On Oct. 15, the final day of Latino Heritage Month, Marlú Abarca ’14 was inducted into the Iowa Latino Hall of Fame as part of its sixth class of honorees. During the ceremony, Abarca also received the Iowa LGBTQIA Leadership Award for outstanding and significant cultural, political, social, and economic contributions to the state.
“Since arriving in Iowa in 2010, I’ve organized, canvassed, marched, and protested, all to ensure that Iowa is better than the way that I’ve found it,” Abarca, who uses the pronouns they/them, said during the induction ceremony. Abarca has done that by “speaking my truth and using my voice.” It’s something they credit feeling empowered to do at Grinnell.
“We were in a culture of self-governance at Grinnell,” they say. “The student affairs staff was supportive of student autonomy and critical thinking. When I graduated, I felt empowered to speak my opinion — in a diplomatic way, of course. Grinnell helped me see, and now I can’t unsee, all the biases that exist and how they affect social and power dynamics.”
In 2016, Abarca was appointed to the state of Iowa’s Commission on Latino Affairs by then Gov. Terry Branstad. Abarca made a youth-empowering 2019 run for an at-large Des Moines City Council seat, and they organized the first bilingual satellite caucus site on the south side of Des Moines in 2020.