Influential Puerto Rican Women (Part 1)

Moraryma Reyes
National Women’s History Month

As we are saying goodbye to Women’s History Month, I would like to take a moment and look back in history in order to discuss some of the most prominent women who hail from my home county of Puerto Rico. Their significant contributions and excellence in their respective fields should be celebrated and always remembered.

1. Ana Irma Rivera Lassen, J.D 1955

As a feminist, activist and lawyer, Ana is the first openly gay President of Puerto Rico’s Bar Association. She is only the third woman to have been selected as BA’s president. Lassen is also known for her involvement with cultural, social- economic and gender rights issues in Puerto Rico. She is founder and supporter of many non-profit organizations that aim at correcting these issues.

2. Dr. Antonia Pantoja, 1922-2002

In 1996, Pantoja was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, due to her excellent work in equality and educational issues affecting Puerto Rican students in the United States school system. She established ASPIRA in 1961 and Boricua College in 1970, as well as played a big role in the actualization of bilingual lesson plans in NYC public schools.

3. Blanca Canales Torresola, 1906-1996

Torresola was born in the influential and politically charged Canales family, and is known for her work as an educator, revolutionary and political supporter of the Nationalist Insurrection Party of Puerto Rico. Her declaration of the Second Republic forced Torresola to spend 17 years in prison.

4. Caridad de la Luz “La Bruja” 1977

Caridad was born and raised in the Bronx, NYC and is a well known poet, performer, writer, and actress. She has appeared in multiple films and television shows, and an appearances at the legendary at the Nuyorican Poets Café. “La Bruja” also facilitates workshops for inner city youth and students, focusing on writing. Her involvement in the education and arts field have earned Caridad a spot in the El Diario/ La Prensa’s list as one of the 50 most accomplished Latina women.

5. Esmeralda Santiago, 1948

Esmeralda is a native of Puerto Rico, and moved to New York City at a young age. Santiago attend New York City’s Performing Arts High School and graduated with degrees from Harvard University and Sarah Lawrence College. She wrote the critically acclaimed book “When I was a Puerto Rican” and is an activist for women’s right and avid speaker against domestic violence.