23-year-old Fernanda Cortes is shining light on influential Latinas one TikTok at a time.
Cortes has gained a following of nearly 500,000 due to her video series, “Bad A—Latinas in History.” The series, which she started in March 2020, works to highlight influential—and sometimes overlooked—Latin women and was born out of a love for history and Latin culture.
“I am a really big history nerd,” Cortes said in an interview with the Café con Canela podcast, “but I noticed that people weren’t talking about Latinas, these women my mom and grandma taught me about, and I wondered why these women weren’t being talked about.”
The series has around 100 videos, every one featuring a prominent Latina figure from history.
“I’ve talked about Rita Moreno, how she was the first Latina to win an Oscar, or Sylvia Mendez who, with her mom, helped end segregation in California, which set a precedent to end segregation in the entire country,” Cortes said in an interview with ABC News. “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 has also posted videos honoring Latinas such as actress María Félix, associate justice of the Supreme Court Sonia Sotomayor, and actress America Ferrera.
Her main goal for the series, she said, is to combat stereotypes about her culture and showcase her home country. Cortes’ family immigrated to Phoenix, Arizona from Guadalajara, Mexico when she was in elementary school.
“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.
Having been raised in two distinct cultures, Cortes said that she has been a product of both environments—that of Mexico and that of America—and that she knows plenty of people who have the same struggles she does.
“I’ve grown up in both environments,” she said. “Mexican-Americans have more American mentalities… I have some Mexican-American friends who struggle with struggle with the balancing the blend [of both cultures].”
This tricky balance of identity and culture leads to some toxicity in the community, which Cortes has fallen prey to herself.
“I get comments sometimes that say I’m not really Latino,” Cortes said. “It’s almost like you need a checklist to be considered Latino. But if you’re of Latino descent and you’re a part of the culture, then you’re Latino. We need more love and support within our community.”
While she wants to pursue a career in healthcare, Cortes also has plans for the future of her series. “Getting verified is a goal for everybody,” she said. “I also want to make more videos in Spanish.”
Her main goal, though, is the one she’s been carrying throughout the series. Through highlighting the Latin women she has thus far—those who have made a real difference in the world—Cortes hopes to bring out the best in her community and unite them all in their shared history and culture.
“I want to bring the Latin community together,” she said. “I feel like we’re not as unified as we need to be. I definitely have gotten messages from 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.”
You can watch Cortes’ “Bad A—Latinas in History” series here.