Famous Latinos and Hispanic Americans You Should Know About

Famous Latinos

As we prepare for Hispanic Heritage Month, I’ve written series of posts that highlight famous Latinos or Hispanic Americans.

In our classrooms, homes, and communities, we always want to lift up both everyday heroes along with those who became famous.

Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

Hispanic HeritageMonth.gov

September 15th – October 15th is the perfect time to highlight influential Latinos, as well as the unsung contributions of ordinary people.

Related Post: Ideas for Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

We’ll start with 24 Hispanic-Americans: artists, activists, scientists, and more.

And below, I have a separate list of famous Spanish speakers from around the world.

Curious about the terms Hispanic, Latin American, Latinx. etc.? Click here to see an explanation of these phrases.

24 Famous Latinos From the United States

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC)

Member of Congress
Puerto-Rican (October 13, 1989)
From the Bronx to youngest woman ever to be elected to Congress, representing  New York 14th district.
See her story and more resources here.

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Antonia Novello

U.S. Surgeon General
Puerto-Rican (August 23, 1944)
First female and first Latin-American to serve as Surgeon General of the United States. 
See her story and more resources here.

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Celia Cruz

Singer
Cuban-American (1925 – 2003)
Known as “La Reina de la Salsa.” (The Queen of Salsa
See her story and more resources here.

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César Chavez

Activist, Labor leader
Mexican-American (1927 – 1993)
Co-founder of United Farm Workers and 1994 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
See his story and more resources here.

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Dolores Huerta

Labor Leader
Mexican-American (April 10, 1930)
Co-founder of United Farm Workers / National Farm Workers Association.
See her story and more resources here.

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Ellen Ochoa

Astronaut
Mexican-American (May 10, 1958)
First Latina astronaut in space, in the Astronaut Hall of Fame.
See her story and more resources here.

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France Córdova

Astrophysicist
Irish-Mexican-American (May 10, 1958)
Youngest person and first woman named chief scientist at NASA.
See her story and more resources here.

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Gary Soto

Author, Poet
Mexican-American (April 12, 1952)
Recipient of the Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature.
See his story and more resources here.

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Gloria Estefan

Singer
Cuban-American (September 1, 1957)
Known as “The Queen of Latin Pop,” in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
See her story and more resources here.

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Helen Rodriguez-Trías

Physician
Puerto-Rican (1929 – 2001)
First Latina director of the American Public Health Association, recipient of the Presidential Citizens Medal.
See her story and more resources here.

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Isabel Allende

Writer
Chilean-American (August 2, 1942)
Most-read Spanish-language author in the world, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
See her story and more resources here.

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Jennifer Lopez

Actress, singer, dancer, and performer.
Puerto-Rican – American (July 24, 1969)
#1 of the 2007 “100 Most Influential Hispanics” by People en Español,  #1 on the Forbes Celebrity 100 list in 2012.
See her story and more resources here.

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Joan Baez

Folk singer, Songwriter, Political activist
Mexican-Scottish-American (January 9, 1941)
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017.
Read her story and more resources here.

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Jorge Ramos

Journalist
Mexican – American (March 16, 1958)
Most influential news anchor in the U.S., within Spanish-language news.
Read his story and more resources here.

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Julia Alvarez

Author, Poet
Dominican – American (March 27, 1950)
Among the top Latin American writers in the U.S.
See her story and more resources here.

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Laurie Hernandez

Gymnast
Puerto-Rican (June 9, 2000)
Member of the 2016 U.S. Women’s team, recipient of silver and gold Olympic medals.
See her story and more resources here.

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Lin-Manuel Miranda

Actor, Composer, Writer, Producer
Puerto-Rican – American (January 16, 1980)
Creator of Broadway Musicals Hamilton and In the Heights.
Read his story here.

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Mario Molina

Scientist, Chemist
Mexican – American (March 19, 1943)
1995 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, for studies on damages to the earth’s ozone layer. 
See his story and more resources here.

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Oscar De La Hoya

Boxer
Mexican-American (February 4, 1973)
Recipient of 10 world titles, and an Olympic gold medal.
See his story here.

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Oscar De La Renta

Fashion Designer
Dominican-American (July 22, 1932)
Internationally recognized fashion designer, designed dress of several first U.S. ladies.
See his story and more resources here.

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Rita Moreno

Actress, Singer
Puerto-Rican (December 11, 1931)
One of only three PEGOTs in the world— a recipient of a Peabody, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award.
See her story and more resources here.

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Roberto clemente

Baseball Player
Puerto-Rican (1934-1972)
First Hispanic inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
See his story and more resources here.

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Sandra Cisneros

Writer, Teacher
Mexican-American (December 20, 1954)
Author of The House on Mango Street. 
See her story and more resources here.

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Selena Quintanilla

Singer, Designer
Mexican-American (April 16, 1971)
“The Queen of Tejano Music,” 2 Grammys
See her story and more resources here.

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Sonia Sotomayor

U.S. Supreme Court Judge
Puerto-Rican (June 25, 1954)
First Latina to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.
See her story and more resources here.

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Sylvia Mendez

Civil Rights Activist
Puerto-Rican-Mexican-American (June 7, 1936)
Participant in landmark Mendez vs. Westminster case, 2011 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
See her story and more resources here.

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Tito Puente

Percussionist, Musician
Puerto-Rican (1923-2000)
“The King of Latin Jazz,” 5 Grammy Awards.
See his story and more resources here.

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    Famous Hispanics from Around the World

    Many educators like to use Hispanic Heritage Month to celebrate Latino contributions from all around the word. Here is a good starter list of names!

    This list includes influential Latinos and Spanish-speakers you should know about: Latinx leaders, athletes, writers, scientists, artists, and more.

    Each link includes top quotes, printables, videos, and more on each person!

    Cantinflas (Mario Moreno)

    Actor, Screenwriter, Producer
    Mexican (1911 – 1993)
    Acted in over 50 movies, winning a Golden Globe for Around the World in 80 Days.
    See his story and more resources here.

    Image: Public Domain

    Diego Rivera

    Painter, Muralist
    Mexican (1886 – 1957)
    Among the greatest painters and muralists of the 20th century.
    See his story and more resources here.

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    El Santo

    (Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta), Wrestler
    Mexican (1917 – 1984)
    One of the most famous Mexican wrestlers of all time.
    See his story and more resources here.

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    Emiliano Zapata

    Military Leader, Revolutionary
    Mexican (1879 – 1919)
    Led the Southern Liberation Army in Mexico.
    See his story and more resources here.

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    Eva Perón

    Actress, Activist, and Philanthropist
    Argentinian (1919 – 1952)
    Argentinian First Lady, known as “the spiritual leader of Argentina.”
    See her story and more resources here.

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    Frida Kahlo

    Artist, Painter
    Mexican (1907 – 1954)
    One of the most famous female artists of all time, famous for her self-portraits.
    See her story and more resources here.

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    Gabriel García Márquez

    Writer
    Colombian (1927 – 2014)
    Recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature

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    GabrielA Mistral

    Poet-Diplomat
    Chilean (1889 – 1957)
    Recipient of the 1945 Nobel Prize for Literature.
    See her story and more resources here.

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    Gael García Bernal

    Actor, Producer
    Mexican (November 30, 1978)

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    Lionel Messi

    Soccer Player
    Argentinian (June 24, 1987)
    Among the greatest athletes of all time, FIFA World Player Award.
    See his story and more resources here.

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    Pablo Neruda

    Poet-Diplomat, Politician
    Chilean (1904 – 1973)
    Recipient of the 1971 Nobel Prize in Literature.
    See his story and more resources here.

    Image: Public Domain

    Pablo Picasso

    Artist, Sculptor, Painter
    Spanish (1881 – 1973)
    Considered one of the most prolific painters of all time, with over 145,000 works. Co-founder of Cubism.
    See his story and more resources here.

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    Pancho Villa

    Military Leader, Revolutionary
    Mexican (1878 – 1923)
    Guerrilla fighter and leader of the Northern Division of soldiers.
    See more information and resources here.

    Image: Public Domain

    Rigoberta Menchú Tum

    Activist, Nobel Peace Prize
    Guatemalan (1904 – 1973)
    First person of indigenous descent to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1992.
    See her story and more resources here.

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    Sor Juana de Inés De la Cruz

    Writer, Poet, Philosopher
    Mexican (1648 – 1695)

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    Lists of Famous Latinos by genre

    Here you can browse my posts set up by genre– famous Latino and Hispanic artists, scientists, athletes, leaders, and more.

    Famous Hispanic artists and painters

    Famous Spanish-Speaking Artists

    Read about painters and artists who made waves in both Latin America and Spain.
    Read more here.

    Afro-Latino and Afrolatinidad Resources

    Afro-Latino Music

    See a playlist featuring Afro-Latino artists and musicians who are famous and making waves in the music world.
    Read the interviews here.

    Inspiring Latinas

    22 Famous Latinas

    Learn about 22 famous Latina role models and trailblazers who broke barriers and made history.
    Read the post here.

    *I know many people don’t like the term “Hispanic Americans,” and I think that’s very fair. Let’s be honest: Hispanic basically means a person with ancestors in a place “formerly colonized by Spain,” while America can technically apply to all of the Americas.

    The terms are evolving right now, and in meantime we have to deal with less-than-perfect terminology or new terms some countries don’t use yet.

    But I hear you that we’d like to see updated terms!

    Notable Hispanic Americans

    When I sat down to make these lists, I wanted the first one to refer to American Latinos. If you do a search for “famous Hispanic Americans,” it tends to pull up lists of famous Spanish-speakers from anywhere around the world.

    The original intent of Hispanic Heritage Month was to honor the contributions of people of Hispanic descent (from a Spanish-speaking country) in the United States.

    Here’s a description from the Department of Education:

    Hispanic Heritage Month takes place September 15 to October 15 every year as a time to recognize and celebrate the many contributions, diverse cultures, and extensive histories of the American Latino community. Beginning in 1968, Hispanic Heritage Month was originally observed as “Hispanic Heritage Week” under President Lyndon Johnson, but it was later extended to a month during President Ronald Reagan’s term in 1988.

    White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative, Dept. of Education

    What famous Latinos and Hispanic leaders did I miss? Let me know in the comments below!

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