These transgender Latinas are proudly and publicly re-creating gender-identity norms and making a positive difference for the trans community. Get to know Angela Ponce, Daniela Vega, Diane Rodríguez, Analia Pasantino and Mara Cifuentes.
1. When Miss Spain Angela Ponce walked on stage at the 2018 Miss Universe pageant, the world stood still. The gorgeous blonde — the first transgender contestant to participate in the international beauty contest — didn’t take home the crown, but she wowed audiences worldwide with her charisma and integrity. “I’ve always thought that it’s very positive to dream,” Ponce said. “Many people don’t have the information of what it means to be a transgender woman, to have a part of you which tells you that your identity is female. Identity is with us since before we are born.”
Born Angel Mario Ponce in Seville, Angela suffered bullying from classmates as a boy before having a sex-change operation as a teenager. “We live in a century where we can’t keep repeating patterns of the past. To eradicate intolerance, I think it would be very important to instill those values since we are young,” says the advocate for inclusiveness and compassion. “My hope is that tomorrow we will be able to live in a world of equality for everyone.”
2. Chilean actress Daniela Vega also made history in 2019 as the first transgender presenter at the Oscars. Featured in the film A Fantastic Woman, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film Oscar, she emerged on stage to present Sufjan Stevens’s performance of “Mystery of Love” from Call Me By Your Name. “Thank you so much for this moment,” Vega said before millions of viewers. “I want to invite you to open your hearts and your feelings to feel the reality, to feel love. Can you feel it?”
3. Ecuador’s first transgender senator Diane Rodríguez is changing the political landscape in her country in more ways than one. “Being a public figure comes at a price,” Rodríguez told NBC News. “But I see that cost as a sacrifice for younger generations so that they don’t have to suffer the same experiences that I have to suffer through now.” Born Luis Benedicto, she earned a living as a sex worker to survive after her family abandoned her as a teen. Although she faced death threats after her election, the senator has been an advocate for the LGBTQ community for over a decade. She and her trans partner Fernando Machado — who was born a woman — have a child together and have shifted many people’s perspectives with their love story.
4. Analía Pasantino from Argentina is the first transgender police chief in Latin America. After serving with Argentina’s federal police as a man for 20 years, she came out as a transgender woman and was forced to resign. However, nearly a decade after, she was welcomed back to the police force as chief, proudly wearing her uniform paired with pearls and makeup.
5. Colombian-American model Mara Cifuentes is also breaking down barriers in fashion and television.
Besides conquering runways, the stunning San Francisco, California–born brunette was a favorite on the Colombian modeling reality show La Agencia. After opening up about her transgender process, she became even more popular star on Spanish-language television and social media — she has 705,000 Instagram followers! “I want everyone who is watching me, who feels like me, not to be afraid to be criticized,” said the 27-year-old, who began transitioning from male to female at 13. “Be strong, because we have to change the world. We have to rid the world of ignorance and show the world what we are made of, that we are strong, hardworking, that we study, that we are not sexual objects.”