Each year, Americans celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15. The month consists of celebrating and highlighting the histories, cultures and contributions of Hispanic American citizens whose actions have made a forever lasting impact on the world. These are a few Hispanic influential figures curated by us at Talon.
Rivera was a transgender pioneer apart of the 1969 Stonewall uprising. Rivera was an advocate for all those who have been marginalized and left out of the gay rights movement. Rivera fought hard against the exclusion of transgender people in the queer community. She was alas a loud and persistent voice for the rights of queer people of color and transgender peoples as well. She also established the political organization STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries). Being not only a Hispanic but also a transgender figure in Hispanic history, she paved the way for the rights of all Hispanic queer peoples.
Associate Justice Sotomayor became the first Hispanic and third woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court, setting precedent in and outside of the courtroom. Justice Sotomayor is coined to have served as a beacon of hope to Americans who are underrepresented and a inspiration for those who are marginalized. With her time on the bench, Sotomayor became known for her concerns for the rights of defendants, dissenting on issues of race, ethnicity, and gender, and calls for criminal justice reform. Notably almost all of her precedents have been based on the necessity and idea of equality for all.
The Mexican-American labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez dedicated his life’s work to the struggles of minority farm workers in the United States. To not only help, but improve their working and living conditions through organization. Committed to nonviolent resistance and tactics, Chavez founded the National Farm Workers Association and won many influential victories to raise pay and improve working conditions for farm workers in the 1960s and 1970s. The activist has been one of the most prominent and well known Hispanic Americans in history through his dedication in workers rights.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a well known American Democratic Socialist Congresswoman who became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress in 2018. She was elected despite being fundraised 10-to-1 and carried out a smart and organized grassroots campaign. More knowingly, she pulled off one of the biggest political upsets in modern history. The previous activist turned congresswomen is coined to be the new face of the Democratic Party and the future face of American politics. AOC is a well-known politician to work for the people and to be a voice to uplift the marginalized and voiceless.
Selena Quintanilla-Pérez was an Hispanic American singer, songwriter, spokesperson, businesswoman, model, actress, and fashion designer. Coined as the “Queen of Tejano music”, her music and fashion made her one of the most celebrated Mexican-American entertainers of the late 20th century. She broke barriers and shattered records, paving the way for many in the music industry. In 1991, Selena became the first female Tejano artist to achieve gold record status. Selena was not only an entertainer but she was the face overcoming racial stereotypes. The young figure set new standards that open doors for other Tejano musicians.
Huerta helped co-found the United Farm Workers with Chavez in 1962. Huerta helped in organizing for the labor movement led in the Chicano Movement. Huerta was key in negotiating contracts with growers, lobbying, organizing strikes and boycotts and as well as leading farmworker political activities. She led the fight for thousands of migrant and immigrant children to receive services in California and laid ground for it nationally. She also achieved unemployment insurance, collective bargaining rights, and immigration rights for farmworkers. Huerta continues to be outstanding labor and political activist to this day.
Gabriel was a musician and one of the first Latin artists to bend musical genres and roles. Doing so helped to establish a connection to not only with Latin America, but also with the Hispanic population who live in the United States. But for many LGBTQ Hispanic peoples, Juan Gabriel’s flashy personality offered a level of visibility to feminine mannerisms that were, shunned by a culture of strict gender roles. Juan Gabriel transcended into the music industry as a visionary and progressive change.
Ochoa was the first Hispanic American woman to go to space in 1993. Through her work in physics and impressive research work, NASA selected Ochoa in 1991 to become an astronaut where she would later make history on that 1993 mission. Ochoa then went onto become the first Hispanic American director of the Johnson Space Center, only the second woman to do so. After retiring with 30 years, Ochoa continues to advocate for women in STEM today.
Lopez has become one of the most influential figures in bringing Hispanic representation to audiences at home. Lopez built a lasting career in the entertainment industry and a major comedian and actor. Making his Mexican American background a core feature of his work, Lopez has pushed an authentic exploration of Latino identity into the mainstream as few have done before him.
Kahlo is considered to be one of Mexico’s greatest artistic export. She faced many challenges, but still managed to live a rich and full life that most can only dream of. Not only was Kahlo a formidable artist, but she was also involved in politics and was a trailblazing feminist To this day, Kahlo remains an enigmatic and powerful figure who serves as an inspiration to young women, people with disabilities, Latinx folks, and the LGBQT+ community.