Famous Hispanic Americans

  • Published
  • By Rex Jones
  • 21st Space Wing Equal Opportunity Office
Some of us may know the history of Hispanic Heritage Month and how it came about, however, in case you can't remember here is a refresher.

On Sept. 17, 1968, Public Law 90-498 authorized the president to annually establish a week in September that includes the 15th and the 16th as National Hispanic Heritage Week. The resolution called upon the people of the United States, especially the educational community, to observe such a week with appropriate ceremonies and activities. Twenty years later on Aug.17, 1988, Public Law 100-402 amended Public Law 90-498 and lengthened National Hispanic Heritage Week to National Hispanic Heritage Month.

You may ask yourself, why Sept. 16? This date is significant because on Sept.16, 1810, Mexico's War of Independence began and after a long and costly war, Mexico finally won their independence from Spain in 1821. The Hispanic culture has been making history in America for years.

If you think about it you could probably name quite a few famous Hispanic Americans, including actor Antonio Banderas, singer and actress Jennifer Lopez, singer Mark Anthony, baseball star Sammy Sosa, actress Jessica Alba, comedian George Lopez, singer Jerry Garcia, singer Shakira, actresses Penelope Cruz and Selma Hayek just to name a few. However, we really should go back to the 1900s to talk about famous Hispanic Americans.

Have you ever heard of Joseph Marion Hernandez, Luis Walter Alvarez, Roberto C. Goizueta, Roberto Clemente or Ellen Ochoa? They paved the way for many of us and here are some of their accomplishments.

Joseph Marion Hernandez was a politician, plantation owner and a soldier. He was born Aug. 4, 1793, and was the first Hispanic to have served in the U.S. Congress and as a delegate from the Spanish territory of Florida. Hernandez served in Congress just over five months, from September 1822 to March 1823, as a member of the Whig Party.

Luis Walter Alvarez was born in 1911. In 1968, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of a large number of residence states (subatomic particles that have very short lifetimes and that occur only in high-energy nuclear collisions), which was made possible through his development of the liquid-hydrogen bubble chamber. He also held the patents for more than 30 inventions.

Now, he was "Science Guy!" Speaking of science, one of the best kept secrets in the world is the Coca-Cola formula....

"Coke Is It!" Do you know who the mastermind was behind the slogan? Does the name Roberto C. Goizueta sound familiar? Goizueta was the chairman of Coca-Cola for 16 years. It was his decision to change the slogan to "Coke Is It!" He was born Nov. 18, 1931, in Havanna, Cuba. He got his start at Coca-Cola by answering an anonymous advertisement in a newspaper for a chemist position and he moved up the ranks. He was still chairman and president of The Coca-Cola Company when he died in 1997. That is what I would call following your dream and passion!

Americans have a passion for sports, and one of the favorites is baseball.

Roberto Clemente was born on Aug. 18, 1934, and was the first Hispanic baseball player to be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. His batting average was more than .300 13 times with Pittsburgh, he led the National League in batting four times, was World Series MVP in 1971, a regular season MVP in 1966, and had 3,000 career hits! Clemente was killed in a plane crash on Dec. 31, 1972; he was accompanying a relief flight to deliver aid to earthquake victims. The MLB Man of the Year award is named for him.

One small step for Mankind!

Ellen Ochoa was the first Hispanic woman to become an astronaut. Ellen was born May 10, 1958, in Los Angeles, Calif. She first applied to become an astronaut in 1985, and in 1987 she learned she had been chosen as one of the top 100 candidates under consideration for the training program. January 1990, it was announced that she and 22 other candidates had made the final cut (out of a group that originally numbered about 2,000), becoming the first Hispanic woman ever accepted into the elite astronaut corps. Ellen officially became an astronaut in July 1991.

Now that is something to be talked about for years to come.

In closing, I challenge you seek out more information about your heritage and learn about the people that have possibly paved the way for you. You never know what you will find, and you may even be surprised. Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month!