To commemorate International Women’s Day this year, we celebrate three outstanding Floricua women who continue to inspire us all.
One suffered from a debilitating illness that left her unable to walk. But like in the words of the poem by the great Maya Angelou, still she rose to fight for her community. Another worked and continues to work tirelessly for Puerto Rican and Latino students across the state, and the third is a fighter and an advocate for LGBTQ rights. Meet the three ladies who have made and continue to make a difference in Florida.
Olga González: A Brave Trailblazer
In 2020 la Boricua Olga González became the first Hispanic woman to hold the position of mayor of Kissimmee, a region with a vibrant Puerto Rican majority.
Years before, because of her experience with activism in Latino communities and her work with nonprofit organizations, the committed philanthropist had been encouraged to run for mayor. But because of a debilitating lung condition, she did not pursue it at the time.
However, after a center where she helped families in need was closed, González, who was born in New York City and moved to Santurce, Puerto Rico, with her mother when she was 13 years old, decided to run for the position where she could do the best work for her community.
As mayor, one of her passions is tackling eviction problems faced by Hispanic communities. That is because in 1983 González was evicted from the apartment that she rented for 10 years.
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“I have seen the work and leadership of many women around me [… ] And I have learned a lot from the paths that they have opened for us to get to where we are today,” says González, who continues to trailblaze for Latina women.
Johanna López: A Passion to Protect
She describes herself as a working mother, a committed teacher, and a member of the Orange County School Board. She is also the fearless representative for Florida’s District 43 and an ardent supporter of her community.
As an educator, the Aguadilla native who relocated to Orlando in 1998 has won many awards, including the Florida State Senate Proclamation for Contribution in Education for outstanding contributions to the Central Florida community in the field of education, and the Coqui de Oro in Education, awarded by La Casa de Puerto Rico to an educational leader who has positively impacted the life Puerto Rican and Latino youth in Central Florida.
As representative, López takes that same passion to protecting those in her community. She recently voted against House Bill 543, the proposed legislation pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis that would eliminate a concealed-weapons licensing process that includes people undergoing criminal background checks and completing firearms-training courses.
Eunic Ortiz: A Fighter for LGBTQ Rights
Born in Central Florida and raised in Pinellas County by Boricua educators who served in the country’s military, for more than 15 years Eunic Ortiz has fought for communities through her work in local government and advocacy.
An openly gay woman, she has spent much of her career fighting for LGBTQ rights. As a student she founded the Gay Straight Alliance at Tarpon Springs High and established a scholarship program that helped low-income LGBTQ youth better afford the cost of a college education. Today the former Florida State Senate candidate continues to be a strong advocate for LGBTQ equality and criminal justice reform.
Ortiz has also worked arduously for the betterment of her community, such as a need for diverse workforce opportunities in Tampa Bay, affordable housing for all Floridians, accessible, quality health care, and fully funded public education. During the 2020 elections, she led a team to help pass Amendment 2, the ballot initiative in Florida that raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“I have so much hope that [as Boricuas] are paying attention to who we are electing to office, to the issues that are happening right next door to us, in our state capitol, in our communities,” Ortiz told Floricua. “We have the power to make the change we want to see.”