Hispanic Heritage Month is from September 15 – October 15 and is an official celebration of the independence days of eight Latin America countries, and pays tribute to the generations of Hispanic Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society.

We celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with some highlights of people of Hispanic origin who have changed or influenced the modern world as we know it. This list is by no means exhaustive.  

Inventors

Guillermo González Camarena

“Chromoscopic adapter for television equipment”, an early color television transmission system. His invention was used in NASA’s Voyager mission in 1979 to take pictures and video of Jupiter.

Miguel Angel Ondetti

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Miguel Angel Ondetti has been granted more than 100 patents, including U.S. Patent 4,105,776 for “Proline Derivatives and Related Compounds” also known as angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors to treat hypertension. He was also inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2007.

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Artists

Frida Kahlo

With her deeply personal and symbolic work, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo has become one of the most famous artists of the 20th century. For much of her career, she was often overlooked as simply the wife of Diego Rivera, but the appreciation of her paintings has only grown from the 1970s onward. Fiercely proud of her Mexican identity, she often incorporated pre-Colombian symbols in her paintings and is known for her colorful Mexican dress. Kahlo, who suffered health issues throughout her life due to a bus accident in her youth, saw her flourishing career cut short due to her untimely death at 47. Her legacy continues to live on and she remains an icon of many feminist and political movements.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Though he lived to just age 27, American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat made an indelible mark on the art world. Of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent, Basquiat first made a name for himself when the graffiti tag SAMO appeared across New York City in the late 1970s. Basquiat was one of the first graffiti artists from the underground scene to transition to the fine art market, with his neo-expressionist paintings being exhibited around the world. His art is filled with commentaries on social injustices and class struggles, often in relation to the black community. In 2017, he set a record for an American artist at auction when his 1982 painting of a black skull with red and black rivulets sold for $110.5 million.

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Politicians

Jorge Ramos

Ramos is a Mexican-American journalist who anchors the Spanish language Univision nightly news, an English language news program, and was named one of Time Magazine’s Most Influential People. Known as “The Walter Cronkite of Latino America,” Ramos left Mexico for America at 24 after the Mexican government censored a critical story he produced, and he became a U.S. citizen in 2008.

Having co-moderated presidential debates, interviewed world leaders like Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, and been an outspoken pro-immigrant voice, Ramos will continue to be a major figure in Hispanic-American life.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Before being appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Obama in 2009, Justice Sotomayor was on the board of directors of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and an instructor at New York University School of Law and Columbia Law School.

Born in the Bronx to Puerto Rican-born parents, Sotomayor was in the majority in two major Supreme Court landmark rulings in the last term: King v. Burwell and Obergefell v. Hodges.

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Journalists and Editors

Alexis Madrigal (The Atlantic)

As deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, Alexis writes on a range of issues from the past and future.  His weekday newsletter, 5 Intriguing Things, provides tidbits of both to 10,000 subscribers.  This year Alexis tried to understand how in the near-future Google is trying to turn itself into a robots company that builds self-driving cars, and how California attempts to regulate them; how we scale up good iced coffee drinks; and how Bank of America should better-deal with Twitter bots.  Listen for Alexis reading his essays about technology on NPR’s Fresh Air.

Chris Peña (MSNBC)

The opportunities that Chris has created for Latino voices write for NBC’s digital platforms and appear on MSNBC’s cable news broadcasts are making a difference at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.  Since launching NBC Latino in 2011 to his current role as Senior Executive Producer at MSNBC, Chris has worked at the editor, mentor, and now executive level with dozens of Latino media professionals at the most-storied news and entertainment establishment in American television.  While not every Latino affairs story or angle is right for NBC or MSNBC news programming, Latino issues are finally discussed on camera with a Latino at the table.  Chris has been the driving force behind this subtle but essential shift in 30 Rock culture.

Marina Garcia-Vasquez (Wall Street Journal)

As Editor of WSJ’s excellent Accelerator’s forum, Marina oversees and curates content from lively digital discussions between her team of two dozen startup mentors- entrepreneurs, angel investors and venture capitalists. After work, Marina puts on her Founder’s hat to build Mex And The City, an online community and creative agency in New York dedicated to promoting contemporary Mexican culture in a global way.  Recently Marina used Kickstarter to set a crowd-funding goal of $15,000 to finance a photography book exploring the diversity of contemporary Mexican culture.  Two-hundred-and-three backers later and Marina had surpassed her goal by a healthy margin to the tune of $16,165.  Now Mex And The City can design and print the Racial Profiling portrait series into The New Global Mexican book title.

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