19 June 2019

thousands of flying confetti on a blue background

“We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners.” - Pope Francis

There are more immigrants living in the USA than ever before - and Hispanic people are the largest minority in the country.

For decades, people of Hispanic origin have been contributing to the economy, culture and knowledge base of the United States

Here are five Hispanic heroes who have helped make the world a better place.

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1. Cesar Chavez

Union leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez spent his life working to improve the lives of millions of agricultural workers, many of whom lived lives of grinding poverty and hardship.

This was something Chavez was familiar with - as a child he and his family had worked as migrant farm hands.

He led the United Farm Workers in one of the most successful union boycotts ever, the Delano grape strike and boycott of 1965-1970.

Chavez’s belief in non-violent protest, which included hunger strikes, gathered support from ordinary people everywhere.

More than 17 million Americans boycotted grapes to help California farm workers win contracts, better working conditions and access to health care and pensions.

Chavez became a national hero and a source of enormous pride among Latinos and Mexican Americans across the country.

He died in 1993, his death almost certainly hastened by the hunger strikes he had taken part in over the years.

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2. Roberto Clemente

Puerto Rico born Roberto Clemente ranks as one of the best baseball players of all time, clocking up a string of firsts for Latino players including induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Roberto Clemente Award is given to players who demonstrate not only outstanding playing skills but who are also involved in work in the community. A fitting tribute to a man who used his success in the game to help those less fortunate than himself.

He famously led the Pittsburgh Pirates to the World Series in 1971 and became the first Latin American player to collect 3,000 career hits.

But it was his impact outside baseball that really made Clemente the legend he is today.

Known for his fierce pride in his heritage, he spoke out regularly on issues of equality and social justice, as well as spending the off-season doing charity work.

Clemente was killed in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972, on his way to deliver aid to victims of an earthquake in Nicaragua. He only went to ensure it wasn’t diverted by corrupt officials.

After his death at just 38, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973 in a special election that waived the mandatory five-year waiting period.

Clemente was also awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Presidential Citizens Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

There’s even a campaign to have him canonised.

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3. Sonia Sotomayor

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is a trailblazer and an inspiration to both Hispanics and females alike – having worked her way up from a Bronx housing project to the highest level of the American judicial system.

Her parents were born in Puerto Rico, meeting and marrying in New York, where Sotomayor was born. She was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of seven, and just two years later lost her father, leaving her mother a single parent. After graduating summa cum laude from Princeton and then Yale Law School, Sotomayor passed the bar in 1980 and began working her way up the legal ladder.

She started as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan, before being appointed US District Court Judge in 1992. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit followed in 1998.

Then in 2009, Sotomayor made history when President Obama appointed her Supreme Court Justice, the first Latina to hold the post.

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4. Mario Molina

Mexican born chemist Mario Molina was one of the first scientists to warn the world about the dangers of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

It was his research with Professor Sherwood Rowland into CFCs - then widely used in refrigerators, aerosols, and cleaning solvents - that would ultimately lead to the discovery of the hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctic Ocean.

In 1995, Molina, Sherwood, and another scientist, Paul J Crutzen, shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery. Thanks to the Montreal Protocol CFCs are banned in large parts of the world - developing world countries still have a few years to phase them out.

In 2013, President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honour.

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5. Ricky Martin

Ricky Martin might be best known as a singer, with hits including Livin’ La Vida Loca - but he’s also an outspoken supporter of the Hispanic and LGBT communities. Born in Puerto Rico, Martin is known for his humanitarian work through the Ricky Martin Foundation.

The Grammy winner recently made headlines for a scathing opinion piece denouncing Donald Trump, after an argument with the Univision network’s news anchor Jorge Ramos at a press event in Iowa in August. Martin decided to tell the world he was gay in a very personal post on his website in 2010.

His decision has been credited by some with helping greater acceptance of the gay community in the US and Latin America.


Who are your Hispanic heroes? Let us know in the comments section below, or on the WorldRemit Facebook page.

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