Jonathan J. Higuera

In celebration of Arizona Trailblazers

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If the term “trailblazer” refers to someone creating a path where there once was none so that others may follow, then this year’s Arizona Latina Trailblazers honorees truly embody the definition. Their personal and professional accomplishments are characterized by a series of firsts: first in their families, first in their neighborhoods, first in their towns and cities, and first in their generation to reach heights and goals previously unattained by Latinas. 

Whether it was becoming the first Latina to serve on the county board of supervisors, first Latina from a rural border district to serve in the state legislature, first Latina to lead a venerated national organization or the first Latina to serve as a founding board member for one of the country’s largest Latino-run nonprofits, the honorees broke new ground with their endeavors and achievements. 

The common thread among the honorees is the desire to help people in their communities get a fair shot at attaining the rights and opportunities afforded to all who reside in this great country. 

 For Amanda Aguirre, serving in the state legislature struck her as a logical extension of the work she had done in public health, serving the needs of rural areas near Yuma and the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. When appointed to serve as the representative for her state legislative district in 2003, she broke through a barrier that had existed for decades, because no Latino or Latina had held that seat, despite its being in a majority Latino area. 

 In another part of the state, Elizabeth Archuleta’s passion for the greater good led her to become the first Latina to serve on the Coconino County Board of Supervisors at the age of 31. Now, more than a decade later, she still holds the position and has a major commitment to helping Flagstaff neighborhoods become empowered. In her chosen profession at Northern Arizona University, she’s created and developed numerous programs to give youth the skills and confidence to become leaders and reach their potential. 

 As a young girl growing up in Eloy, Arizona, Anna Maria Chávez joined a Girl Scout troop hoping it would provide some fun experiences that were hard to come by in her small town. She had no inkling that one day she would be chosen to run the national Girl Scouts of the USA organization. In 2011, she became the 19th leader of the 100-plus-year-old organization. Before joining the Girl Scouts, she left her mark in Arizona, working on the staff of former Gov. Janet Napolitano.

Terri Cruz’s amiable personality belies her fierce determination to help people get the services they need and deserve. Although she points out that there was no “plan” for her career other than to do what was in her heart, it has been a remarkable journey that has made life better for countless individuals. It is also why a building at the Chicanos por la Causa facility on Buckeye Road is named the Terri Cruz Social Services Center.

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