PHOTOS & VIDEOS
Illeana Ros-Lehtinen is the first Hispanic woman to be elected to the U.S. Congress. She represents Florida’s 27th Congressional District. Born in Havana, Cuba, in 1952, Ros-Lehtinen and her family came to Miami, Florida, when she was eight years old. Ros-Lehtinen began her career as a teacher. She became inspired to fight for a stronger educational system, lower taxes, and a brighter economic future for the students and parents in her district. Ros-Lehtinen says that education is a lifelong journey. “Education is the great equalizer,” Ros-Lehtinen told TFK’s Emily Goldberg. “My parents were always believers that education was the way to get ahead and that if you study hard your dreams will come true.”
This Puerto Rican musician is known for his many international hits, including best-selling Christmas song “Feliz Navidad.” Feliciano was born blind. When he was five years old, his family moved to New York CityAt age 9, he preformed at the Puerto Rican Theater in the Bronx. “I am proud of being Hispanic and also proud of being a Hispanic American,” Feliciano told TFK. “I don’t just wait for Hispanic Heritage month to be proud of my heritage, and I try to show how proud I am of both in my music and how I am.” Feliciano, who has won numerous Grammy Awards, released a new album and a new single titled “Don’t Go Away” this past summer.
This Mexican-American football player is the quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles. Sanchez grew up in in Southern California and later attended and played football for the University of Southern California. Even though he wasn’t a starting player until his senior year, he was glad he had time the extra time to polish his skills. "It also gave me time to practice and get all of the mistakes out in those three years before I got to play," Sanchez told SI Kids. He was drafted to the New York Jets in 2009. Since his college days, Sanchez has remained involved with the Latino youth community in Los Angeles, California, and takes any opportunity he can to give back.
Loreta Janeta Velazquez
During the Civil War, 11 Southern states seceded, or broke away, to form a new nation called the Confederate States of America. In 1861, Loreta Janeta Velazquez’s husband joined the Confederate army. Velazquez did not want to be left out. Despite her husband’s refusal to allow her to join the army, she disguised herself as a man to fight in the war. She used the name Harry T. Buford. She fought in the Battle of First Manassas (Bull Run) and the Battle of Ball’s Bluff. She also volunteered her services as a spy. In 1876 she published a memoir about the experience.
Isabelle Allende is an award-winning Chilean-American author. Her bestselling first novel, The House of the Spirits, was published in 1982. Allende’s books, all written in Spanish, have been translated into more than 35 languages. They take place across California, Chine, Venezuela, Haiti, and Vietnam. Although Allende now lives in California, she says her Chilean culture has remained an important part of her everyday life. “I established a connection and a bridge between both cultures. I have never stopped speaking Spanish at home; we have a very bicultural household,” Allende told TFK. Allende’s nonprofit organization, the Isabel Allende Foundation, works to empower and protect women and girls.
Cesar Chavez was a Mexican-American who fought for union and labor rights. He successfully improved conditions for farm workers in California, Texas, Arizona, and Florida. Chavez was born in Arizona to immigrant parents. He was inspired to call attention to farm workers’ rights when he encountered poor conditions as his family moved up and down the state of California in search of work. He founded the National Farm Workers Association in 1962, which joined with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee to lead the first strike against grape growers in California. The two organizations later merged to become the United Farm Workers. Chavez stressed nonviolent methods of resistance, and called attention his causes through boycotts, marches, and hunger strikes. Chavez died in 1993.
Eva Longoria’s success as an actress is helping her become involved in politics. She helped host “Latino Inaugural 2013: In Performance at the Kennedy Center,” a concert celebrating Latino culture at President Obama’s swearing-in ceremony. The Latino community accounted for a substantial amount of Obama’s votes. Longoria said that she hopes to help influence policies, including immigration reform. She called the Latino fundraising effort for the president a historic turning point. "I think we have a permanent seat at the table, and now we're going to be able to have influence on what affects our communities," Longoria told the Associated Press. "I take civic responsibility very seriously, and I want to do what I can to help my country."
As a Democratic senator from New Jersey, Robert Menendez is one of two Hispanic senators. Menendez’s first book, Growing American Roots, examines the influence of the Latino population on American society. He is the son of Cuban immigrants and grew up in Union City, New Jersey. Menendez has hosted his Annual Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration in Union City, New Jersey, since 2010. “Hispanic Heritage Month serves as an opportunity to honor and celebrate the presence of Hispanics and their countless contributions to the formation of this great nation,” Menendez said in a press release. “From the arts to the armed forces to the sciences, we see Hispanic influence and ingenuity represented in every field.”
In 1991, Ellen Ochoa became NASA's first Hispanic woman astronaut. In 1993, she became the first Hispanic woman to go to space. She served on a nine-day mission on the space shuttle Discovery. She is also the first Hispanic director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Ochoa has received special honors from NASA, including Distinguished Service Medal and Outstanding Leadership Medal. She also earned the Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award. Ochoa’s Hispanic roots come from her father’s side of the family. Her father’s parents were Mexican. "Being an astronaut is a wonderful career," Ochoa said in a NASA press release. "I feel very privileged. But what I really hope for young people is that they find a career they're passionate about, something that's challenging and worthwhile.”
Antony Romero is the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). He is the first Hispanic and openly gay man to hold the position. Romero’s parents moved from Puerto Rico to the Bronx, in New York City, where Romero was raised. Even though all Puerto Ricans are U.S. Citizens, Romero’s parents felt the prejudices that illegal immigrants often face. He said that his family’s experiences help him in his job today. These experiences are what inspired Romero’s commitment to civil rights, civil liberties, and social justice. "My memories of discrimination, homophobia, and poverty stand in sharp contrast to the dignity and love I got from my family," he said in an ACLU press release. Romero was the first in his family to graduate from high school. After college, he went on to attended law school at Stanford University and earn a graduate degree form Princeton University.