Latino immigration is on the rise, and Latin America is becoming a global powerhouse in terms of economy. Spanish people should be proud of their heritage which entails the Spanish languages and Latin dances such as salsas and bachata. From this rich culture, Latino individuals have the ability to contribute to America by bringing different perspectives and innovative ideas.
One of Latinos’ most valuable contributions is their resilience. Latino immigration in the US has been growing at a rate that hasn't been seen since colonial times. Since Latinos can trace their roots back to the Spanish conquistadors, Latino communities have been able to preserve their traditions and pass them down from generation to generation.
The Latin American diaspora has been active in the past decades by creating Latin countries associations such as CARECEN and LULAC which provides Latinos a voice for immigration rights. The Latino population is growing at a fast rate and Latinos are able to contribute a lot to the economy.
Hispanic Heritage Month begins September 15th and is always a wonderful time to be reminded of all the reasons we should be proud to be Latino. The month, along with celebrating the accomplishments of Latinos in America, offers an opportunity to reflect on our rich history and vibrant culture. There have been many influential Latino figures throughout the time that have left their mark on society. Many people know about some famous Latinos such as artists Frida Kahlo or Diego Rivera, but there are so many more who have made significant contributions that matter even today. Here are 17 not-so-famous Latinos you may not know about and will make you be proud to be Latino.
- Antonio Meucci - Inventor of the Telephone
Believe it or not, Alexander Graham Bell wasn't the inventor of the telephone! Antonio Meucci was. In fact, he was the first person to patent a telephone in 1871, but unfortunately ran into financial problems and could never afford to renew his patent. When Bell patented his design in 1876 it caused problems for Meucci because people thought that Graham Bell was the inventor of "telectrofono". After a legal battle between them, they finally settled out of court and Graham agreed to pay all future royalties from his telephone patents to Meucci's estate.
- Luis Muñoz Marín - First democratically elected governor of Puerto Rico
The late 1950s were times of political uncertainty in Puerto Rico as many believed it should be granted statehood while others wanted final determination on the island's status. Luis Muñoz Marin ran for governor under the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) and was elected in 1948. He believed Puerto Rico should become a state of the Union, but he also respected those who believed otherwise so he promised to fight for an "Associated Republic" instead. This designation fits perfectly with his party's platform, which was composed of several ideals including nationalism, which worked towards bettering conditions for Puerto Ricans without assimilating into American society or severing its ties with Spain. Muñoz Marín became an important voice to secure Puerto Rican citizenship and fight for self-determination.
- Henry Cisneros - First Mexican-American Mayor of a major city
When Henry Cisneros ran for mayor of San Antonio, Texas in 1981 he was faced with strong competition and a high Latino voter turnout. His opponent, Ivy Taylor, even accused him of overspending during his campaign and bribing voters to win. It didn't matter though because Cisneros won the election and became the first Mexican-American mayor of a major city in America. He set out on an ambitious plan that included building new facilities such as libraries and creating more jobs for citizens.
- Dr. Jose Celso Barbosa - Father of Puerto Rican Statehood
There's no doubt Puerto Rico has had it rough trying to remain independent and wanting statehood. During the late 1800s, Dr. Jose Celso Barbosa worked hard to gain their independence but when that failed he turned his efforts towards winning statehood. He was the founder of the Puerto Rican Republican Party and believed it should be an equal partner with America instead of a colony. Although many at first didn't agree with this idea, his party gained power and Spain ceded Puerto Rico to America in 1898 during the Treaty of Paris which ended the Spanish-American War (but technically wasn't supposed to include Puerto Rico). This act paved way for Barbosa's party to receive statehood since they were now part of America.
- Octaviano Larrazolo - First Hispanic United States Senator
New Mexico is considered a "bicultural" state which means it holds both Spanish and American influences within its history. Octaviano Larrazolo was a politician who advocated for the separation of church and state during his political career in New Mexico. He was born in 1854 in San Miguel County, New Mexico where he spent most of his early years until relocating to Las Cruces. In 1889 he served as a member of the Territorial Council of New Mexico before being elected Governor in 1910 under the Republican Party. During that time Hispanics were allowed to serve as senators but not majority representatives so after becoming governor, Larrazolo introduced a bill that gave them representation by allowing them to have two senators instead if just one. He also helped create an Act that later made English the official language of New Mexico.
- Antonio Maceo - General and Revolutionary
Antonio Maceo was a general in the Cuban struggle for independence from Spain during the late 1800s. He was considered one of the greatest leaders Cuba has ever produced even though he faced many challenges throughout his life. During his childhood, he contracted smallpox which left him permanently scarred but did not stop him from continuing on with his dream to lead an army against Spanish forces and eventually gain independence. One of his biggest obstacles came when he tried to leave Cuba just after gaining control over Santiago de Cuba, something that greatly diminished his approval amongst other rebel leaders who didn't think it was time to move forward with their plans yet. After this incident, Maceo began helping out in other areas such as land disputes and in one case he even became a plantation owner to help provide jobs for his men. Although Maceo died when only 35 years old, many still consider him an important figure in Cuban history.
- Alberto Santos - Cuban Businessman
This Cuban businessman was dedicated to creating opportunities within the economy of Cuba no matter what obstacles came his way throughout the years. Born into poverty raised by his grandmother, Santos worked hard at a young age to provide for himself and this eventually led him to become a self-made millionaire. He began with small businesses like selling ice cream and newspapers but eventually expanded out to enterprises like providing electricity and water to rural homes during times of crisis which earned him international recognition. Santos also worked with other Cuban businessmen to gain financial stability and through this effort, he helped create the Cuban banking system. These accomplishments allowed him to form The Bank of Nova Scotia which later merged with The Royal Bank of Canada. Santos died at age 93 leaving behind a legacy that will never be forgotten.
- Ana Betancourt - Award-Winning Poet
This award-winning poet was known for writing poems that reflected on her experiences as a Puerto Rican and what it meant to be part of the Boricua community. Her education began in Puerto Rico but continued when she relocated to Philadelphia where she attended Temple University and Columbia University. She studied English, Latin American Literature, Comparative Women Writers, and Caribbean Literature while also becoming involved with cultural institutions such as the Hispanic Cultural Society and even became a board member of Casa Puertorriquena. In 2002 she was given the prestigious award from The Latino Literature Hall of Fame for Artistic Achievement.
- Luis A. Ferré - Governor and Benefactor
Born in 1901, this politician and industrialist held many positions during his time including being a senator, president of Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico, delegate to U.S. Republican National Convention, founder of New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico, and Governor for two terms from 1969-1972. During that time he helped do many things including improving the economy which led to creating different institutions like Banco Gubernamental de Fomento, Center for Advanced Studies of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, Casals Festival, Office for Transportation Planning, Puerto Rico Ports Authority, and many more. He is also known for promoting economic development through industrialization in order to diversify Puerto Rico's economy which was largely dependent on tobacco before he became governor.
- Chucho Avellanet - Actor and Entertainer
This singer/songwriter/actor showed a passion for staying active even though he faced some terrible obstacles at a young age. Born with muscular dystrophy, this man did not let his disability define him but rather used it as inspiration to work harder every day. He began singing by participating in different radio stations while also becoming part of theater groups that traveled around Latin America. Avellanet eventually moved to Mexico where he got his acting start in a TV show called La Carabina de Ambrosio. Later on, Avellanet joined the group The Latin Brothers where they revived the comedy genre in Puerto Rico with their own original style. He was also one of the first singers to incorporate rock and roll into traditional Rican music which became popular during that time. In addition, he founded a musical company that produced shows such as Broadway Follies, Magic Moments from New York, and Giselle that toured different countries all over the world.
- Pedro Albizu Campos - Prominent Nationalist Leader
This politician, journalist, and Harvard graduate fought for many things in his 47 years including independence for Puerto Rico and the rights of Puerto Ricans. His work as a journalist began at a young age where he wrote for different newspapers and even started his own publication called La Idea which was focused on uniting Latin America. Later he traveled to Ecuador and Cuba trying to find ways to advance his cause but it wasn't until after moving back home that Albizu tried more radical methods such as boycotts and revolts which led him into jail for four years. After being released from prison, Albizu continued with his plans including an attempt at overthrowing the U.S. military governor Charles H. Allen in Ponce. In 1950, there were many attempts made against Albizu's life which resulted in an assassination attempt during a University of Puerto Rico speech. He died shortly after that but his spirit still lives through the Nationalist Party which continues to work towards independence for Puerto Rico.
- Cheo Feliciano - The King of Salsa
He is known as the best salsa singer to ever come out of Puerto Rico and there is no question why. This man had an incredible voice with a wide range that made him popular all over Latin America. It's not only his memorable songs like "El Raton" and "Duerme," but also his dedication to helping others in need even when he wasn't famous that defines who he was. If you want to know about how great he truly was, just look up some videos or performances online because they are simply amazing.
- Alex Rodriguez - Major League Baseball Player
This man has become one of the most famous baseball players in history. He was born in New York to a Dominican father and Puerto Rican mother which raised many questions about his eligibility to play for the U.S. or Puerto Rico. Since he chose to represent the United States, he became an instant star that everyone wanted on their team. The third baseman holds many records such as home runs, RBIs, and is also recognized as one of the best overall hitters of all time due to having over 3,000 hits and over 600 homers at only the age of 41 (in 2015). Not only did he break MLB records but he also broke some cultural barriers by becoming one of few Latinos who have managed to get on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
- Sheila E - World Class Percussionist
This woman is one of the most influential drummers, percussionists, and entertainers of all time. She got her start with her father Pete Escovedo while performing in casinos at a young age. It wasn't long before she began playing with different bands including some Latin jazz groups until eventually joining iconic 80s band The GAP Band who had many hit songs like "Ooo La La La" and "Yearning for Your Love." After that group ended she continued with her own career by recording solo albums which caught the attention of Madonna who recruited her to play during tours and also record songs on some of her albums. She is not only famous for her music, she has also made a name for herself as an actress with credits like "The Running Man" and the musicals "Elaine Stritch at Liberty" and "One Nite Stand."
- Marc Anthony - Grammy-Winning Singer/Songwriter/Actor/Producer/Dancer
This man needs no introduction because the amount of talent he possesses has turned him into one of the most recognized Latinos in history. He was born in New York to Puerto Rican parents which made him eligible to join the U.S. Army. However, he turned that opportunity down because he wanted to pursue a career in music. That dream led him to become one of the biggest artists ever by selling over 10 million albums and winning 10 Grammys! He even got his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for all of his accomplishments so far.
- Carmelo Anthony - NBA Basketball Star
This man is known as arguably one of the best basketball players out there today. His impressive athletic talents have earned him spots with some great teams like Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks, and Houston Rockets. He also became one of the most recognizable faces of basketball because of all his endorsement deals with various companies like Gatorade, Foot Locker, and Nike. Even though he was born in New York, he is considered an American and Puerto Rican citizen due to being born to Puerto Rican parents which makes him eligible for both countries.
- Pedro Martinez - MLB Baseball Player
This man had one of the greatest pitching careers out there starting his time on the Boston Red Sox where he quickly became a legend through staggering wins and amazing performances that left people speechless. His presence ended up being so important that they retired his number when he left the team. He then went on to play with other teams like Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, and Philadelphia Phillies where he won another World Series Championship.