It’s an exciting time in America.
Americans all over the country are currently celebrating National Hispanic American Heritage Month. Over the last few decades, Hispanic Americans have contributed in indelible ways to politics, the arts, sports, culture, and the economy at large.
In fact, the nearly 60 million Hispanic Americans are responsible for spending nearly $1.7 trillion a year. At that pace, Hispanic Americans are spending 70% faster than non-Latinos. In other words, Hispanic Americans are the engine of modern America.
In this short blog, we’re shining a spotlight on five amazing Hispanic American profiles. From athletes to activists and astronauts to artists, prepare to be inspired by these five exceptional stories:
Born to a Mexican-American family, Cesar Chavez led a life of activism in pursuit of what he called la causa. This “cause” embodied his ardent support of American farm workers endeavoring to improve their working conditions. After all, these powerless laborers earned as little as 40 cents an hour for their intensive work.
Inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s peaceful approach to resistance, Chavez founded the National Farm Workers Association. In 1965, the NFWA launched a massive strike that lasted five years and saw Chavez march from Delano to Sacramento, California (a nearly 350-mile journey).
Thanks to Chavez’s commitment, farm workers eventually earned the right to unionize and receive better wages and working conditions.
As Chavez believed, “I am convinced that the truest act of courage, the strongest act of manliness, is to sacrifice ourselves for others in a totally non-violent struggle for justice.”
Though he died in 1993, Chavez’s legacy lives on.
The famed star of West Side Story, Rita Moreno has been a household name for decades. Born in Humacao, Puerto Rico, Moreno is one of the elite performers who has won every major North American entertainment award, including an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony (EGOT).
In fact, when Moreno won the Academy Award for her performance as Anita in West Side Story, she became the first Hispanic woman to receive the award.
In 2004, Moreno was awarded the highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President George W. Bush. Throughout her life, Moreno has remained an outspoken advocate for immigrants and women all over the world.
Born in Carolina, Puerto Rico, Roberto Clemente became the first Latin American baseball player to notch 3,000 career hits during his career.
After making his major league debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Clemente went on to lead the National League in batting four times throughout the 1960s and to earn the National League Most Valuable Player (MVP) award in 1966.
More importantly, he became the first Latin American and Caribbean player to win a World Series as a starting outfielder in 1960. He also went on to win the World Series MVP Award in 1971.
Off the field, Clemente was revered for his kindness, thoughtfulness, and humanitarian work. Unfortunately, his life was cut short at the age of 38, when he died in a plane crash while bringing supplies to Nicaragua, after an earthquake had devastated the local populace.
To honor Clemente, Major League Baseball (MLB) annually presents The Roberto Clemente Award to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement, and the individual’s contribution to his team.”
In 1993, Ellen Ochoa became the first Latina to travel to outer space during her mission aboard the space shuttle, Discovery.
Following her successful flight, Ochoa returned to space again in 1999, where she helped her crew complete the first docking at The International Space Station (ISS).
Over the course of her four spaceflights, Ochoa spent nearly six total weeks away from earth.
Despite her incredible career in space, Ochoa has continued to innovate over the last twenty years. In 2007, she became the first Hispanic American Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, the “hub of human spaceflight activity for more than half a century.” Though she retired from the position in 2018, Ochoa now serves as the chair of the National Science Board.
Throughout her career, Ochoa has been an ardent supporter of Latinx students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), stating, “We need you. We need your minds. We need your creativity.”
Since she was a child, Sonia Sotomayor knew she wanted to work in the world of law:
“I was going to college and I was going to become an attorney, and I knew that when I was ten.”
Born to parents of Puerto Rican descent, Sotomayor would realize her dreams at a rapid pace. In a four-year span, she graduated from Princeton University in 1976, finished Yale Law School in 1979, and got accepted to the New York Bar in 1980.
As her sterling reputation grew, President George H.W. Bush nominated her as the U.S. District Court judge for the Southern District of New York City in 1992. Five years later, President Bill Clinton nominated her to the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
Then, in 2009, President Barack Obama nominated her for Supreme Court justice. When she was confirmed by a vote of 68 to 31, she became the first Latina Supreme Court justice in American history.
As Sotomayor told a group of Hispanic law students at Hofstra University, “The Latina in me is an ember that blazes forever.”
We’re thrilled to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month over the next few weeks.
While this blog amplifies the excellence of a few notable Hispanic actors, activists, athletes, astronauts, and justices, there are simply too many empowering examples to share.
As the number of Hispanic Americans in the U.S. continues to increase, so will the stories of success, innovation, and leadership.
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