Hispanic and Latino Americans have been contributing to the culture of the United States for decades, sharing their talents and feats for all to see and marvel at. Looking at all the past and upcoming celebrities and public figures in the entertainment industry, I can say I feel proud to be Hispanic and Latina and to see myself being represented on the big screen. For Hispanic Heritage Month, here are some Hispanic figures that you should know about.
Celia Cruz (1925-2003)
Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso, most widely known as Celia Cruz, is labeled as “the Queen of Salsa” for helping the Salsa genre’s rise in popularity. Cruz was born in 1925 in Barrio Santos Suarez in Havana, Cuba, but was eventually denied return to her country by Fidel Castro in 1961.
Nonetheless, the singer had a career spanning 60 years, and with her charismatic and flamboyant behavior, she enchanted audiences around the world. Cruz incorporated Cuban and Afro-Latin mixed music into her musical work, which soon became known as Salsa.
Throughout Cruz’s career, she recorded more than 80 albums and songs, earned 23 Gold Records, won five Grammy Awards, appeared in Hollywood films and went to school for doctorates, among many other impressive accomplishments. Cruz is certainly one of the biggest treasures in the Hispanic and Latino communities.
Maria Elena Salinas (1954-present)
Maria Elena Salinas is an award-winning journalist and author, as well as one of the most well-known and respected journalists in the country. She’s the face of Hispanic and Latino journalism and broadcasting, with a career that spans over 40 years.
Salinas has covered government elections around the globe, interviewed world leaders and celebrities, has reported on natural disasters, armed conflicts and the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
The bilingual journalist has also won multiple Emmys, including a Lifetime Achievement Emmy, a Peabody, 3 Gracie Awards, the Edward R. Murrow Award and the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism. She’s an idol to aspiring journalists, having a scholarship named after her and serving on the Hispanic Scholarship Fund board.
Carolina Herrera (1939-present)
Carolina Herrera, born and raised in Venezuela, is a fashion designer who has had an incredible amount of success in women’s and men’s fashion, fragrances, and other enterprises. Though she had limited experience before her first runway show in 1981, critics’ harsh reviews didn’t deter her from a career of success.
She has dressed in multiple First Ladies and celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Lucy Liu and Taylor Swift. Herrera was also responsible for making the wedding dress for the Twilight film Breaking Dawn – Part 1.
The Council of Fashion Designers of America also gave the designer a Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. Overall, Herrera has become a household name in the fashion scene, having sold billions in her stores worldwide.
Roberto Clemente (1934-1972)
Roberto Clemente was born in 1934 in Puerto Rico and started his professional baseball career at 17, quickly rising from minor league to major league by playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1955. Though he struggled with injuries and not being able to speak English, he quickly rose in the ranks as one of the best baseball players in the league.
Clemente was known for one of the most impressive arms ever witnessed in baseball, leaving his opponents to fend for themselves with his powerful throws. The baseball player was also known for his willingness to help others and humanitarian work.
He unfortunately passed away in a plane crash while delivering humanitarian help after Nicaragua suffered an earthquake. Clemente was later the first Latino inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Lupe Serrano (1930-2023)
Lupe Serrano was born in Chile in 1930 to her Spanish father and Franco-Mexican mother. She started her training as a ballerina during her teenage years when her family relocated to Mexico.
After studying dance for a few years, Serrano moved to New York to tour and then joined what is today the American Ballet Theater. She remained the Ballet Theater’s principal dancer during her 18-year tenure.
After her retirement, Serrano dedicated herself to teaching at prestigious schools and universities. She also received the “A Life for Dance” Award, presented annually at the International Ballet Festival of Miami in 2009.
Our communities’ current success, which only will continue to grow, could not be possible without the help of artists and creative people from past generations who paved the way for new stars to emerge and be rewarded.