The Renewed Fight for Latinx Rights and Representation

The Renewed Fight for Latinx Rights and Representation

The Renewed Fight for Latinx Rights and Representation

From Hollywood portrayals to abortion laws to income inequality, panelists reimagine the status quo on the second day of the Latinx House’s Raizado Festival.


In the mountains, the sun is slow to arrive, but when it does—around midday—it comes all at once. The end of Wednesday programming at the Latinx House’s Raizado Festival also came suddenly, after a densely packed day of talks, panels, presentations, awards, and an after-party at Aspen’s landmark Hotel Jerome.

Roe Was Never Enough

Today’s first panel, on reproductive and maternal health, welcomed Christina Soliz, the political director of COLOR, a Colorado reproductive rights organization, and Adrienne Mansanares, the president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. Though abortion remains legal in Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada, 14 states have banned the procedure to some degree since the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. Sixteen have ongoing litigation that will determine the future of residents’ reproductive rights.

For organizers like Soliz, the loss of abortion rights was predictable, because “Roe was never enough.” Now that we are without it, an abortion justice framework demands that we think not only about legal protection and codification but accessibility as well. “The bans and the barriers to abortion access fall hardest on…the Latinx community and other communities of color that face systemic discrimination and racism,” Soliz told The Nation. “Legality doesn’t equal access, and access doesn’t equal equity, or affordability. When we think about abortion justice, we’re talking about having folks in health centers who speak your language…having abortion [be] free, [getting rid of] public funding bans, having private insurance cover [abortions] without any stipulations, [and having] access to more providers [in] rural communities…”

In a post-Roe United States, organizers are also increasingly looking to learn from the transformative power of Latin American feminist organizing. A Planned Parenthood cabana pop-up displayed complimentary green bandanas, the symbol for the reproductive rights movement in Argentina, where grassroots mobilization spurred the decriminalization of abortion in early 2021. Aurea Bolaños Perea, communications manager at COLOR, wore a green pañuelo tied around her neck, and has a tattoo of an Aztec goddess who also wears one. “[Latin American movements] have been incredible to not only draw inspiration from but to be reassured [by],” she told The Nation. “It’s not about making a seat at the table, it’s about deconstructing those oppressive systems and constructing a system that [ensures] liberation and freedom for all people. That’s one thing that 8-M [in Mexico] and the marea verde [in Argentina] do.” 

Wealth Gaps and the “Gig” Economy

In the US, Latinx workers are significantly overrepresented in low-paying jobs. Latinas, for instance, are about 8 percent of the workforce, but make up 16 percent of low-wage work. Antonia Peña, co-director of the DMV chapter of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, came to the United States from Colombia as a domestic worker for a diplomat family. “When I got here, I ended up working more, and I was underpaid,” she told The Nation. “[But I realized that] if I was struggling, there were people who were struggling more than me, and that’s when I got involved with the [NDWA].”

For over five years, Peña has worked to gain respect, recognition, and rights for US domestic workers. Now, she aims to pass the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in Washington, D.C. “There,” she said, “we’re excluded from human rights.… it’s like [the state] is saying we’re not human.” So far, similar bills have been passed in 10 states. “The same way we care for others, we deserve to have someone that cares for us,” Peña said in her panel, and was met with loud applause. Later, she reflected: “I’m doing this work of educating people, educating those with means, and those who probably employ domestic workers in their homes, and don’t see them, because society hasn’t taught them to see [domestic workers] as people.” (The interview with Antonia Peña has been translated from Spanish.)

Though Adrian Haro, CEO of the Workers Lab, urged wealthy audience members—and that’s a large crowd here—to donate to the NDWA, he maintained that “the single most effective and important tool we have to close this [wealth] gap is our government. The government’s job is to help, and it can help to implement things that we know work: progressive taxation, a robust, comprehensive, reparations plan, housing subsidies, student debt [forgiveness]… I believe in government at scale.”

Reimagining Hollywood

Eighteen and a half percent of the US population is Latinx, but just 7.7 percent of film roles last year were performed by Latinx actors, according to UCLA’s Hollywood Diversity Report. Latinx film directors were just 7.1 percent—and Latinx writers were just 5.6 percent—of the 2021 totals. “And all of us are in this room today!” actress Annie Gonzalez joked.

If proportional representation (behind and in front of the camera) and equitable marketing for Latinx projects are a first step, for Mabel Cadena, who will play Namora in the upcoming Black Panther sequel, “more stories” is the second. “We need more opportunities, because we are ready,” she told The Nation. Of the upcoming film, she said: “I feel really proud, because we are two minorities together…. It’s the only superhero movie with this representation. And…every [Latinx person] in the movie—we now can be superheroes.… I saw, for the first time, a kid with a Namor costume…[and]I can’t believe my face is a girl warrior in Marvel. I’m filled with a lot of hope.”

Discussions will be recorded and posted on The Latinx House’s YouTube page. You can watch the livestream here.

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