredibly funny. But I’ve noticed her skits on award shows or other tv specials misuses her sexuality as the main focus.

And I’m not suggesting that celebrating your body is dehumanizing. Some women are empowered by showing more skin and embracing their sexuality, and that’s absolutely okay! But it shouldn’t define Latinas as a whole. We are more than sexiness. I naturally break Latina stereotypes by being extremely quiet and dressing conservatively, but I don’t think young Latinas should focus on breaking stereotypes because it pressures young girls to assimilate with American culture for acceptance. I want to be remembered as a kind person who loved literature, social justice, and animals. And the way I dress, whether it’s conservative or exposing, and the way I talk, chatty or soft, shouldn’t contribute to who I am. (Take notes, little bleach blonde-haired boy!)

As for labeling myself Latina or Hispanic, I embrace both terms. I am Latina because my grandparents are from Latin America, and I am Hispanic because I grew up in a Spanish-speaking family. But in my heart and my blood, I am of East Asian (Chinese) and Indigenous (Mayan) descent, and I proudly identify as that.” – Kayla Alamilla, 17

5 Tips to Break the Phone Habit

Since social media is everywhere, there has to be a balance between the world we create and share online, the life we lead, and the responsibilities we have every day. With all the social media websites and apps nowadays, instant communication and information is at the touch of our finger tips. Young Latinas have been brought up in a world of technology and there is nothing wrong with that, as long as you have a healthy balance between your everyday life and your social media world.

Social media is supposed to be fun and enjoyable. A place where you can communicate with friends and family, as well as express yourself and share different occasions in your life with your loved ones, but there can also be cons if you allow it to consume your life.

According to a 2015 survey by Pew Research Center, “92% of teens report going online daily — including 24% who say they go online ‘almost constantly.'” Furthermore, the “Hispanic youth report more frequent internet use than white teens, at 32% compared to 19%.” Results of the survey indicate that “Girls dominate social media while boys are more likely to play video games.” It is obvious that us girls love our Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and texting, but there is more to enjoy then just our phones. Here are five tips that will allow all you to have the best of both worlds:

1. Turn Your Phone Off at School 

School is important and it’s one of your most important responsibilities as a young girl. I know, I know, one thing you always hear is no phones in class, but it is very important not allow your social media, whether it be text messages, Instagram, twitter, etc. to distract you from your school work. There will be time later on to check your phone and post what you want, but school is not the place or time.

2. Call a Friend Instead of Texting

We all love to text; it’s easy, fast, and even fun, but why not call a friend up and see how they are doing. We would all rather hangout with friends and family then to just text them, but the next best thing is to hear their voice. Phone conversations are a great way to communicate with the people you want to talk to without having to constantly check your phone. Your parents will think you are more mature as well!

3. No Phones at the Table

Hectic days sometimes means that we don’t always get to spend enough time with our family. For a Latino family, eating with your family is very important. It’s a time to have a conversation, know what everyone is up to, and laugh. Many of us bring our phones everywhere, and I mean everywhere, but when it’s time to eat with our family we should reserve that time for just that and put the phones away.

Faith, 9, says “I put my phone away or leave it at home, or put it on silent so it doesn’t interfere with my life.”

4. Your Phone Should have a Bedtime, too

Okay, I know it sounds funny, but when we have our phones with us in bed we tend to stay on them. Then, an hour has passed and you were supposed to be asleep two hours ago! I’m guilty of this myself, but when I do put my phone aside before I go to bed, I get to sleep faster and I’m better rested in the morning.

5. Make time for Face-to-Face Contact

Our phones are our life, at least it may seem that way when we’re young, but what is really important is the relationships we have with each other, more importantly the quality of those relationships. Spending time with the ones we love, and hanging out with friends, are the memories that will last a lifetime. So put down the phone, not forever, but just for a while and go spend time with a good friend.

Many young girls agree that there should be a healthy balance between social media and real life. Some even prefer not to use their phones as much. Emily, 17, says “Having to look down at a keyboard rather than looking up at pair of eyes makes me feel more confined to technology than reality.”

Another way not to always spend so much time on your phones is doing something you enjoy.  Feliz, 14, says: “Once you find a hobby that you are passionate about will help you connect to the outside world. You can meet new people, go to new places, and experience life so much better rather than being on your phone. It will open so many more opportunities for you.”

As long as you know the time and the place to use your phone, technology won’t affect you negatively. Social media is fun, and who can’t resist sharing a picture of their abulita’s delicious food, or taking selfies at your familia’s fiesta, or sharing a cute pic of your dog, but sometimes moments are best experienced without a phone. 

Fighting Latina Stereotypes

Chicas share their thoughts on Latina stereotypes.

“In the media, Latinas are usually portrayed as three silly and flat characters: the chola, the maid, and the home wrecker. The chola portrays the typical thin eyebrowed, thug girl that goes around low income neighborhoods beating everyone up. With this stereotype the ‘chola’ aesthetic is slandered and ridiculed. The maid represents the cleaning lady who takes care of the home and raises the kids in almost every TV show. Finally, the home wrecker, represents an over-sexualized Latina woman who is what every married woman worries will take her husband out from under her. Usually she is nothing more than a wicked gold digging mistress that steals a marriage’s happiness.

However, we as Latinas should not let these stereotypes define us. I am proud of the chola community’s aesthetic and how they are able to form a new style of makeup that took the 1990s Latina community by storm. I am proud of our fellow women working as maids, trying to make a living in order to raise their children right and give them a better life. I am proud of all Latina women that are judged based on their body. I want ALL LATINAS to know that their body does not define them and they are more than just a set of hips for someone to look at.” – Paola, 18


That Mexicans are dirty, that they never finish anything they start, they’re always late….all these silly stereotypes, are just that. Stereotypes.

Those ideas we tend to form about certain people or groups of people without taking the chance to really get to know them.

 Some of the most hardworking people I know are in fact Mexican or of Mexican descent — starting with my parents, who have worked their whole lives just to give my brothers and I a comfortable life. And I am sure many other parents are just the same. To me these stereotypes are so silly, they are not true and do not describe the people around me — my family, friends, those who share my culture. At times the stereotypes upset me and make me mad.

But how many times do we fall into stereotypes of other cultures different from ours?

It’s not just about fighting the stereotypes about our culture that bother us, but also trying not to make any about others.

Stereotypes are silly!! Doesn’t matter who they are about!” – Itzel Barraza, 24

Spotlight: Latina Activists

Armed with a powerful voice and a passion for civil rights, these woman made a huge impact with their activism.

55e0ea00650a118795263a90450ac488Rigoberta Menchu, Guatemalan activist, won a Nobel Peace Award in 1992 for her contributions to civil rights campaigns. Born and raised in Guatemala, she overcame civil disobedience and grief. Various members of her family were tortured, which includes her mother and father. As a strong-willed woman, she overcame a lot and has made an impact in her community.



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Claudia de la Cruz
She is a Cuban activist who helps young women in Washington and New York with her campaign D.U.B. (Du Urban Butterflies Youth Leadership Development Project). Born on February 5, 1986, she witnessed countless harassments and injustice against immigrants in her neighborhood. She found Du Urban Butterflies Youth Leadership Development Project (D.U.B.), which helps young women all over Washington and New York.

253e696746f398ef3a19a2e05d936eabJovita Idár
Prominent journalist in the 19th century, who became the first president at La Liga Femenil Mexicanista, is an inspirational activist. She is known for her journalism and activism in education. Throughout her career she worked with a lot of newspaper focusing on articles facing Mexico’s problematic in politics and social issues.

OMG, She Did Not Just Say THAT!


I’ve always been the kind of girl who has the answer to every question in class, and for some reason my teachers prefer to pick on the kid who doesn’t pay attention.

One day, when I eleven and just in the fifth grade, I raised my hand. I wasn’t called on but I forgot to put it back down. I completely zoned out. For a couple of seconds, I sat there annoyed. “Por que nunca me escoje! Soy la unica interesada en la clase,” I thought. I knew what was going to happen next. La profesora would pick on the boy sitting in the corner scribbling T.H.U.G L.I.F.E across his knuckles, in an attempt to humiliate him for not knowing the answer. I had seen this one too many times, and so I became lost in my own thoughts.

As I stared at the different objects in the room looking for something to entertain me, I noticed the projector light cast a shadow from my teacher’s glasses. I had seen her face a million times, and it always looked the same to me. But not this time. This time, there was a shadow that lined her eyebrows and the space between them so perfectly that she appeared to have a fuller unibrow than Frida Kahlo. The five year old in me found this sight so amusing; I think I may have sat there over ten minutes, solo mirando y apreciando, just looking and appreciating the view. After all, it’s not everyday your teacher grows a unibrow.

Irritated with me for still having my hand up my teacher asked, “Alondra what do you want?” and you won’t believe what I said next…

“YOU HAVE A UNIBROW!” I blurted, almost shouted out. It was all so surreal. No lo podia creer. It felt like one of those scenarios that play out in my head when I day dream. But the laughter of children, and the burning sensation I felt across my face, that occurs only when I blush a real blush, told me that all of it had really just happened.

Fortunately for me, the class ended quickly afterwards. But the embarrassment I felt that day, still resonates with me when I tell this story ten years later. I’m sure you probably have a similar tale to tell, or that you would rather not tell… because of how embarrassing it all was for you, but trust me when I say that when you get older, all these embarrassing stories will be the ones you remember with most joy and laughter.

Live life to the fullest and enjoy every part of it, even the little mistakes. And don’t be like me or “thug life” kid, pay attention in class!

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Mi Barrio: Female Saints and Heroes Exhibit

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The exhibit of Female Saints and Heroes, on display at the El Paso Museum of Art (EPMA), is not unlike the women portrayed in the collection of paintings. Tucked away in the innermost point of the museum, this exhibit showcases a modest 26-piece collection of petite paintings, which would seem rather unremarkable at first glance when compared to the grandiose six-foot tall renaissance works hung in gold-plated frames just a few steps away. In fact, if you blink, you just might miss it. And yet despite its humble quality, the exhibit’s contents and its existence actually carry a great amount of significance.

Those 26 paintings are referred to as retablos (translated as “behind the altar”). The retablos are devotional images common throughout Mexico, which depict Catholic religious figures, especially saints. The EPMA houses a total of 900 of these types of paintings from the 1800s, but has chosen to display such a small portion of its collection for one very important reason; these are the only retablos that focus on women. According to the museum’s website, only 20% of all 19th century Mexican retablos depict female saints, and those that do were created specifically for a female audience. The idea was for average Mexican women to view these retablo saints as spiritual role models.

Unfortunately, it comes as no surprise that the frequency of these female-centered retablos should be so low. The history of underrepresentation of women in arts and media is long, and continues to this day. With this in mind, it is easy to walk into this exhibit ready to recognize symptoms of gender inequality or gender stereotypes. These retablos do have some disturbing recurring themes, such as the idea that a woman may become spiritually enlightened or worthy of praise only if she will suffer silently. (A trio of retablos that illustrate Saint Rita smiling peacefully with a wound on her forehead reinforce that theme.) Although the female retablos do demonstrate some signs of a male-dominated culture, it is also important to recognize the rather surprising amount of feminism that is also present in these paintings.

The Female Saints and Heroes retablos are more than portraits of women in traditional roles of housewife or mother. Churches were, and still are, considered very sacred spaces to followers of Catholicism. The fact that any female image would be hung upon a church wall as an example of a strong, wise, powerful person means that women at least had the potential to be highly regarded or admired, even in macho 19th century Mexico.  There are even two retablos featured in the exhibit, Trinity with Two Saints and Trinity and Six Saints, that include a woman amongst a group of male saints and warriors. “This exhibit is important,” reads one museum plaquard, “by reminding us how these larger-than-life women inspired the spritual devotion and action of everyday women in 19th century Mexico.”

Female retablos may be few and far between, they may be small, and they may even be a little somber at times. The point is that they give us glimpse into the role models of the Latinas who came before us. They are portraits of the women who many of our great, great grandmothers prayed to be like. This exhibit gives a space to the retablos that inspired the wisdom and strength of Mexican women who may not have had their voices heard in the 19th century, but who passed on those traits to the Latinas raising their voices and claiming their own space in the 21st century.

The Female Saints and Heroes exhibit is featured at the El Paso Museum of art through November 6.

True Stories: Cultural Struggles

Fandi and Ariadne share their experience with cultural obstacles.

“I’ve had struggles with my culture before, and one of the most recent ones has been when I decided to come to study here in the US, my parents where really happy about it but the rest of my family wasn’t exactly delighted with this.

My grandparents are one of those old, very traditional couples where the man is a “macho” and the woman is more submissive to him, and on top of that they are not very fond of changes or new things. And when I told them about this they weren’t happy about it, they told me that I was going to change completely, that I was going to forget my family, my Mexican traditions and even Spanish!

It was a challenge for me and for them to understand my decision; they were mad at me and used to tell my parents to stop me from going on a different path than the rest of my family. But my parents were really supportive and didn’t let my grandpa intervene in my future.

I think it’s been one of the biggest struggles related to my culture because it wasn’t any kind of discrimination or a stranger; the ones who were affecting me where my grandparents!

I understand their concerns, and I get that they have different opinions, but they’re my family! And they were trying to stop me. Later in time, before my grandpa died, my dad told me that he was afraid that no one would talk to me and that he always thought that I was going to be rejected everywhere for being Mexican.

A few months later when I got accepted to college, he was the happiest one; he was telling everyone in the family how I was going to succeed in life and all of that stuff that grandpas usually say about their grandchildren. And it was only the first step, then I started to get good grades and he told me that he was really proud of me and that he was sorry for how he behaved in the past.

Months passed and he became more ill, but that didn’t stop him from being proud of what I achieved.

So if you feel that something or someone is stopping you from what you wanna do just because you’re this or that, don’t let that stop you! Opinions will pass and maybe people will change their ideas, so if you’ve decided to do something… The only thing that I can say is go for it.” – Fandi Zapien, 19 

“My biggest struggle is… my bad english. Even though I was born in the United States, my English is not as fluent as I wish. Most of my life I was in Mexico, but my school was bilingual and had been teaching us English since Kindergarten. When I came to El Paso for college, I was able to understand English, but it was so hard for me to communicate. I felt so tiny in a place where everyone was so good with embracing the language.

Now, my english is not bad. It is easy for me to communicate and express myself. I have an accent, but they have told me that it sounds as if I were from Spain or Italy, is kind of funny, which is kind of funny.” – Ariadne Venegas, 23


6 Latina Olympians to Watch

maxresdefault-1Although summer may be more than halfway through already, there is still plenty to look forward to with the Rio Olympics just around the corner. As the August games approach, those prestigious spots on the U.S. national team are filling up fast, many of them by Latina athletes. Balancing elite physical training with families, academics, and careers, here are just fivesix of this summer’s many U.S. Olympians who are actively proving that Latinas are strong in mind and in body.

DIANA TAURASI is widely considered as one of the best, if not the best, female basketball players in the world. Hailing from Chino, California, Taurasi grew up speaking both Spanish and English as the daughter of an Argentinian mother and an Italian father. Her talent quickly stood out as an athlete for the University of Connecticut, where she graduated with a degree in Sociology, before becoming a WNBA rookie of the year. Taurasi has become an all-time leading scorer in the WNBA while playing for the Phoenix Mercury, though she did take a break from the American professional league this year in order to focus on her primary position on a professional women’s basketball team in Russia. “D.T.,” as she is also known, has already led the U.S. women’s basketball team to the Olympic gold in Greece, Beijing and London, and hopes to repeat the team’s success again this summer in Rio. Though Taurasi is incredibly focused and hard-working, her USA Basketball online profile also describes her as “…a true jokester when she’s not playing some serious basketball.”

MAYA DiRADO safely secured her spot in this summer’s games after winning first place for the 400-meter individual medley race at Olympic swim trials. According to a Washington Post article, this will be the swimmer’s only appearance on the Olympic stage. A native of Santa Rosa, California, DiRado graduated from Stanford University in 2014 with a degree in management science and engineering, and will be trading in her professional swim career this fall for a career as an analyst at a management consulting firm in New York City. Twenty-three-year-old Maya is also recently married to a fellow Stanford swimmer.

ANITA ALVAREZ and her competition partner, Mariya Maroleva, will be the only two representatives for U.S. synchronized swimming at the 2016 Olympics. Both of these women were on the U.S. women’s synchronized swimming team that that won gold at last year’s U.S. Open and National Championships. Alvarez, herself, is new to the west coast. She moved from upstate New York all the way two Concord, California when she was just sixteen in order to train with the U.S. National team, a difficult decision that appears to be paying off for the now nineteen-year-old athlete.

JACKIE GALLOWAY, a dual-citizen of Mexico and the United States, first appeared on everyone’s radar at age fourteen, when she became the youngest person to ever make the Mexican national taekwondo team. Now, twenty years old and residing in Dallas, Texas, Galloway’s recent successes have earned her a ranking as number four in the world, and a spot on the U.S. team in Rio. Along with being a world-class athlete, Jackie is also a scientist, majoring in mechanical engineering at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

ANGELICA DELGADO is petite, without a doubt. She stands at 5 feet, 3 inches tall, and weighs only 114lbs. Just looking at her, you might not guess that she is actually a four-time national champion in Judo, ranked twentieth in the world, and first in the U.S. A twenty-six-year-old first generation child of Cuban parents, Delgado is entirely aware of the value of an education, as she currently attends Florida International University. She is also aware of the impact that her success could have on her community. Angelica’s Facebook profile reads, “Coming from a lower-middle class family has taught me that dreams don’t just simply come true; you must work, grind and hustle to make them a reality. I will work, grind and hustle to become the first Hispanic-American to win an Olympic gold medal in Judo.”

LAURIE HERNANDEZ is a typical teenager in many ways; she enjoys painting her nails, listens to pop and EDM music, and walks around with a bubbly attitude and wide smile wherever she goes. Unlike most other sixteen-year-olds, however, this New Jersey native has devoted most of her young life to rigorous gymnastics training. Hernandez has even been home-schooled since third grade in order to concentrate more on her sport of choice. The sacrifice has definitely paid off for Hernandez, though, as her third place all-around finish at the U.S. Olympic trials last month earned her a well-deserved ticket to Rio. This is only her first year transitioning from junior to senior-level competition, and the “Human Emoji” (a nickname referring to the athlete’s emotionally expressive face) has already joined an exclusive group of Olympic gymnasts- Latinas. According to People Magazine, only a handful of Hispanic women have ever represented the U.S. in an Olympic gymnastics competition. As a second generation Puerto Rican-American, Laurie hopes that her success in the games will help to inspire future Latina olympians, saying in an interview with the NY Daily News: “People are people. If you want something, go get it. I don’t think it should matter what race you are.”