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13 Latino Trailblazers

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Learn about 13 cultural icons and explore important places in their lives.

1. Roberto Clemente

Born in Puerto Rico, Roberto Clemente was a 15-time All Star for the Pittsburgh Pirates (1955-1972). He was the first Latino to earn a World Series ring as a starting player. Clemente’s legacy goes beyond the baseball field: He is celebrated as a humanitarian who worked tirelessly to give back to his community, hosting free baseball clinics for the youth in Puerto Rico and promoting equality amongst other Latino ballplayers.

2. Ellen Ochoa

Mexican-American engineer Ellen Ochoa’s first mission to space was on STS-56 ATLAS-2 Discovery in 1993. Since then, she’s logged nearly 1,000 hours in orbit. In 2013, Ochoa became the 11th director of NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, becoming the first Latin American and only the second woman to hold the title.

3. Oscar de la Renta

Dominican-born Óscar Arístides Renta Fiallo, better known as Oscar de la Renta, is in the Coty Hall of Fame — fashion’s highest honor. Before his death in 2014, he dressed every first lady since Jackie Kennedy and served as the President of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) for five years. De la Renta also built an orphanage and school for children in La Romana, Dominican Republic, called La Casa del Niño. 

4. Marta Vieira da Silva

With 17 FIFA World Cup goals, Brazilian soccer player Marta Vieira da Silva, who plays for the Orlando Pride, holds the record for all-time World Cup goals in both men’s and women’s competitions. She is also the first soccer player, male or female, to score goals in five World Cup tournaments.

5. Oswaldo Guayasamín Calero

Oswaldo Guayasamín was an Ecuadorian master painter and sculptor of Quechua and Mestizo descent recognized by the UNESCO for “an entire life of work for peace.” His art revolved around giving a voice to the voiceless and focused on Indigenous, black and mestizo populations in America. ‘La Capilla del Hombre,’ or “The Chapel of Man Monument,” was designed by Guayasamín specifically to house his collection of paintings that pay tribute to Indigenous peoples of Latin America and their suffering.

6/7. Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera are considered among the greatest Mexican artists. Kahlo is best known for her bold, self-portraits and paintings and Rivera for his large, vibrant frescoes and murals. The married couple famously lived together in Casa Azul, two houses connected by a rooftop bridge in Mexico City.

8. Gabriel García Márquez

Gabriel José de la Concordia García Márquez earned the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature. During his life, he wrote more than 25 books. His epic Cien años de soledad, “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” popularized magical realism, a literary genre unique to Latin American authors, where the story is set in a realistic environment with magical elements. A quote from the novel in Spanish is shown here on the wall of the Casa Museo Gabriel García Márquez, a reconstruction of his family home.

9. Rigoberta Menchú Tum

Rigoberta Menchú Tum belonged to one of the many Indigenous groups of Guatemala, the Quiché Maya. She grew up in the rural area of Laj Chimel (shown here) and spoke only Quiché until she was 19. Menchú was an avid advocate for the rights of Guatemala’s Indigenous communities. She was given the Nobel Prize in 1992 and named a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador in 1996.

10. Celia Cruz

Celia Cruz was a proud Afro-Cubana who recorded more than 50 albums in her career. With her famous “¡Azúcar!” catchphrase, powerful voice and over-the-top wigs and outfits, Cruz achieved global recognition and numerous accolades. In 1998, she received the American National Medal of Arts at the White House.

11. René Geronimo Favaloro

Born in Argentina in 1923, René Favaloro is credited with the first documented coronary bypass operation. He spent many years of his medical career as a country doctor in the farming community of Jacinto Arauz. In 1975, he established the Favalaro Foundation in Buenos Aires to serve patients based on their medical needs rather than their ability to pay.

12. Isabel Allende Llona

Isabel Allende is a Chilean author who has written more than 20 books that have been translated into more than 35 languages and have sold more than 67 million copies worldwide. Some of her most popular pieces include “The House of the Spirits” and “Paula.” In 2010, Chile awarded her the National Prize for Literature, the country’s top honor, and in 2014, the U.S. awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

13. Gastón Acurio Jaramillo

Best known for his contributions to Cocina Novoandina, a modern style of Peruvian food, Gaston Acurio owns more than 40 restaurants worldwide, including Astrid & Gaston shown here. He is credited with spreading Peruvian cuisine around the globe, turning the country into a favored culinary destination. In 2018, he won a Diners Club Lifetime Achievement Award.

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