Five Transformative Thought Leaders of COLOR: Hispanic Heritage Month Edition

Listen to this article

By Andre LaFontant & Karla Amador

In 2020, adversity has impacted every aspect of life as we know it. As the year’s challenges mount leaders show their mettle and inspire those who dare to be courageous, creative, outspoken, and committed to fostering an inclusive community. In honor of Hispanic heritage month, we’re taking an opportunity to recognize and highlight five Latinx leaders who continue to empower others through an unwavering love and expression of their cultures, their voices, and their gifts.


Photo by Kevin Aranibar

Photo by Kevin Aranibar

The Ecuadorian-Lithuanian DJ and producer, Riobamba (Sara Skolnick), fearlessly entrenches herself at the forefront of the rapidly expanding Latinx music scene. Having devoted eight years to spinning records that stay true to a once-marginalized sound, Riobamba’s persistent jockeying knocks down mainstream doors with booming reggaeton beats.

Four years into her DJ career, Riobamba took her passion for Latinx music to Bogata, Colombia, where she spent nine months as a Fullbright Scholar. There, she dove into an expression of a musical tradition called la Familia Ayara. Through this organization that promotes non-violence through hip-hop, Riobamba taught music education, with classes covering music production and performance.

Riobamba’s record label Apocalipsis, as well as her monthly Red Bull Radio show, Bien Buena, maintain the rhythm of accountability towards the Latinx community. These platforms focus upon localized communities driving forward Latinx music culture.

How did being a Fullbright Scholar change your approach to music? 

“That was a big turning point in terms of taking seriously the academic and scholarly side of DJing. I really started looking at the way music, community, and politics intersect, by researching how civil conflict was being expressed through physical communities in Bogata. I was looking at how internal migration into the region was manifesting within the local musical traditions through remixing and reshuffling.”

Get the full story below:

 Miami Folk Duo – Dracula


Photo credit: Amanda Ortega

Vocalist Dorys Bello and guitarist/vocalist Eli Oviedo started playing music together 13 years ago in the backyards and homes of friends in Miami. Dorys Bello’s light alto is balanced with Eli Oviedo’s fingerpicked guitar and gentle baritone. In 2019, they released their debut album “Dorys & Eli” which is described as “the clearest realization of their music, featuring the highest production value, and their favorite songs” by Bandcamp. Since 2007, Dracula has gone on to play at cemeteries, art galleries, and even the deserts of Southern California; their sets are touching and intense, and create an atmosphere derived not only from the music’s strength but from the visible trust and connection of its makers. Harmonizing over modest guitar accompaniment, their versatile sound ranges from traditional Mexican rancheras and corridos to Cuban boleros, protest songs, and childhood church songs.

What kind of people do you want your art to inspire? 

“We don’t have any expectations for what an audience might experience, but we do hope that they read the melancholy of a world of tradition bitter-sweetly fading out of view. Who do we want our music to inspire? Anyone who will sit and reflect on loss and the transience of memory, the inescapable liminality of human experience.”

Check out their single Como La Flor below.

gilbertheadshotGilbert Placeres

Organizing Director of Engage Miami

Gilbert Placeres currently serves as the Organizing Director of Engage Miami where he aims to build the power and voice of young people in Miami-Dade. Since starting at Engage in 2017 as an Organizer, Gilbert has been a leader in growing Engage’s voter engagement, leadership development, and advocacy work with the long-term goal of building a more just, democratic, and sustainable Miami. Raised between New York, NY; Santo Domingo, Dom. Rep. and Miami, he was first trained as an organizer while working with Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012 after graduating high school. Gilbert graduated with degrees in Political Science and Quantitative Economics from Tufts University in 2016. In 2020, he was selected as one of 20 of Miami’s Next Leaders.

Why is voting so important in 2020?

As young people and people of color, we are some of the largest groups in this country. But not voting is one way many of us give up our power to help build the future we want. A government that fights for us and can make things like universal healthcare or good jobs is possible, but we need to stand up and fight for it. It starts with voting, but we have to go beyond, staying engaged and joining with other people to advocate for what we’d like to see happen, especially in our local communities. If we’re not at the table, we’re on the menu.

Learn more about Gilbert and Engage Miami here:

jack_rico_pabloJack Rico

Host of NBC’s Consumer 101, Bilingual Entertainment Journalist, & Podcaster

Born and raised by Colombian parents in Queens, New York, Rico made journalism history in 1999 as one of the founding on-air anchors that launched Univision’s first Spanish language morning newscast in New York City: Al Despertar.

Today, Jack Rico hosts NBC and Telemundo’s national broadcast show Consumer 101, the first-ever English and Spanish language television show from Consumer Reports. Rico is also a familiar face on NBC’s TODAY Show, providing bilingual entertainment journalism to the masses; his think pieces and interviews can also be seen online on He’s made additional appearances on MSNBC, VH1, E News!, Telemundo, and Univision. Rico also hosts the influential Latinx podcast, Highly Relevant, a show centered around covering Latinx pop culture in the United States.

Rico has received various television awards, including the Associated Press, El Diario ‘EL‘ Award and The Ace Award. He is currently a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, one of the most prestigious and largest film critic organizations in the United States, as well as LEJA (The Latino Entertainment Journalists Association), and the New York Film Critics Online.

What impact do you want to have as a Latino in the media industry today? 

“I hope [my] show can leave a mark on the next generation of people who don’t feel like there is a place for them on TV, because there is.”

Read our exclusive feature on Jack Rico:

jcrpabloJacqueline Camacho-Ruiz 

Author, Pilot, and CEO — JJR Marketing and Fig Factor Media Publishing

Jacqueline Camacho-Ruiz is an empowerment pioneer creating new ways to unlock personal and professional potential. She is the founder of The Fig Factor Foundation focused on unleashing the amazing in young Latinas and the creator of the six-volume book series and international movement.Today’s Inspired Latina. Jacqueline is a regular guest on local and national TV, radio and print publications. She has been featured in Forbes, Inc Magazine, CBS World News, ESPN, CBS in the Morning, Univision, and many others. She has received almost 20 awards for her business acumen and achievements around the world.

Her pioneering spirit also led her toward the sky and becoming one of the few Latina pilots in the United States. Out of six-and-half million US pilots, less than half a million are women and fewer than five-thousand are Latina women. Determined to close the gender gap in aviation, Camacho- Ruiz is creating space for Latinas to fly, through the #Pilotinas Scholarship.

How do you want your work to impact others? 

“I want my two children and people all over the world to have a meaningful opportunity to impact this world. I want to encourage people to live their best lives and remind them that they can land their own dreams.”

Read more and get inspired: