Latina Leaders first began in 2001 as part of Hispanic Heritage Week. It was organized by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, at the time a first term member of the U.S. Congress from California. By 2008, Latina Leaders developed into its own independent event, organized by The Imagen Foundation at the suggestion of Secretary Solis. Past honorees have included talk show host Cristina Saralegui, Civil Rights leader Dolores Huerta, CNN and PBS news reporter Maria Hinojosa, and actress America Ferrera.
In 2010, Imagen began inviting members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to nominate an outstanding Latina from their respective districts to be honored as a Latina Leader. Eleven members from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus participated, of which six were in attendance at the celebration to introduce and honor their nominee. Among the women honored was Martha “Marty” Sanchez, president of the Pilsen Neighbors Community Council in Chicago, Ill. Nominated by Rep. Luis Gutierrez, Marty had proven herself as a leader and activist in her community, not only at the local level, but also state and national. Despite her tireless commitment to her community and role as one of the organizers of Fiesta del Sol, which attracts over one million residents in the Chicago area annually, Marty had never been recognized for her achievements. Being honored as a Latina Leader was a first for Marty. Our goal is to honor these unsung heroines.