Announcing our 2024 Latin@ research and policy fellows

With over 150 applicants for our Latina Leadership Fellowship, Esperanza United is thrilled to introduce our ten summer fellows. From now until August, these next-gen leaders will develop their skills, networks, and knowledge to step into their power as rising researchers and advocates.


  • Xochitl Fuentes is a second-year International Affairs Master’s student at Texas A&M. As a teacher and gender-based violence research assistant, she focuses on empowering women in Latin America and sustainable migration.
  • Maria Rebeca Martinez Gonzalez is a senior at UC Riverside School of Public Policy. Maria works closely with Mayan communities to promote education and Guatemalan culture for women.
  • Heidy Castillo is a first-generation Oaxaqueña senior at San Francisco State University studying Political Science. Active in Alpha Pi Sigma Sorority, she is currently interning at the Hall of Justice in San Francisco.
  • Isabella Benjamin-Quintana is a senior at Macalester College majoring in American Studies. She has contributed to Latin@ organizations like Academia de Cesar Chavez and Minnesota Council of Latino Affairs, and developed a project in Cusco, Perú, highlighting Mestiza and Indigenous women’s activism.
  • Cynthia Esmeralda Salazar is a senior at UC Berkeley, majoring in Gender and Women Studies. She’s a proud queer, first-generation Guatemalteca with a passion for ending gender-based violence who also expresses herself through poetry and short stories.
  • Vanessa Leon-Gamez is a senior at the University of Denver and an incoming first-year Master’s in Public Health student at the Colorado School of Public Health. She aspires to be a researcher who centers marginalized voices, justice, healing, and decolonization praxis.
  • Alexa De La Fuente is an incoming PhD student in American Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Yale University. A recent graduate, she earned honors in Ethnic Studies for her thesis on Latina survivors of gender-based violence in television. 
  • Sarahy Torres is a first-generation Latina college student at UCLA majoring in Chicana/o and Central American Studies and Education and Social Transformation. She is proud of her Mexican farmworker heritage, and her research interests include spatial geography, critical race theory, farmworker movements, women’s rights, and migrant education. 
  • Jimena Mendoza is a first-generation student, who recently graduated from Iowa State University with a major in Psychology and a minor in Statistics. Her research focuses on mental health disparities among immigrants, monolingual Spanish speakers, and the Latin@ community.
  • Zaira Martin is a first-year Sociocultural Anthropology doctoral student at Arizona State University. As a border resident, she values her lived experiences as ways to inform her research and advocacy for immigrant and marginalized communities.