In 2004, Claudia de la Cruz participated in the Miss World Pageant representing the Dominican Republic. While often admired for the beautiful woman she is, there is far more to de la Cruz than her physical beauty. Also an actress, television host, and model, Claudia has become an activist for girls and women up to thirty years old. She founded the organization, Da Urban Butterflies to help girls and women of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent, particularly those living in urban areas, learn leadership, community activism, and empowerment.
Advocating for local community and worldwide involvement, she helps young women take charge of, and actively participate in, the world around them. Although, a native of the Bronx, Claudia is proud of her Dominican ancestry and wants to help other young women of color find this same sense of pride. She is a graduate John Jay College of Criminal Justice, earning a Bachelor of Arts Degree in forensic pathology. She went on to earn one Master’s Degree in social work from Columbia University and another in divinity from Union Theological Seminary. Amazingly, she earned both graduate degrees in 2007.
De la Cruz says of her advocacy for girls and women, that we, like she, should actively involve our children in our causes. Not only does this strengthen our numbers, it teaches our children from an early age to care about themselves and others. Participating in one protest while in advanced pregnancy and against the protests of her mother, she said, “It has a certain level of more strength for me as a person of color, as a woman, as someone who thinks of herself as part of a Black radical tradition to say, I’m a mom. To me, that’s also part of a revolutionary process and I shouldn’t exclude myself or exclude him (her unborn son) from spaces that are about transformation.” She advocates for women to support the causes they believe in. De la Cruz maintains that moms should not be excluded from these causes. Concern for the next generation coupled with the responsibility of motherhood gives women a raised consciousness and awareness.
As she grew in activism, she began to understand that her family is her foundation and that communities can become families united for common causes, raised standards of living, and increased political ideologies. She holds that this generation must learn to look balance pride in the past and creation of pride for the future. Claudia empowers girls and women to help, rather than compete, with each other. Unhealthy competition and one-upmanship have created competition among women, where camaraderie and encouragement should be. This is a large part of why Da Urban Butterflies was founded. Once women of color learn to band together, they can bring about positive change in their communities. Da Urban Butterflies offers workshops on women’s rights, healthily relationships, sexual safety and health, and conflict resolution.
At barely thirty years old, Claudia de la Cruz is making a difference in her community. Women of every age can learn from her that the past is important, the present is a good training ground, and the future is in our hands.