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 in 1995. Selena made her recording debut in the '80s, going on to become an award-winning recording artist in the Latin music scene with albums like Amor Prohibido and Selena Live. Selena grew up speaking English, but her father taught her to sing in Spanish so she could resonate with the Latino community. In 1993, Selena won a Grammy for Best Mexican-American Album for her album Live! at the 36th Grammy Awards. Selena was very popular with Tejano music fans. At the 1987 Tejano Music Awards, she won both "Best Female Vocalist of the Year" and "Performer of the Year." Selena's murder sent shockwaves through the Latino community, and her fans around the world mourned the singer's passing. The popularity of Selena's music and persona has endured through the years. Selena was posthumously honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on November 3, 2017, proclaimed "Selena Day" in Los Angeles by Mayor Eric Garcetti. In February 2019, Texas State Representative Ana-Maria Ramos introduced a bill that would designate April 16, Selena's birthday, as a holiday. That year, San Diego State University also announced plans to offer a new course, "Selena and Latinx Media Representation," to begin in 2020. In March 2020, Selena became the first Latina artist and the ninth person overall to be inducted into the Star Trail of Fame outside the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Learn more: https://www.biography.com/musician/selena
Union leader and labor organizer Cesar Chavez dedicated his life to improving treatment, pay and working conditions for farm workers. He knew all too well the hardships farm workers faced. Chavez and his family toiled in the fields as migrant farmworkers. After working as a community and labor organizer in the 1950s, Chavez founded the National Farm Workers Association in 1962. This union joined with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee in its first strike against grape growers in California in 1965. A year later, the two unions merged, and the resulting union was renamed the United Farm Workers in 1972. In early 1968, Chavez called for a national boycott of California table grape growers. Chavez and his union won several victories for the workers when many growers signed contracts with the union. As a labor leader, Chavez employed nonviolent means to bring attention to the plight of farm workers. He led marches, called for boycotts and went on several hunger strikes. He also brought national awareness to the dangers of pesticides to workers' health. It is believed that Chavez's hunger strikes contributed to his death: He died on April 23, 1993. In 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that Chavez's birthday, March 31, would be recognized as a federal commemorative holiday.
Learn more: https://www.biography.com/activist/cesar-chavez
Lin-Manuel Miranda developed a devotion to musical theater and hip-hop before attending Wesleyan University. While at Wesleyan, Miranda started developing the musical In the Heights. With Miranda starring in the production and writing the show’s music and lyrics, In the Heights was set in Washington Heights, featuring Latin sounds interwoven with more standard show tune fare. The musical debuted in 2008 and was a hit, winning four Tony Awards, including the prize for best musical. In 2008, Miranda picked up the 2004 Ron Chernow book Alexander Hamilton. Miranda was inspired to create a full-length work chronicling Hamilton’s life. Hamilton eventually debuted at the Public Theater in early 2015, and just months later hit Broadway, racking up monumental advance ticket sales. Hamilton has garnered wide acclaim for its unique sensibilities—relying on a Black and Latino cast with hip-hop/R&B sounds in a stage musical format to tell the story of this U.S. Founding Father. In 2016, Hamilton the musical set a new record when it was nominated for 16 Tony Awards, the most in Broadway history. The production ultimately received 11 Tonys. During his acceptance speech for best score, Miranda recited a sonnet that was dedicated to the victims of the mass shooting at an Orlando, Florida gay club, with the performer chanting, "Love is love is love..." Miranda also scored a Grammy Award and an Oscar nomination for composing the song "How Far I'll Go" from the 2016 animated film Moana and starred in 2018's Mary Poppins Returns.
Artist Frida Kahlo was considered one of Mexico's greatest artists who began painting mostly self-portraits after she was severely injured in a bus accident. She exhibited her paintings in Paris and Mexico before her death in 1954. In 1925, Kahlo was traveling on a bus when the vehicle collided with a streetcar. She suffered several serious injuries as a result, including fractures in her spine and pelvis. She began painting during her recovery and finished her first self-portrait the following year. In 1938, she had a major exhibition at a New York City gallery, selling about half of the 25 paintings shown there. Kahlo received a commission from the Mexican government for five portraits of important Mexican women in 1941, but she was unable to finish the project. She lost her beloved father that year and continued to suffer from chronic health problems. Despite her personal challenges, her work continued to grow in popularity and was included in numerous group shows around this time. In 1953, Kahlo received her first solo exhibition in Mexico. While bedridden at the time, Kahlo did not miss out on the exhibition’s opening. Arriving by ambulance, Kahlo spent the evening talking and celebrating with the event’s attendees from the comfort of a four-poster bed set up in the gallery just for her. After Kahlo’s death, the feminist movement of the 1970s led to renewed interest in her life and work, as Kahlo was viewed by many as an icon of female creativity.
Learn more: https://www.biography.com/artist/frida-kahlo
Rigoberta Menchú was a Guatemalan human rights activist. Despite her youth she became an eloquent spokesperson for the rights of the indigenous peoples of the entire Western Hemisphere. Menchú became politically active, inspired by her family's involvement. An important influence was her father, Vicente, who was active in the Peasant Unity Committee, a group that fought for peasant land rights. She joined the committee in 1979, and was asked to organize the country's 22 Indian groups against exploitation. After losing her parents, life in Guatemala was too dangerous for her, and Menchú fled to Mexico in 1981. In exile, she began an international crusade to explain the plight of the Guatemalan Indians, and joined the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations. In 1983, the widely read book, I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala brought her to the attention of the rest of the world and helped her to become the foremost spokesperson for indigenous peoples. In 1992, the Nobel Peace Prize was given to her "in recognition of her work for social justice and ethno-cultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples." She used the prize money to set up a foundation named after her father. In 1996, she was named a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for a Culture of Peace. Later the same year she went to Norway to watch the Guatemalan government and rebel leaders sign a cease-fire agreement for the 42-year conflict that she and her family fought so hard to end.
Guillermo del Toro was able to parlay his childhood love of the macabre into a highly successful career as a filmmaker. Del Toro made his feature debut in 1993 with the Spanish/English film Cronos. The film won an array of honors, including eight Ariel Awards from the Mexican Academy of Film. His film Pan's Labyrinth also became one of the top-grossing foreign releases in the United States. The work was also a critical smash, ending up on many reviewers’ year-end lists and receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. It received five other Oscar nods as well, winning for art direction, cinematography and makeup. In 2017, del Toro turned in one of the signature works of his career with The Shape of Water. The film claimed the top prize at the Venice Film Festival and led the pack with seven nominations for the year's Golden Globes, producing a win for del Toro in the category of Best Director. The Shape of Water received 13 nominations at the 2018 Academy Awards. The film claimed four Oscar wins, including Best Picture and Best Director. Sounding a political note in his acceptance speech for Best Director, del Toro noted that he is an immigrant, and celebrated the power of cinema for enabling people of all races and backgrounds to present stories with universal appeal. In 2018, organizers of the Guadalajara International Film Festival announced the creation of the Jenkins-Del Toro International Film Scholarship, a $60,000 annual award for a promising Mexican filmmaker to study abroad at a renowned film institute.
Johnny Ventura, whose real name was Juan de Dios Ventura Soriano, was known for his showmanship and for pioneering styles of merengue and salsa. He was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and began singing as a teenager. When he was 16, he entered a local talent show contest on television called La Voz de la Alegria and came in first place. Later, he competed on the TV show La TV Busca Una Estrella and also won first place, securing a scholarship to study music and singing through the state-owned TV and radio network La Voz Dominicana. Starting in the early Sixties, a young Ventura sang in different bands and gained recognition throughout Santo Domingo. A music promoter encouraged him to strike out on his own and create the Johnny Ventura y su Combo Show, which put his star quality on full display and earned him a reputation as a trailblazer for adding rock & roll elements to merengue. He was affectionately known as “El Caballo Mayor” and released a string of songs that became classics, such as “Patacon Pisao,” “Pitaste,” “El Elevador,” and “Merenguero Hasta la Tambora.” From 1998 to 2002, he served as mayor of Santo Domingo.
Actress and singer Jennifer Lopez is one of Hollywood’s leading ladies who’s also forged a successful pop and dance music career. In 1990, she earned a spot dancing on the popular Fox comedy television series In Living Color as one of the "Fly Girls." Lopez's first big break came in 1997 when she was chosen to play the title role in Selena, a biopic of the Tejano pop singer Selena Quintanilla-Perez. Lopez earned widespread praise for her performance, including a Golden Globe nomination. Lopez's musical career also began to take off, as she released her debut Latin pop album, On the 6, in June 1999. The album, fueled by the success of her hit single, "If You Had My Love," went platinum within two weeks. The popularity of the multi-talented Lopez reached new heights in early 2001, when her album J. Lo debuted at No. 1 on the pop charts, while her film, the romantic comedy The Wedding Planner, shot to the top spot at the box office in its first week of release. In December 2002, she delivered another one-two punch with the release of the record This Is Me ... Then. In 2007, Lopez released her first Spanish language album, Como Ama una Mujer, which did well on the Latin and pop charts. In September 2019, it was announced that Lopez would be joining forces with Shakira for the Super Bowl 2020 halftime show in Miami, Florida. "I love that the Super Bowl has two women performing this year. That they have two Latinos performing this year," Lopez said. "It's the marker of a new time, not just for the NFL but for this country. It sends an important message."
Selected by NASA in 1990, Ellen Ochoa became the world's first Hispanic female astronaut in 1991. Ochoa received a bachelor of science degree in physics from San Diego State University in 1980. She then went on to attend Stanford University, where she received a master of science degree and doctorate in electrical engineering. A mission specialist and flight engineer, Ochoa is a veteran of four space flights, logging more than 950 hours in space. Her technical assignments have included flight software and computer hardware development and robotics development, testing and training. She has served as Assistant for Space Station to the Chief of the Astronaut Office, lead spacecraft communicator in Mission Control and Acting Deputy Chief of the Astronaut Office. She currently serves as Director of Flight Crew Operations at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Ochoa's numerous awards include NASA's Exceptional Service Medal (1997), Outstanding Leadership Medal (1995) and Space Flight Medals (2002, 1999, 1994, 1993). Besides being an astronaut, researcher, and engineer, Ochoa is a classical flutist.
Learn more: https://www.biography.com/astronaut/ellen-ochoa
Julián Castro is a Democratic politician who served as the mayor of San Antonio, Texas from 2009-2014. In January 2019, Castro announced his presidential bid in the 2020 election, before exiting the race early the following year. Castro began his political career in 2001 when he became a member of the San Antonio City Council, making history as the youngest council member at age 26. In 2005, he set his eyes on the mayorship of San Antonio but was defeated. He tried again in 2009 and was successful. He was re-elected twice. In 2012, he became the first Latino at a Democratic National Convention to serve as the keynote speaker. From 2014 to 2017, Castro worked as HUD Secretary for the Obama administration. During his tenure, he helped minorities gain more access to fair housing rights, aided communities struck by natural disasters and launched a program that increased broadband connectivity to young people across the nation.On January 12, 2019, Castro announced his run for the presidency in 2020. Castro aimed to grant undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship, reconstitute ICE and border patrol agencies and decriminalize illegal border crossings. Although he drew attention for his willingness to mix it up with his fellow Democratic hopefuls on the debate stage, Castro never found his way into the top tier of candidates. He struggled to raise enough money, and failed to qualify for the final two Democratic debates of the year. On January 2, 2020, Castro announced that he was pulling out of the presidential race.
Activist and labor leader Dolores Huerta has worked to improve social and economic conditions for farm workers and to fight discrimination. In 1960, Huerta started the Agricultural Workers Association (AWA). She set up voter registration drives and lobbied politicians to allow non–U.S. citizen migrant workers to receive public assistance and pensions and provide Spanish-language voting ballots and driver's tests. In 1962, Huerta and Cesar Chavez co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA). In 1965, the AWA and the NFWA combined to become the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee. That year, the union took on the Coachella Valley grape growers and after five years, they signed a historic agreement that improved working conditions for farm workers, including reducing the use of harmful pesticides and initiating unemployment and healthcare benefits. She was credited with coining the phrase "sí se puede," or "yes we can," as a means of spurring union members onward through tough times. She received the Ellis Island Medal of Freedom Award and was inducted in the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993, in 1998, received the Eleanor Roosevelt Award and in 2002, she received the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship. She created the Dolores Huerta Foundation, whose purpose is to bring organizing and training skills to low-income communities. Huerta continues to lecture and speak out on a variety of social issues involving immigration, income inequality and the rights of women and Latinos.
Cuban-American superstar Gloria Estefan fronted the band Miami Sound Machine. Songs like "Conga" and "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You" topped the charts in the 1980s and 1990s and became pop classics. In 1975, she met future husband Emilio Estefan and became the lead singer of the band Miami Sound Machine. The band's first North American hit was the disco single "Dr. Beat". The rousing dance number "Conga" became the first single to crack Billboard's pop, dance, Black and Latin charts simultaneously. The Estefans never forgot their roots. The title of their 1989 album Cuts Both Ways attested to their intention to live up to their international reputation. The salsa finale "Oye Mi Canto" rivaled "Conga" for its appeal. In 1990, the band's tour bus was involved in an accident. She suffered a broken vertebra in her back. Thanks to extensive physical therapy, intense determination, Gloria made a miraculous comeback. She marked her return performance at the American Music Awards in 1991. In 1998, Gloria performed at the VH-1 concert special, Divas Live. The concert raised money to fund music education in elementary schools. Inclusion in this event affirmed her position among the top female singers in the music industry. In 2015, the Estefans were honored for their trailblazing contributions to music and Latin American culture with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2017, Estefan enjoyed additional recognition as one of five artists named a Kennedy Center honoree that year.
Known as the “Walter Cronkite of Latino America”, Jorge Ramos is a Mexican American journalist who is perhaps one of the most influential Hispanic newspersons in the United States. Ramos came to the United States as a student in 1983. In 1986, at age 28, he became one of the youngest national news anchors in the history of American television. Since then, he has been called “the voice of the voiceless” for other immigrants like him. Ramos has been the anchorman for Noticiero Univision since 1986. In addition, Ramos hosts “Al Punto”, Univision’s weekly public affairs program offering in-depth analysis of the week’s top-stories and exclusive interviews with newsmakers. Also, he is the anchor for the program “Show Me Something” for the English-language network Fusion. He received the Maria Moors Cabot award from the University of Columbia and has won 10 Emmy awards (including an honorary Emmy and a Lifetime Achievement award). In 2017 he received the Walter Cronkite award for excellence in political journalism for “advancing the conversation about what divides us as a country.” The author of thirteen books and bestsellers, Ramos has been instrumental in promoting literacy among Latinos. In 2002 he created the first book club in the history of Hispanic television: Despierta Leyendo. He writes a weekly column for more than 40 newspapers in the United States and Latin America. Ramos is one of the most respected journalists in the United States and in the 13 Latin American countries where his newscast is seen every night.
Learn more: https://jorgeramos.com/en/biography/
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.' She has written over 20 books that have been translated into more than 35 languages and sold more than 67 million copies. She became a prominent journalist working in television and for magazines in the 1960s and 1970s. After General Pinochet led a military coup in 1973, she became active in aiding victims of the repression and brutality of his regime. Realizing it was dangerous to stay in Chile, she fled with her family and lived in exile in Venezuela for 13 years. In 1981, a letter to her dying grandfather became the basis for her first novel, The House of the Spirits, which became a worldwide bestseller and launched her literary career. At the urging of her three grandchildren, Allende wrote her first book for young adults, City of the Beasts, which was published in 2002. In addition to fiction, Allende has written deeply personal memoirs, including Paula about the life and loss of her daughter to a rare disease; and The Sum of Our Days: A Memoir about her life following the death of her daughter. During the course of her career, Allende has received numerous awards for her work including the Chilean National Prize for Literature and the Library of Congress Creative Achievement Award for Fiction. In 2014, President Obama presented Allende with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Allende established the Isabel Allende Foundation in honor of her daughter Paula who died at the age of 28. The foundation strives for economic and social justice for women.
Learn more: https://www.biography.com/writer/isabel-allende
Award-winning singer and producer Daddy Yankee is considered one of the pioneers of reggaetón. Born Ramón Luis Ayala Rodríguez, Daddy Yankee started singing and rapping at 13, right when the rap scene began taking root in Puerto Rico. At only 21 he launched his own label called El Cartel Records in the late 1990s. In 2004, he broke into the mainstream with his breakthrough album Barrio Fino along with its hit track "Gasolina." Though Yankee grew up immersed in music, his first love was playing baseball. He tried out for the Seattle Mariners and had every expectation of being signed when he was caught in the crossfire between gangs. It was a year before he could walk and he still carries a bullet lodged in his right thigh. Yankee credits that hiatus from street life for redirecting his focus on making music. He also went to college, and earned an associate's degree in accounting in 1998, in order to help himself better navigate the music business. In 2016, he and Luis Fonsi collaborated on the single “Despacito,” not knowing it'd become a chart topper in close to 50 countries and become the most-watched YouTube video ever. People en Español named Daddy Yankee and Luis Fonsi The Stars of the Year of 2017 when the duo reaffirmed their dedication to helping their native island rebuild from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria. As one of Puerto Rico’s most recognizable celebrities, Yankee, who has donated more than $1 million for reconstruction efforts, aims to leverage his star power to raise another $1.5 million to rebuild homes on the island.
Learn more: https://www.biography.com/musician/daddy-yankee
Pedro Martínez is a former professional baseball player who was one of the greatest pitchers of all time. Martínez made his major league debut with the LA Dodgers in 1992. In 1993 he was traded to the Montreal Expos, and he compiled a record of 55 wins and 33 losses over four years with the club. He won the National League Cy Young Award in 1997 and the American League Cy Young Award in 1999 and 2000. Martínez signed a six-year contract in 1997 with the Boston Red Sox. He became a fan favorite in Boston and was a member of their 2004 World Series championship team. In 2004 he signed a four-year contract with the NY Mets. In his first season with the Mets, he compiled a 15–8 record with a 2.82 earned run average, but injuries caused him to spend portions of subsequent seasons on the disabled list and limited his effectiveness. Still, in 2007, Martínez became the 15th pitcher (and first Latin American) in major league history to record 3,000 strikeouts. The Philadelphia Phillies signed Martínez to a one-year contract in 2009, and he retired at the end of the season after reaching the World Series with them. In 2013 the Red Sox hired him as a special assistant to the general manager, and two years later he became a studio analyst for televised baseball broadcasts. Martínez was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015. Martínez is actively involved in community and charity work in the Dominican Republic, his native country. This community service combined with his on-field success made him one of the most popular sports figures in the Dominican Republic.
Celia Cruz was a Cuban American singer, best known as one of the most popular salsa performers of all time. In 1950, her singing career started its upward journey to stardom when she began singing with celebrated Cuban orchestra Sonora Matancera. Initially, there were doubts that Cruz could successfully replace the previous lead singer and that a woman could sell salsa records at all. However, Cruz helped propel the group — and Latin music in general — to new heights, and the band toured widely through Central and North America throughout the 1950s. At the time of the 1959 Communist takeover of Cuba, Sonora Matancera was touring in Mexico, and members of the band decided to cross into the United States instead of returning to their homeland. Cruz became a U.S. citizen in 1961, and Fidel Castro barred her from returning to Cuba. When Cruz joined the Tito Puente Orchestra in the mid–1960s, she gained exposure to a wide audience and became a dynamic focus for the group. On stage, Cruz enthralled audiences with her flamboyant attire and crowd engagement—traits that bolstered her 40-year singing career. She continued performing live and recording albums throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and beyond. She made more than 75 records, including 23 that went gold, and won several Grammys and Latin Grammys. She also earned a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, and was awarded the American National Medal of the Arts by the National Endowment of the Arts. Cruz is remembered as one of the 20th century’s most beloved and popular Latin musicians.
Learn more: https://www.biography.com/musician/celia-cruz
Mario Molina was a Mexican-born American chemist who was jointly awarded the 1995 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, along with chemists F. Sherwood Rowland and Paul Crutzen, for research in the 1970s concerning the decomposition of the ozonosphere, which shields Earth from dangerous solar radiation. Molina studied chemical engineering at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and received an advanced degree from the University of Freiburg in 1967 before returning to his alma mater to become an associate professor. He resumed his education in the United States at the University of California in 1972 before joining Rowland. They conducted experiments on pollutants in the atmosphere, discovering that CFC gases rise into the stratosphere, where ultraviolet radiation breaks them into their component elements of chlorine, fluorine, and carbon. There, each chlorine atom is capable of destroying about 100,000 ozone molecules before becoming inactive. Molina was the principal author of the paper describing their theories, which was published in the scientific journal Nature in 1974. Their findings sparked a nationwide debate on the environmental effects of CFC gases and were validated in the mid-1980s when a region of stratospheric ozone depletion, known as the ozone hole, was discovered over Antarctica. He worked in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology from 1982 to 1989, when he became a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.
Gymnast Laurie Hernandez started her gymnastics career as a young child and steadily built a reputation for her skills and charisma on the floor and apparatus. She landed a spot on the 2016 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics team and is one of only a handful of Latinas (Tracee Talavera, Annia Hatch and Kyla Ross being the others) to represent the U.S. since 1936. At the Summer Games in Rio, she won team gold as the youngest member of the U.S. women's gymnastics team, nicknamed "The Final Five," and a silver medal in the individual balance beam event. When Hernandez was six, her parents signed her up for gymnastics classes in her hometown of Old Bridge. She would attend the USA Gymnastics development camps at age nine where she excelled. In 2014, Hernandez was sidelined with injuries but a year later she was back in action and performed in four competitions, where she earned medals in every event and an all-around gold. In 2015, the junior gymnastics champion didn't qualify for the U.S. team for the world championships because of her age but in 2016, she made her debut as a senior gymnast and earned the bronze medal in the all-around at the City of Jesolo Trophy in Italy, among others. At age 16, Hernandez, the youngest member of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team, announced that she would turn professional days before the start of the Olympic Games in Rio. At the team competition, she delivered impressive performances helping the U.S. win gold. The dynamic gymnast has become a fan favorite.
Nicole Hernandez Hammer is a climate scientist and is the Project Director for the Clean Energy States Alliance, where she works on low and moderate income solar. She is a well-known climate change expert, sea-level researcher, and environmental justice advocate. Hernandez Hammer earned her Master of Science in Biology from Florida Atlantic University and an MBA from Palm Beach Atlantic University. She has held roles such as climate science and community advocate at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), assistant director of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies at Florida Atlantic University, and coordinator of Florida Climate Institute’s state university consortium. She has co-authored a series of technical papers on sea level rise projections, impacts, and preparedness. Her activism and initiative on climate change prompted First Lady Michelle Obama to invite her as a special guest at the 2015 State of the Union address. During her time with UCS, Hernandez Hammer also worked with the Moms Clean Air Force, a national group of moms and dads championing the fight against air pollution and, by extension, the effects of climate change. Through both organizations, she helped residents of South Florida, particularly Latino communities that often receive fewer educational and protective resources than more affluent communities, understand the realities of climate change and what they can do about it. She remains committed to serving vulnerable communities.
Giovani “Gio” Benitez is the transportation correspondent for ABC News. He was the first reporter to shoot a TV story exclusively with an iPhone. He is perhaps best known for his work as a news anchor for ABC’s news programs, such as Good Morning America and World News Tonight, 20/20, and Nightline. Benitez has earned three Emmys and eight Emmys nominations for his work in television. ABC promoted him to Transportation Correspondent in 2020. In June 2021, Benitez hosted a special Pride Month program called PaleyImpact: Salute to LGBTQ+ Pride Achievements in Television. The event brought together leading luminaries from the entertainment and sports industries. In 2009, while working as an investigative producer for CBS affiliate CBS4’s WFOR TV, Benitez shot an entire local news story on the release of the new iPhone with a new iPhone. He then presented it for airing after self-editing the video on his laptop. Doing so, he avoided taking assistance from regular workforce resources such as video editor, cameraman, camera, editor, reporter, editing resources, and the news coverage vehicle. Benitez got widespread popularity for the cost-cutting and innovative idea, both from local media and the fans alike, for his dedication to presenting the story. After joining ABC News in 2012, he worked his way up the ranks to become a producer and then an on-air reporter at ABC. During his journey at ABC, he has covered several major stories, including the Pulse nightclub shooting, El Chapo’s underground escape from a Mexican prison, and the Boston Marathon bombing.
Desi Arnaz was a Cuban-born actor and musician who is remembered for the TV show, 'I Love Lucy.' Arnaz fled Cuba for Miami after a revolution in 1933. He got his first musician's gig as a guitarist for the Siboney Septet. After working briefly in New York, Arnaz returned to Miami to lead a combo of his own and introduce the Conga Line to American audiences. It was such a hit, both locally and nationally, that Arnaz returned to New York to start his own band. He was offered a role in the 1939 Broadway musical Too Many Girls and later starred in Hollywood's film version. It was there that he met his future wife, Lucille Ball. Arnaz made three more films before being inducted into the Army during WWII. He formed a new orchestra after being discharged and recorded several hits during the late 1940s. In 1949, Arnaz turned his efforts to developing the hit television series I Love Lucy, which ran for six years and became the most successful television program in history. Arnaz and Ball had a clear goal in mind when the series began development. Not only did they request the show be shot on film as opposed to the cheaper kinescope, but they also retained full ownership of the program under their production company, Desilu Productions. The show touched on many personal and taboo issues of the time, including marriage and pregnancy. And as a couple both on and off camera, their show had parallels to their actual marriage, giving birth to their son on the show on the same day that Ball gave birth to their son in real life. The novelty of the series, coupled with Arnaz and Ball's strong chemistry, proved to be a success.
Learn more: https://www.biography.com/actor/desi-arnaz
Broadcast journalist Soledad O’Brien was named permanent co-anchor of NBC News’ Weekend Today in 1999. In 2003, O’Brien joined CNN as the co-anchor of the network’s flagship morning program, American Morning. From 2007 to 2013, O’Brien hosted a number of CNN documentary shows, including the Black in America series, the Latino in America series, and numerous Special Investigations Unit episodes. In 2013, she established the Starfish Media Group production company, which has produced segments for CNN, HBO and Al Jazeera America. O’Brien has authored two books: Latino in America, and the memoir, The Next Big Story: My Journey through the Land of Possibilities. In addition, she and her husband founded the Soledad O'Brien and Brad Raymond Starfish Foundation. O’Brien is a member of the board of directors of The After-School Corporation, the Harlem School of the Arts and the Foundation for the National Archives. She also served on the advisory board of Cyberangels, an internet safety organization. O’Brien has received numerous awards, including an Emmy, NAACP’s President's Award, George Foster Peabody Award, among others. In 2008, she was the first recipient of the Soledad O’Brien Freedom’s Voice Award from the Morehouse School of Medicine, and was the first recipient of The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Goodermote Humanitarian Award. O’Brien received the 2009 Medallion of Excellence for Leadership and Community Service Award from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. In 2010, she was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists.
Raúl Juliá was among the most critically respected stage and screen actors of his generation. Though perhaps best known for his role as Gomez Addams in the Addams Family films of the 1990s, Juliá starred in more than 100 productions since 1964, the year he left his native Puerto Rico for the United States. Juliá was also a tireless humanitarian who used his celebrity status to draw attention to the causes he supported. In 1972 he received the first of his four Tony Award nominations, for his role as Proteus in the musical adaptation of William Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona. During his lifetime Juliá appeared in more than 40 films but it was not until 1991 that he would play his most famous role, as the eccentric patriarch Gomez Addams in the film adaptation of the 1960s television series The Addams Family. Juliá gave one of his final screen performances as the lead in The Burning Season: The Chico Mendes Story. Juliá contributed both time and money to The Hunger Project and donated his time and his name to other causes, including at-risk-youth mentoring, HIV/AIDS education and prevention, and human rights in Latin America. Cultural organizations Nosotros and the National Council of La Raza honored Juliá with awards for promoting a positive image of Hispanic culture. Sadly, Juliá would not live to accept one of his final, most prestigious film-industry awards: a best-actor Emmy for his role as Chico Mendes. In 1994, following complications from a stroke, Juliá passed away. While video has allowed for the survival of Juliá's acting legacy, those who remember the actor's philanthropic work have worked to keep his humanitarian efforts alive.
Learn more: https://biography.yourdictionary.com/raul-julia
Bamby Salcedo is a national and international transgender Latina Woman activist. Salcedo is the President and CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition, a national organization that focuses on addressing the issues of transgender Latin@s in the US. She developed the Center for Violence Prevention & Transgender Wellness, a multipurpose, multiservice space for trans people in Los Angeles. Salcedo has served and participated in many local, national, and international organizations and planning groups. This work mediates intersections of race, gender, sexuality, age, social class, HIV+ status, immigration status, and more. She has spoken about transgender-related issues, social justice, healthcare, social services, incarceration, immigration, and detention as well as professional and economic development for transgender people. She has participated in several panels at the White House including in 2016 The United State of Woman where she shared the stage with Vice President Biden at the opening plenary session and in 2015, Transgender Women of Color and Violence and LGBTQ People of Color Summit. Her powerful, sobering and inspiring speeches and her warm, down-to-earth presence have provided emotional grounding and perspective for diverse gatherings. Her words and experience evoke both tears and laughter, sobriety and inspiration through the documentary made about her life called TransVisible: Bamby Salcedo’s Story. Salcedo has been featured and recognized in multiple media outlets and featured in the HBO documentary The Trans List, among many others.
Learn more: https://adelantenln.org/bamby-salcedo/
Richard Steven Valenzuela, who later came to be known by his stage name Ritchie Valens, was an American rock and roll prodigy who went on to establish a new genre of music by introducing Mexican tunes into mainstream music. He started off as a musician by joining a band when he was still in school. Though Valens started off as a guitarist, it was not long before he was able to write and compose his own songs. In 1958, Bob Keane, the owner of a recording company named ‘Del-Fi Records,’ took interest in Valens and signed him up right after his first audition. It was Keane who asked him to change his name to Ritchie Valens. His earliest recordings were featured in an album titled ‘Ritchie Valens - The Lost Tapes’ which was published by ‘Del-Fi Records.’ Two well-known tracks from that album are ‘Ritchie’s Blues’ and ‘Donna.’ In his short career, Valens produced a large body of work that is enjoyed by music lovers to the present day. His most famous and important work was his song ‘La Bamba’ which was released in 1958. Although it was a remake of a Mexican song, it was Valens’ improvisation that made the song the hit that it eventually went on to become. Valens did not win any major awards during his lifetime, but his talent and impact on the music industry was beyond question as he was the first musician who brought Mexican music to the fore. He was inducted into the ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’ in 2001. Valens died in a plane crash while flying with two fellow musicians on February 3, 1959. He was only 17 years old. That day came to be known as ‘The Day the Music Died.’
On March 2nd, 2021, Dr. Miguel A. Cardona was sworn in as the 12th Secretary of Education. Secretary Cardona previously served as the Commissioner of Education in Connecticut, a position he held after being appointed by Governor Lamont in 2019. Under Secretary Cardona's oversight Connecticut launched a statewide FAFSA Data Dashboard; procured a comprehensive statewide Special Education Data System (CT-SEDS); announced the State's highest ever extended graduation rates for students with disabilities and English Learners; reached a new stipulated agreement in the landmark school integration case Sheff v. O'Neill; established the first national requirement for high schools to provide courses on black and Latino studies; and initiated systemic improvement protocols that can reach every corner of the state. Secretary Cardona has two decades of experience as a public school educator. He served as a school principal in Meriden in 2003 where he led a school with outstanding programming for three to five-year-olds, students that were bilingual, and students with sensory exceptionalities. In 2012 he won the National Distinguished Principal Award for the State of Connecticut and the Outstanding Administrator Award from UCONN's NEAG School of Education. Secretary Cardona assumed the role of Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, overseeing teaching, learning, and leadership alignment. He is very active in his community, serving on several non-profit charitable organization boards of directors.
Learn more: https://www2.ed.gov/news/staff/bios/cardona.html
Mónica Puig is a Puerto Rican tennis player, who is famous for putting her country on the global tennis map. Puig made history at the 2016 Rio Olympics by becoming the first Puerto Rican athlete to win a gold medal, after she defeated Angelique Kerber in the women's singles final. Puig picked up tennis at the insistence of her mother, and hasn't looked back since. She achieved considerable success as a young pro, winning the Strasbourg tournament at the age of 20 and going on to add the Rising Stars Invitational trophy to her cabinet. Puig's 2016 Olympics win was a headline-grabber for more reasons than one. Not only did she make history for Puerto Rico by becoming the first athlete from the country to win Olympic gold, but she also beat all the odds in a truly fairytale campaign. Puig was unseeded at the tournament, and wasn't expected to even reach the quarterfinals, let alone win the whole thing. But she put on one inspired performance after another, outgunning Petra Kvitova in the semifinal and Angelique Kerber in the final to come away with a stunning upset win. Puig is small in stature, but likes to hit big on the court. She has a two-handed backhand which she can hit flat and in any direction. Puig is quick around the court, and she defends as easily as she can attack. She can slice and lob when the situation calls for it, making her a versatile defender. She suffered a let-down in the aftermath of her success at the 2016 Olympics, losing a string of matches to end 2016. But she has recovered since then, and is now a regular presence in the middle stages of most big tournaments.
Learn more: https://www.sportskeeda.com/player/monica-puig
Comedian and actor John Leguizamo is best known for his one-man stage shows and his ability to satirize a range of ethnic groups. He made his film debut in Casualties of War. Other film roles followed in quick succession. Although born in Colombia, Leguizamo spent his formative years in the Jackson Heights neighborhood in Queens, New York. At the prompting of teachers, Leguizamo attended a local acting school, funding his classes through a job at Kentucky Fried Chicken. This led to a stint at New York University in 1991, but Leguizamo soon left school to join the Off Center Theater, a Manhattan comedy troupe. Leguizamo spent the mid- to late-1980s performing in comedy clubs, polishing his material and working on the various stage personas that would later populate his live shows. Despite his rising professional fortunes, Leguizamo was frustrated by the roles offered to him, which often involved playing thugs or drug dealers. He turned to live theater as a means of blasting Latino stereotypes through fierce comedic caricature. His first effort, Mambo Mouth (1991), opened off Broadway and was later picked up by HBO for broadcast on their HBO Comedy Theater series. The performance won an Obie Award from the Village Voice, an Outer Critics Circle Award, a Vanguard Award, and a CableACE Award. Leguizamo played a drag queen in the commercially successful To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995) and Tybalt in the daring modernization of Romeo and Juliet (1996). Roles in everything from smash hits like Ice Age and turns as television doctors on E.R. have followed.
Learn more: https://www.biography.com/actor/john-leguizamo
Mariano Rivera is known as a former professional baseball pitcher who played 19 seasons in the Major Leagues. He played for the New York Yankees from 1995 to 2003 under the nickname “Mo” and “Sandman,” and spent most of his time as a relief pitcher. He was born in Panama City, Panama. Rivera began his baseball career in Panama and played there until he debuted with the New York Yankees in 1995. He was converted from starting pitcher to relief pitcher in his rookie season and had a breakthrough season in 1996 to quickly become one of the best relievers of the MLB. He led the league in saves in 1999, 2001, and 2004 with his sharp-moving 90s mile-per-hour fastball that frequently broke the rival’s bats. He closed games as a pitcher during 17 seasons for the New York Yankees. He became a thirteen-time All-Star player and five-time World Series’ champion. He is the career leader in saves in the MLB with 652 saves and 952 games finished. His Fangraphs stats detail 82 matches won, 60 losses, 652, 1115 games played, an overall WHIP score of 1.00, and a batting AVG of .209. He was named 1999 World Series Most Valuable Player and the 2003 AL Championship Series Most Valuable Player. He was at his best from 2008 to 2012. During that time he had a three-year contract, he landed a salary starting at $15 million per year. It remains as the highest single-season salary for a relief pitcher in the history of the MLB.
Learn more: http://odssf.com/biography/mariano-rivera
Tony-winning dancer, actress, and singer Chita Rivera made her primary impact as a performer in Broadway musicals, appearing in them regularly for over 40 years, including a breakout part in West Side Story and starring roles in Bye Bye Birdie, Chicago, The Rink, and Kiss of the Spider Woman. She also performed in nightclubs and, occasionally, on television and in film. As a recording artist, she is represented by a series of original Broadway cast albums for the most part, although she did make a few solo recordings. Rivera began her musical theater career when she was cast in the chorus of the national tour of Call Me Madam. In 1956 Rivera had her first successful Broadway musical, appearing in a featured role in Mr. Wonderful. She achieved stage stardom with her featured role as Anita in West Side Story in 1957. In 1960 she enjoyed her second consecutive Broadway hit appearing in Bye Bye Birdie. Rivera signed a singles deal with Dot Records that resulted in a couple of 45s, "Blue Is the Color"/"Come on Back" in 1965 and "Emptiness"/"Raining in My Heart" in 1967, and accepted assignments touring in shows around the country, including the national tour of Sweet Charity, in which she starred, in 1967. In 1973 she had her first regular role in a television sitcom, appearing for the third season of The New Dick Van Dyke Show. In 1975 Rivera returned to Broadway in her third major hit, Chicago. In 1984 Rivera won a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance in The Rink. Rivera's fourth major musical success was Kiss of the Spider Woman, and Rivera won her second Tony Award for it in 1993.