One Arizona woman is on a mission to educate others about influential Latin women -- by using her TikTok.
Fernanda Cortes, 23, immigrated to Phoenix with her family from Guadalajara, Mexico, when she was in elementary school. Growing up, to connect her to her culture, Cortes said her family made sure to teach her about influential Latinas.
“I think it wasn't necessarily them trying to teach me history, but they're just trying to teach me about these cultural icons that touched so many people in my culture,” Cortes said.
Like many 20-somethings, Cortes downloaded TikTok during the pandemic and began to get ideas for videos she could make. While millions of others were learning the latest dance crazes, she decided to make it a space where she could teach others about Latinas who changed the course of history.
“I just decided to start talking about these women that inspired me,” Cortes said. “I felt like they weren’t being recognized or acknowledged. ... I wanted to put their names out there, their stories out there and hopefully connect with someone and have another young Latina find someone that they can see themselves in.”
Cortes began a series on her account called “Bad a— Latinas in History.” In every video Cortes highlights a different Latina and shares how she helped change the world. She began her series honoring Mexican film actress María Félix and has now highlighted nearly 100 influential Latina woman through her videos.
“I've talked about Rita Moreno, how she was the first Latina to win an Oscar, or Sylvia Mendez who and her and her mom helped end segregation in California, which set a precedent to end segregation in the entire country,” Cortes said. “I felt like their stories were so important. ... So I wanted to put them out there and hopefully connect with someone who had never heard about them before.”
Cortes also hopes through educating others about her culture and influential Latinas, she can help end negative stereotypes about the Latin community and her home country of Mexico.
“I think my culture is so beautiful, and it's so deep and so rich, and my country is so much more than the negative stereotypes and the negative ideals that the media oftentimes puts,” Cortes said.
“I would love there to be accurate education and accurate representation in schools,” Cortes said. “I would love to be able to have a more diverse education about different cultures, because I feel like these kids need to learn about their cultures, and they need to connect with their culture. I fully believe that this country is a melting pot. So I think we need to diversify the history in school.”
Cortes has built a following of nearly 500,000 people with her videos and said while she hopes to educate others she also hopes to bring the Latin community closer to their roots.
“I want to bring the Latin community together. I feel like we’re not as unified as we need to be,” Cortes said. “I definitely have gotten messages with people saying that they appreciate my content because it makes them feel closer to their roots. Those are the messages that mean so much to me, because I believe that it's never too late to get in touch with your roots in any way possible.”
Editor's note: This was originally published on Sept. 20, 2021.