Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month with influential icons

  • Cesar Chavez, a Mexican-American civil rights activist, co-founded the National Farm Workers Association in 1962.
  • Cuban-American singer Gloria Estefan began her career as the lead singer of Miami Sound Machine in the ’80s, earning the name “The Queen of Latin Pop.” 
  • Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whose parents were born in Puerto Rico, is the first U.S. Supreme Court Justice of Hispanic heritage. 
  • Admiral David G. Farragut, whose father was native to Spain, is remembered for his victory in the Battle of Mobile Bay of the American Civil War.
  • Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. He has been credited for the popularity of magical realism.
  • Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is one of three Cuban-Americans currently in the Senate. He announced his candidacy for president in April.
  • Comedian and Emmy-winning television and film writer Louis C.K. lived in Mexico, where his father was born, for part of his childhood. 
  • Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is the first Hispanic-American to serve as a Texas senator. He announced his candidacy for president in March.
  • Former Florida Sen. Mel Martinez served as the first Latino chairman of a major party from November 2006 to October 2007. 
  • Oscar De La Hoya, a Mexican-American, is a former professional boxer. He won a gold medal in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.
  • Academy Award nominee Edward James Olmos, whose father was Mexican, has advocated for more diverse roles for Hispanics in U.S. media.
  • Born to Mexican-American parents, actress Eva Longoria was nominated for a Golden Globe Award in 2006 for her role on “Desperate Housewives.”
  • Former MLB player Sammy Sosa, born in the Dominican Republic, is the Chicago Cubs’ all-time home run leader, hitting 545 with the team
  • Mexican-American singer, actress and fashion designer Selena, known as the “Queen of Tejano music,” was murdered in 1995 by a friend and former employee.

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In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, MSNBC is paying tribute to Hispanic and Latino American leaders who have made lasting impacts on the United States.

National Hispanic Heritage Month began on Sept. 15 and will continue until Oct. 15.

The celebratory month has taken place every year since 1968 when President Lyndon Johnson started the tradition. It begins each year on the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. The anniversaries of independence for Mexico and Chile follow on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18, respectively.

According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau population estimates, about 17% of Americans are Hispanic or Latino.

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