Influential Hispanics

Esteban Villa (Artist)

Esteban Villa, born August 3, 1930, in Tulare, California, is a nationally recognized visual artist. Born to a farmworking family, Villa is now a Professor Emeritus of California State University. His teaching career began in 1962 in a rural, Central Valley high school, the same year that Cesar Chavez launched his farmworker unionizing efforts. Villa joined the art faculty of CSU Sacramento in 1969 at a time of great political turmoil in the nation and among Chicanos. Villa’s prolific art-making contributed to the early development of the Chicano Art Movement. He is the co-founder of the legendary Royal Chicano Air Force, an artist collective based in Sacramento, California. The RCAF became the wellspring of much art making, poetry, music and political action. With many of the RCAF’s members having grown up in farmworking families, support for Cesar Chavez’s United Farmworkers Union came naturally and continues to this day. Much of the art of Esteban Villa and the other RCAF artists has been used to serve the community whether through murals, posters, music, or poetry. The subject matter for the art was the people and the world around them. Drawing from the world has been central to the art and music of Esteban Villa.  Reference from

Alejandro Acevedo (Scientist)

Alejandro Acevedo-Gutiérrez, one of the scientists featured in Dolphins, conducts research on the behavioral ecology of marine vertebrates: their foraging strategies, group structure, mating systems, and inter-specific interactions with other species. During the filming in Patagonia for Dolphins, Acevedo was able to focus his research on the dusky dolphins’ feeding technique of herding anchovies into a tightly spinning “bait ball,” and then taking turns eating the fish.  Raised in Mexico City, Acevedo received his Licenciatura en Biologia Marina (equivalent to a B.S. in marine biology) at Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur, and came to the United States to complete his graduate studies at Texas A&M in 1989. In September 1997, Acevedo successfully defended his doctoral dissertation on the feeding behavior of dolphins and their interactions with sharks.  Reference from

Ernesto Galarza (Labor Organizer)

He became one of the first Mexican-Americans from a poor background to complete college.  Later he received a M.A. from Stanford in 1929, and a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University in 1944.  Galarza came back to California, where he tried to organize unions for farm laborers. While this effort failed, it created the foundation for the United Farm Workers Union of the 1960s. He wrote several books, most notably the 1964 Merchants of Labor, on the exploitation of Mexican contract workers, and the 1971 Barrio Boy, that about his own childhood. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1976. Reference from

Dr. Ellen Ochoa (Astronaut)

Dr. Ellen Ochoa was the first Hispanic woman to become an Astronaut. Sally Ride, the first woman Astronaut in the United States, was one of her role models. Ochoa is not only an Astronaut but also an inventor, holding three patents. When she is in space, she says that she loves “looking out the window at the Earth.” Reference from

Joan Baez (Folk singer and activist)

American folk singer and political activist, b. New York City. Baez began singing traditional folk ballads, blues, and spirituals in Cambridge, Mass., coffeehouses in a clear soprano voice with a three-octave range. She made folk music, which had been largely ignored, popular. Baez’s records were the first folk albums to become best-sellers. Her later albums include several of her own compositions, e.g., “Song for David” and “Blessed Are.” Among the first performers to urge social protest, she sang and marched for civil and student rights and peace. Since the late 1960s she has devoted time to her school for nonviolence in California and has performed at concerts supporting a variety of humanitarian causes. Reference from

Dolores Huerta (Labor Leader)

Huerta has worked to improve social and economic conditions for farm workers and to fight discrimination. To further her cause, she created the Agricultural Workers Association (AWA) in 1960 and co-founded what would become the United Farm Workers (UFW). Huerta stepped down from the UFW in 1999, but she continues to her work to improve the lives of workers, immigrants and women.  Reference from

Maria Hinojosa (Journalist)

Journalist NPR correspondent Maria Hinojosa got her start in broadcasting as the producer and host of a Latino radio show at New York’s Barnard College. An award-winning journalist, Hinojosa began her career with NPR in 1985 but has worked also for other radio and television stations, including CNN which she joined in 1997. She is known especially for her reporting from Latin America. She is managing editor and host of the radio show “Latino USA.” Reference from

Rudolfo Anaya (Writer)

Rudolfo Anaya is a Mexican-American writer and educator who was born on October 30, 1937, in Pastura, New Mexico. Anaya taught high school and college courses while writing novels with groundbreaking Chicano themes. He received acclaim for Bless Me, Ultima (1972), Heart of Aztlán (1976) and Tortuga (1979). The author has greatly influenced the landscape of Chicano literature and continues to write books while garnering literary awards.  Reference from

Sandra Cisneros (Writer)

Sandra Cisneros is the author of several books including The House on Mango Street, Caramelo, Loose Woman, and, most recently, Have You Seen Marie? She is the founder of two foundations that serve writers and is the organizer of the Latino MacArthur Fellows (Los MacArturos). She has been honored with numerous awards including the MacArthur Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, and a Texas Medal of the Arts. She has been writing for more than 45 years, publishing for more than 35, and earning her living by her pen for more than 18 years. Her books have been translated into more than twenty languages and published internationally.  Reference from Sandra Cisneros

Mel Martinez (Politician)

dekMel Martinez is chairman of the Southeast U.S. and Latin America for JPMorgan Chase & Co.  After more than a decade of public service, Martinez joined JPMorgan Chase in July 2010. Based in Florida, he represents the firm to clients throughout the Americas – from individuals and businesses to large corporations, governments and nonprofit organizations.  Martinez was elected to the United States Senate in 2004. Representing Florida, Martinez served on several committees including Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs and Armed Services.Reference from: Time Magazine

Antonio Gonzalez (Politician)

dekDemocracy as trench warfare — that’s Antonio Gonzalez’s trade. He leads the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan Latino political machine — the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP) and its policy arm, the William C. Velasquez Institute. His is gritty, unglamorous work — mounting sign-up booths at bodegas, analyzing census tracts, training school-board candidates. But the results have been spectacular. When veteran community organizer Gonzalez, 48, took over the group in 1994, only 5 million Hispanics were registered nationwide. Today there are 9.3 million. In the last presidential election, 81.5% of them cast ballots, compared with 88.5% of all voters. Reference from: Time Magazine

Aida Giachello (Educator)

dekLatinos are three times as likely as non-Hispanic whites to suffer from potentially life-threatening diabetes. They are far more likely to be plagued by asthma and hypertension too. While politicians may pay lip service to the injustice and dangers of such disparities, Aida Giachello, 59, has rolled up her sleeves to take these scourges head on. She founded the Midwest Latino Health Research, Training and Policy Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago 12 years ago. The center has since become a national model for engaging community leaders, rather than outside “experts,” in collecting data, assessing medical needs and developing plans for combating health problems that disproportionately affect Latinos. Reference from: Time Magazine

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