INTERVIEW: Runner Laura Cortez Talks Reclaiming Space for Latinas in Sports

Lead Photo: Photograph by Allison Dobson for The North Face
Photograph by Allison Dobson for The North Face
Read more

Laura Cortez grew up needing a Laura Cortez. That’s something the trail runner, co-founder of Trailtinos, and one of the 17 athletes chosen for The North Face Athlete Development Program considers one of her guiding principles. Remezcla had a chance to talk to Cortez about being the kind of role model she needed growing up, getting to work with The North Face, and pushing sports boundaries as a woman.

For Cortez, it’s not just about taking the opportunity The North Face has given her, but also understanding that she was chosen for a reason – and that being in the position she’s in right now means she can not just “be who I needed when I was younger,” but also do so “in a mindful way that just stays inclusive of everyone and accessible and approachable.”

It’s also about “reclaiming space for all of us,” both within the sports and outside. So many of the recognizable sports figures, particularly women, are people from outside our communities, which is why it’s so important not just to see Cortez getting recognition, but to hear her talk about always remembering that she’s “doing this for my community.”

The journey towards trail running – and towards being one of the sports’ rising stars, wasn’t always straightforward. At first, she wanted to play professional soccer. Then, after an injury that required complete knee reconstructive surgery, Cortez found joy again outside. That’s why one of her goals with Trailtinos, and as a sports ambassador in general, is just to “help people get into the sport,” by “setting little goals,” and making sure she emphasizes that the sport is for everyone.

It helps that Cortez has always had the support of her family, even if she candidly shared that the place she is at right now is probably not what her parents envisioned. This isn’t a negative, on the contrary, Cortez shared that it hit her hard to hear from her parents that she was doing things they never even imagined. “I didn’t realize it was a thing, in that way. They were seeing their dreams, and I was able to do it,” she told us. And now, “they’re able to see everything that they did paid off.”

Even with all that support, Cortez has had to fight with something a lot of us struggle with daily, impostor syndrome, and the notion that you haven’t done enough to get to where you are. And that’s why the Athlete Development Program means so much to Cortez. “It’s like a healing thing,” she shared, a constant reminder that “you have done enough, and everything you have done has been enough to get you to be here.”

More importantly, now “I can just be here.” Because she belongs. In a sport that was always seen as more masculine. In a program that feels like a dream. The role model little Laura dreamed of growing up, and that many little girls will group up looking up to.

“It’s a really good process and a way to understand how I need to advocate for myself” going forward. Because yes, this is a big moment. And hopefully, it’s just the beginning. But it’s not just about the opportunities, it’s about “making sure they feel right.”

For the Laura Cortez she is now. For the message, she wants to send to the younger generation. And for the things she wants to accomplish in a sport that, a few years ago, we might have believed didn’t have a place for someone like Laura Cortez to not just exist, but thrive.

Keep an eye out for Laura Cortez. This is likely not the last time you’ll hear her name.