10 Hispanic Americans Who Changed History
Are you ready to be inspired by Hispanic Americans who’ve changed history? From political leaders to a humanitarian chef—the most successful Hispanic people in history are aware of what matters most.
Keep reading to learn more about these noteworthy Hispanic Americans who’ve paved the way for others to follow in their steps!
10 Hispanic Americans Who Altered the Course of History
Each of these inspiring Hispanic Americans has made a name for themselves and changed history in the process. Their success is impressive but even more so their mission.
1. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
In just a few short years, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become a leading voice for Hispanic Americans in politics and justice.
Also known by her initials AOC, she was born in the Bronx, New York to a parents Puerto Rico of Puerto Rican descent. She excelled through high school. In 2011, when she graduated college, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez returned to New York and later campaigned for Senator Bernie Sanders.
Alexandria was sworn into office at age 29—making her the youngest woman to ever be elected to Congress. Along with Senator Ed Markey, Ocasio-Cortez sponsored a bill known as the Green New Deal, helping address climate change and creating economic stability through environmentally friendly jobs.
AOC’s voice is one of the most important ones of her generation.
Quote: “To me, what socialism means is to guarantee a basic level of dignity. It’s asserting the value of saying that the America we want and the America that we are proud of is one in which all children can access a dignified education. It’s one in which no person is too poor to have the medicines they need to live.”
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2. José Andrés
Chef José Andrés arrived in the U.S. from Spain when he was young and started a long successful career in culinary innovation. In 2010, after an earthquake hit Haiti, chef José founded the World Central Kitchen (WCK), an organization that provides meals to people affected by natural disasters.
In 2017, after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, he gathered 19,000 volunteers who served more than 3 million meals to residents who didn’t have access to clean water, food, or electricity.
Chef José has made it his life’s mission to help those in need by providing food when they need it most. He won the James Beard Award for both Humanitarian of the Year and Outstanding Chef and was even nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.
Quote: “I’ve been a cook all my life, but I am still learning to be a good chef. I’m always learning new techniques and improving beyond my own knowledge because there is always something new to learn and new horizons to discover.”
3. Jovita Idár
Jovita Idár believed wholeheartedly in fighting for women’s right to education. While working at her dad’s newspaper, La Crónica, she used the medium to speak up about women’s rights, racism, and Mexican-Americans’ rights.
She was fearless enough to write an article condemning Woodrow Wilson’s decision to send US troops to the border. The Texas Rangers came to the paper to try to shut it down but Jovita refused to let them in.
Idár was a fearless Hispanic American that knew that she had to fight for the rights of her people. She died in 1946 in San Antonio, Texas but lives on in spirit as one of the most influential Hispanic people in history.
Quote: “When you educate a woman, you educate a family.”
4. Gwen Ifill
Gwen Ifill was a Barbadian-American and Panamanian author, journalist, political correspondent, and co-anchor at PBS.
She began as a reporter for the Boston Herald American and the Baltimore Evening Sun, which led her to become a political correspondent for NBC News. She moderated debates and wrote a bestselling book about race in America and politics in the age of Obama.
Throughout her life, she received several honorary doctorates and the Fourth State Awards from the National Press Club. Gwen passed away in 2016 from cancer, but she’s still considered one of the most important Hispanic Americans to ever live.
Quote: “To me, race is not all about grievance. It is also about pride and empathy and humanity and understanding the value of difference. But along with that, there are also expectations that we should set for ourselves and for others. We should expect to be treated as equal citizens.”
5. Linda Ronstadt
Linda Ronstadt is a Hispanic American of Mexican descent. She’s a producer, singer, songwriter, and activist who has won many awards throughout her career, including Grammys and a Kennedy Center Honor. Her 1987 album, Canciones de mi padre (Songs from my Father), became a global sensation and sold more than 2 million copies in the U.S.
Linda is an advocate for migrant workers through No More Deaths, an organization she started to help immigrants. She retired in 2013 after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. She no longer performs, but Ronstadt became a part of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and received the Hispanic Heritage Award.
Quote: “There should not be a question of legal or illegal immigration. People came and immigrated to this country from the time of the Indians. No one’s illegal. They should just be able to come.”
6. César Chávez
César Chávez was born in Arizona in 1927 to a Mexican-American family. He was a civil rights activist and labor leader.
He worked as a manual laborer and quickly realized that farmers didn’t have the rights that they deserved. He also served in the Navy and became involved with the Community Service Organization (CSO) in California. This important organization fights for civil rights for Hispanic Americans.
With Dolores Huerta, he co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA). They organized and led peaceful protests to help the Latin American community. Chávez was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and his legacy left a mark on the Hispanic community.
Quote: “We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”
7. Lin-Manuel Miranda
Lin-Manuel Miranda is a famous lyricist, writer, singer, and actor. He is of Puerto Rican descent and became well known for writing the Broadway musical, Hamilton. Hamilton earned Lin-Manuel Miranda many awards including the Tony Award for best musical. When he accepted the Tony Award he said that love is love and it cannot be killed by sweeping people aside.
Miranda has received many Tony Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, an Oscar, and a Kennedy Center Honor. Lin-Manuel is a gay rights advocate, and he helped raise millions of dollars to support Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
Quote: “You are perfectly cast in your life. I can’t imagine anyone but you in the role. Go play.”
8. Sylvia Mendez
Sylvia Mendez is a Hispanic American who was born in 1936. She grew up in an era when Hispanics were sent to Mexican schools and weren’t allowed to go to the white schools with more educational resources.
When Sylvia was denied enrollment in one of these white schools, her parents decided to sue the California school system. After several years of fighting, Sylvia was finally allowed to attend, making her the first Hispanic to be able to do so. Her case paved the way for many others.
Mendez was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama.
Quotes: “My mother says, ‘Sylvia, don’t you realize what we’re fighting for?’, ‘Yes, so we can get to that beautiful school in Westminster.’ She said, ‘No Sylvia, that’s not what we’re fighting for, we’re fighting because under God we’re all equal, you belong at that school just like everybody else belongs to that school, that’s what we’re fighting for.’”
9. Dolores Huerta
Dolores Huerta is best known as one of the most important labor activists in the history of the United States. She founded the Agricultural Workers Association (AWA) in 1960 where she set up voter drives and public assistance for migrant workers who weren’t born in the U.S.
Along with Cesar Chavez and Gilberto Padilla, Huerta co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA). Dolores oversaw the merging of the NFWA and the AWA In 1965 and created United Farm Workers. This group organized strikes such as the grape pickers’ strike that led 26 companies to improve their working conditions.
Huerta continues the fight to improve the lives of migraine farmworkers. Check out this documentary film about her inspiring life.
Quote: “When you have a conflict, that means that there are truths that have to be addressed on each side of the conflict. And when you have a conflict, then it’s an educational process to try to resolve the conflict. And to resolve that, you have to get people on both sides of the conflict involved so that they can dialogue.”
10. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen immigrated to the United States from Cuba as a child. Her family settled in Miami, and she eventually was elected to the Florida House of Representatives and Senate. She was the first Hispanic American woman to serve in both.
Ileana ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1989. She ran against Democrat Gerald F. Richman, who used the slogan, “This is an American seat.” Many thought this was anti-Hispanic.
Ros-Lehtinen won the election and became the first Hispanic woman to serve in the United States Congress. She experienced firsthand how white supremacy was something that needed to change and was always an advocate for the Hispanic community, especially women.
Quote: “No matter where you are from, no matter what your background is, no matter what your socioeconomic status is, every person can achieve his or her dreams.”
Get Inspired To Learn Spanish
These Hispanic Americans show us what it means to make history. They inspire us with fearlessness and commitment. Seeing how they made their dreams come true reminds us that we’re all capable of more than we can imagine.
Learning Spanish is one of the best ways to expand your skills and change your own history. It not only enhances your ability to communicate with other cultures, but also empowers you to move beyond your comfort zone.
Speaking Spanish also helps advance your career. According to a study conducted by The Economist, a person can earn anywhere from $50,000 to $125,000 extra just by knowing a foreign language alone.
If you’re looking to impress a potential Hispanic employer with your amazing Spanish skills, sign up for a free trial class today at Homeschool Spanish Academy. Check out our flexible programs and affordable prices to choose which one is best for you!
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