From the Ashes: Reflecting on Latinx Leadership

It has been two years since Donald J. Trump was sworn into office as President of the United States of America. In that moment, the lives of many people around the world—including me—changed. There was one thing we could be sure of: hate in America would rising. Despite some Americans’ desire to build a wall and make America great again, however, there is still good in this world.

I believe that the one thing we have gained during Trump’s presidency is a sense of purpose. Since his inauguration, people have rallied together; unity has become our strongest weapon. Every rally needs a leader, and I am honored to have seen my people lead in 2018. Here are some Latinx leaders to recognize from the past year.

EMMA GONZALEZ, gun-control activist. One moment that will resonate with me for the rest of my life is when this young woman—who is my age—silenced the streets of Washington, D.C. during the March for Our Lives. Standing above a crowd of more than 200,000 people, you could have heard a pin drop. Then, a stopwatch went off.

“Since the time that I came out here, it has been six minutes and twenty seconds. The shooter has ceased shooting and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with the students as they escape, and walk free for an hour before arrest. Fight for your life before it’s someone else’s job.”

Gonzalez is one of the most prominent voices of students who have been affected by mass shootings. For me, to see a Latina stand on that stage in Washington, D.C. and command a nation was almost biblical.

ISAAC GOMEZ, playwright. Last year in Chicago, Gomez produced La Ruta at Steppenwolf a nationally recognized theatre. It was Gomez’s first play to feature an all-Latina cast, and it was the first play performed at the Steppenwolf to do so. Inspired by true events, the play tells the story of women in Juárez, Mexico—a border town known for its femicide epidemic. When asked about the show, Gomez said, “I made a promise to these women that their stories would be heard by as many people as humanly possible, and through this world premiere at Steppenwolf, we are one step closer to keeping that promise.” Gomez is also a founder of The Alliance of Latinx Theatre Artists of Chicago (ALTA). This year, ALTA held its first annual awards show. It was a time to celebrate Latinx theatre-makers all over the country.

JULIÁN CASTRO, presidential candidate. This leader, a Democrat from San Antonio, Texas, became a presidential candidate toward the end of 2018. During Obama’s time in office, he served as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. He is now running for the 2020 presidential election with the slogan, “One Nation. One Destiny.” In terms of representation, it’s important for young Latinx children to see a man who looks like them run such a large-scale campaign. I wish him the best of luck!

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ, congresswoman. This woman is defining the next generation of politicians—a generation whose members are not afraid to speak their minds or make change happen. Ocasio-Cortez is now the youngest person ever elected to Congress. Since being sworn in, she has repeatedly criticized President Trump’s policies and beliefs.

These faces prove that we are not a forgotten people. Our voices matter, and our stories will be told. If this is just a glimpse into the leaders born in 2018, I can’t imagine what 2019 will bring. As Julián Castro said, “Let’s get to work! ¡Vamonos!”

By Jacob Craigo-Snell

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