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Future Hispanic History Month: 8 Activists Changing the World Now

Important rising voices like America Ferrera, Lance Rios, Alicia Machado, Xiuhtezcatl Martínez and many more are on their way to fully securing their legacies as must-know game changers

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Alicia Machado

Hometown: Maracay, Venezuela

Why You Should Pay Attention: In the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, a majority of the country was introduced to a Venezuela-born beauty queen who eventually stood for much, much more than her looks. News came to mainstream light that then-Republican nominee Trump had criticized Machado's weight and heritage (reportedly referring to her as "Miss Piggy" and "Miss Housekeeping") when she competed in, and won, his 1996 Miss Universe competition. After Clinton brought to light those remarks, Machado was back in the spotlight to speak more about why it was important to not let comments like these go unnoticed. "I'm a Latina, I'm from Venezuela and Cuba, I need to share my story," she explained during an interview on Fox News with Megyn Kelly that was going to be tough, but allowed Machado's passion to shine. "The point is: No more abuse for us, no more abuse for the girls. If you gain weight, if you don't look [like] the most beautiful girl in the world, you have your mind, you have your heart, you are strong, you are intelligent and, in the future, ladies can be a president too...We need to change minds and to respect for all the women in this country." Now a U.S. citizen, Machado continues to remind us why it's important to speak out about wrongdoing no matter how long ago the events were or what we can possibly gain or lose from it. Jeff Benjamin

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America Ferrera

Hometown: Los Angeles, California, U.S. 

Why You Should Pay Attention: We all know and love America Ferrera for her roles in Ugly Betty, Superstore and the How to Train Your Dragon franchise, but the 33-year-old is way more than just an actress. Ferrera, who is of Honduran descent, uses her celebrity status to give a voice to various communities—like Latinas and WOC—who need it the most. "As an actress, the idea that women are relegated to certain roles, and Latina women are further relegated to hyper-sexualized objects, just to fit in, has completely limited my career and me as a human being," she recently explained to Hillary Clinton during a New York Times conversation. "But I’m calling bull! Why should I have to compete with every other brown woman just because somebody says this is the amount of pie we’re willing to give you?" A few months prior, Ferrera gave a powerful speech during the Women’s March on Washington, which resonated with people from all cultures, races and ages. "We will not go from being a nation of immigrants, to a nation of ignorance,” she stated as she called out Donald Trump. Thanks to her courage and relentless support for her communities, Ferrera is paving the way for rising actresses to not be fearful to take a stand. Bianca Gracie

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Adrian Carrasquillo

Hometown: Queens, New York, U.S.; Washington, District of Columbia, U.S.

Why You Should Pay Attention: At a time when our president has threatened to remove more than two million undocumented immigrants—a.k.a. the "Dreamers"—and the Latino vote being more scrutinized than ever, journalists like Adrian Carrasquillo are all the more necessary. While the Queens native began his BuzzFeed career as a political reporter and editor of Latino coverage, the 32-year-old will now serve as the outlet's White House Correspondent. The move was perhaps best summed by a Remezcla feature interview that nailed it from the headline: In a Mostly White Press Corps, Adrian Carrasquillo Will Bring a Latino Voice to the White House. No one seems better suited to be in this position with Stony Brook University graduate's work focusing on oft-overlooked stories like Ana Navarro's rise and profiles of Latino Trump voters. Having a voice like Carrasquillo in the White House will be important not only in shedding light for the questions and issues important to an underrepresented community, but in keeping journalism and the press further diverse and inclusive. —Jeff Benjamin

Follow Ardian's work on BuzzFeed here.

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Joaquin and Julián Castro

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro (L) and his brother Joaquin Castro wave to the audience  at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Ch
STAN HONDA/AFP/GettyImages

Hometown: San Antonio, Texas, U.S.

Why You Should Pay Attention: What’s better than conquering the U.S. political world alone? Doing it with your brother! Joaquin and Julián Castro, also know as The Castro Twins, gained their love for change and policy from their mother Rosie Castro. She was a standout Chicana political activist during the ‘60s and ‘70s in San Antonio. The brothers carried along the familial torch when Julian (the older twin by a minute) became the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in 2014 under President Obama’s cabinet. Joaquín has been a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Texas’ 20th district since 2013. "Joaquin and I were talking a couple of months ago," Julian said during a 2015 interview with The Atlantic, "and I told him, 'I feel like the world is coming toward us in a positive way. More now in our lives than it ever will again.’” Two years has passed, and his words still ring true. Bianca Gracie

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Xela de la X

Hometown: Los Angeles, California, U.S.

Why You Should Pay Attention: Community activist. Cyclist. Musician. Xela de la X wears many hats, but the Los Angeles native never lost sight of her goal of reclaiming the very streets deemed unsafe for women like herself. Since organizing her first major riding event six years ago, the self-described "unapologetically militant feminist" has garnered national attention for building a night-riding bike brigade of WOCs known as Ovarian Psycos. Hoping to make local cycling safer for working-class women of color, de la X and her collective of fearless riders continue to bring awareness to her community’s lack of mobility and voice against the longstanding white, male-dominated world of cycling—as well as threats of gentrification. In addition to their monthly Luna Rides, the “Ovas” organize an annual 26-mile journey called the “Clitoral Mass,” held in six cities where hundreds of women ride together in a safe, empowering space. Performing under the name Cihuatl-Ce, de la X also shares her vision through socially conscious rap that speaks on the issues plaguing her beloved community. For a deeper look into de la X’s world, check out PBS’ critically-acclaimed documentary Ovarian Psycos. Tina Xu

Learn more about Ovarian Psycos here.

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Lance Rios

Hometown: New York, New York, U.S.; Puerto Rico

Why You Should Pay Attention: There's strength in numbers and Lance Rios knew this years ago when he founded Being Latino, a social-media network focused on creating content and ways of engagement specific to his community, including music videos, parodies, viral videos and more. The Puerto Rican entrepreneur already boasts more than 20 million followers, but has been spending 2017 looking to expand the cultural conversation. Recently, Rios launched his own content studio DigiBunch as Coca-Cola, Toyota, T-Mobile and other Fortune 500 companies request custom content from he and his team. As he told The Washington Post in a recent profile, the beauty of his work is in making content for all the different kinds of experiences and initiatives. Jeff Benjamin

Learn more about Being Latino here.

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Manny Ruiz

Courtesy Hispanicize

Hometown: Miami, Florida, U.S.

Why You Should Pay Attention: Manny Ruiz, a Miami native whose roots extend across the sea to Cuba, quickly made a name for himself as the founder of Hispanicize. It is currently the largest Hispanic social media and entertainment event in America. The first was held in 2010 and was initially meant for people in marketing and social media. But the gathering later grew to include various fields like music, journalism (Ruiz is a former Miami Herald writer), entrepreneurship, film and more. “We feel a responsibility, not just to make an event that is for these industries but that also tells the true and positive stories of Latinos making a change and making a difference in their communities,” the 47-year-old told NBC News last March. Hispanicize helps Latinos explore their passion and creativity among fellow professionals, and it’s all thanks to Ruiz!Bianca Gracie

Learn more about Hispanicize here.

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Xiuhtezcatl Martínez

Hometown: Boulder, Colorado, U.S.

Why You Should Pay Attention: Teenagers are often faulted for being shortsighted and not being able to see the consequences of their future actions, but Xiuhtezcatl Martínez is one of the world's strongest cases against that. Boasting deep Aztec roots, the 16-year-old indigenous climate activist has been one of the most prominent young voices on environmentalism and educating his generation on the importance of treating the planet well. His voice has been heard by the United Nations, PBS, National Geographic, CNN, Rolling Stone and more, and in 2013 received the 2013 United States Community Service Award from President Obama. He is the youth director of Earth Guardians, with youth at the forefront while "empowering them as leaders and amplifying their impact." Along with his sister, Isa, Xiuhtezcatl creates hip-hop music to further tell his stories and about issues facing the earth. It's tough to get young people to pay attention to the issues they may not even realize are facing them, but Martínez's tenacity and approach continues to prove why his voice will only grow and be more influential. Jeff Benjamin

Learn more about Earth Guardians here.

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