Hispanic Heritage: Notable People

Famous Firsts

Linda Alvarado

Linda G. Alvarado (b.1951)

Co-owner, Colorado Rockies and Businesswoman

  • 1976 - Owner, President, and CEO of Alvarado Construction
  • 1992 - First Latino owner of a Major League Baseball team, the Colorado Rockies
  • Co-founder of Palo Alto, Inc., which operations 150 franchise restaurants
  • 2003 - Inducted to the National Woman's Hall of Fame

Al Avila

Al Avila (b.1958)

Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager

  • First Cuban-born general manager in baseball history
  • Inducted into the Professional Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame in 2012

Raffi Freedman-Gurspan (b.1987)

Raffi Freedman-Gurspan serves as a Senior Associate Director for Public Engagement and the White House’s primary liaison to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. She is the first appointee in the Obama White House who is openly transgender.

Oscar Hijuelos - Wikipedia

Oscar Hijuelos (1951-2013)

Oscar Hijuelos is a first-generation Cuban American and the first Latino to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. He has written six novels, the most recent of which is A Simple Habana Melody.

Alejandro Mayorkas

Alejandro Mayorkas (b.1959)

Sworn in as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security by President Biden on February 2, 2021

Mayorkas is the first Latino and immigrant confirmed to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security. He has led a distinguished 30-year career as a law enforcement official and a nationally-recognized lawyer in the private sector. Mayorkas served as the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from 2013 to 2016, and as the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from 2009 to 2013. During his tenure at DHS, he led the development and implementation of DACA, negotiated cybersecurity and homeland security agreements with foreign governments, led the Department’s response to Ebola and Zika, helped build and administer the Blue Campaign to combat human trafficking, and developed an emergency relief program for orphaned youth following the tragic January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Mayorkas also created the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate to better ensure the integrity of the legal immigration system.

Luis Muñoz Marín | Puerto Rican statesman | Britannica

Luis Alberto Munoz Marin (1898-1980)

 Luis Alberto Muñoz Marín was a Puerto Rican journalist, politician, statesman and was the first elected governor of Puerto Rico, regarded as the "Architect of the Puerto Rico Commonwealth."

Arte Moreno

Arte Moreno (b.1946)

Businessman and Owner of Los Angeles Angels

The first Mexican-American to own a major sports team in the United States when he purchased the Anaheim Angels from the Walt Disney Company.

Dr Antonia Novello 

Dr. Antonia Novello (b.1944)

She was both the first woman and the first Hispanic to serve as U.S. Surgeon General. When she left her post in 1993, she was praised by President Bill Clinton for her "vigor and talent." 


Sonia Sotomayor

Sonia Sotomayor (b.1954)

Nominated by President Barack Obama on May 26, 2009, Sonia Sotomayor became the first Latina Supreme Court Justice in U.S. history.

Social Reformers

Berta CáceresBerta Cáceres (1971-2016)

Environmental activist

Co-founder of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras to address the growing threats posed to Lenca communities by illegal logging, fight for their territorial rights and improve their livelihoods.

She was the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize Recipient

Sophie CruzSophie Cruz (b. 2010)

Advocate for children of undocumented immigrants.

At 5 years old, Cruz gave Pope Francis a letter during his visit to the white house in 2015 about her fears of being deported.  She is now the voice for children of undocumented immigrants around the globe.

Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales (1928-2005)

Boxer, writer, and activist.

  • Founder of the Crusade for Justice
  • Led a group in the Poor People's March in Washington
  • Co-creator of the Ballet Chicano de Atlan and El Teatro Pachuco
  • Opened a summer school in 1969 and the Escuela Tlatelolco  in 1970 for Chicano children.

Sylvia Mendez (b.1936)

Nurse and civil rights activist.

In 2011 Sylvia Mendez received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama for her advocacy for educational opportunity for “children of all backgrounds and all walks of life.”

Lizzie Velasquez (b.1989)

Motivational Speaker and advocate for people who have both disability identities and Hispanic heritage.

Velasquez was born with an extremely rare condition that is to believed to affect only two other people in the world.  When she was 17 years old, she did a interview for a local television station, and a clip of the interview was posted on YouTube with the label "The World's Ugliest Woman."  It had already received over 4 million viewers by the time Velasquez found the clip.  Since then, Velasquez has devoted her life to speaking against cyber-bullying and negative body image.

Authors and Artists

Gloria AnzalduaGloria E. Azaldua (1942-2004)

Poet, writer, and feminist theorist.

Some of her most famous work includes:

  • This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (1981)
  • Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987)


Achievements and honors:

  • Lambda Lesbian Small Book Press Award
  • Sappho Award of Distinction
  • NEA Fiction Award

Isabel AllendeIsabel Allende (b.1942)


Chilean author Isabel Allende is renowned for writing international bestsellers including 'The House of Spirits,' 'City of the Beasts,' 'Inés of My Soul' and 'Paula.'



Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)


Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is remembered for her self-portraits, pain and passion, and bold, vibrant colors. She is celebrated in Mexico for her attention to Mexican and indigenous culture and by feminists for her depiction of the female experience and form.



Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1927-2014)


Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a  Colombian novelist and one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, mostly for his masterpiece Cien años de soledad (1967; One Hundred Years of Solitude).



Pablo Picasso PhotoPablo Picasso (1881-1973)


Pablo Picasso is probably the most important figure of the 20th century, in terms of art, and art movements that occurred over this period. Before the age of 50, the Spanish born artist had become the most well-known name in modern art, with the most distinct style and eye for artistic creation. There had been no other artists, prior to Picasso, who had such an impact on the art world, or had a mass following of fans and critics alike, as he did.



Luis Alvarez (1911-1988)


His research included particle physics, radar, and nuclear science. He developed multiple radar systems during World War II, worked on the Manhattan Project, and was involved in the development of a liquid hydrogen bubble chamber, which enabled detection of subatomic particles.


  • 1946 - Awarded the Collier Prophy by the National Aeronautical Association
  • 1947 - Awarded the Medal for Merit
  • 1953- Awarded the John Scott Medaland Prize by the city of Philadelphia
  • 1961 - Awarded the Einstein Medal
  • 1964 - Awarded the National Medal of Science
  • 1965 - Received the Michelson Award
  • 1968 - Won the Nobel Prize in Physics

Franklin Chang-Díaz, 1997.

Franklin Chang-Diaz (b.1950)

Physicist and astronaut.

Franklin Chang-Díaz is a Costa Rican-born American physicist and the first Hispanic astronaut.

nicole hernandez hammerNicole Hernandez Hammer 

Biologist and Environmental Justice Advocate.

A Guatemalan immigrant of Cuban heritage, Hernandez Hammer works to address the disproportionate impacts of climate change on low-income neighborhoods and communities of color across the U.S. 

helia bravo hollis

Helia Bravo Hollis (1901-2001)

Botanist, taxonomist, cactus researcher, and author.

  • 1941 - Cactus and Succulent Society of America, Inc (CSSA): Fellow Award
  • 1951 - Co-founder of the Mexican Cactus Society
  • 1956 - Heliabravoa was named in Helia's honor by Curt Backeberg
  • 1980 - International Organization for Succulent Plant Study (IOS): Cactus d'Or award
  • UNAM: Jardin del Desierto Helia Bravo, named in her honor for the desert section of the Jardin Botánico.
  • Other species of cacti that have been named in her honor include: Ariocarpus bravoanus and Opuntia bravoana

Ellan Ochoa 

Dr. Ellen Ochoa (b.1958)

Engineer an astronaut

Dr. Ellen Ochoa is an American engineer, former astronaut and former director of the Johnson Space Center. In 1993 Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman to go to space when she served on a nine-day mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery.


Oscar De La HoyaOscar De La Hoya (b.1973)

Former boxer, singer, and founder of Golden Boy Promotions

  • 1992-2008 - 10 World Titles
  • 1992 Barcelona Olympics - Gold Metal
  • 2000 -  Released self-titled debut album
  • 2006 - Founded the national boxing promotion firm Golden Boy Promotions

Jessica Mendoza (b.1980)

Retired Pro All-Star Softball player and MLB Analyst, ESPN

  • Two-time Pan American Gold Medalist
  • Three-time World Cup Champion
  • 4-time First Team All-American Softball Player for Stanford Cardinals 1999-2002
  • 2004 - Olympics in Athens Gold Metalist
  • 2015 - First Female Analyst in history of Major League Baseball

Sammy SosaSamuel Peralta Sosa (b.1968)

Professional Baseball Player

Sosa is a Dominican American former professional baseball right fielder of Haitian descent.  In 1999 Sosa became the first player to hit 60 homers in two seasons.



Career History

  • Texas Rangers (2 Seasons 1989, 2007)
  • Chicago Cubs (13 Seasons 1992-2004)
  • Baltimore Orioles (1 Season 2005)
  • Chicago White Sox (3 Seasons 1989-1991)



  • Six time Silver Slugger (2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1995)
  • Roberto Clemente Award (1998)
  • Hank Aaron Award (1999)



Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer LopezSinger

Jennifer Lynn Lopez (born July 24, 1969), also known by her nickname J.Lo, is an American actress, singer, dancer, fashion designer, producer, and businesswoman. In 1991, Lopez began appearing as a Fly Girl dancer on In Living Color, where she remained a regular until she decided to pursue an acting career in 1993.




Lin-Manuel Miranda

Lin-Manuel Miranda (b. 1980)

Actor, songwriter, rapper, producer, and playwright.

Lin-Manuel Miranda is an award-winning actor, performer and writer known for his groundbreaking Broadway musicals 'In the Heights' and 'Hamilton.'




                            Selena Quintanilla-Perez

Selena Quintanilla-Perez (1971-1995)

Singer, songwriter, spokesperson, and fashion designer.

Known as the 'Queen of Tejano Music,' Selena Quintanilla was a beloved Latin recording artist who was killed by the president of her fan club at the age of 23.




Rita Moreno

Rita Moreno (b.1931)

Rita Moreno is a Puerto Rican actress known for her role as Anita in 'West Side Story.' The PEGOT winner broke new ground for Latinos in entertainment.