Multicultural Initiatives Hispanic Heritage Month | Kent State University

Multicultural Initiatives Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month "Little Known Facts"

Pope Francis

  • Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church in March 2013, becoming Pope Francis. He is the first pope from the Americas. 
  • In December 2013, Pope Francis was also named Person of the Year by Time magazine.
  • To date, his tenure has been characterized by humility and outspoken support of the world's poor and marginalized people, and he has been involved actively in areas of political diplomacy and environmental advocacy

Withelma “T” Ortiz Walker Pettigrew

  • Withelma “T” Ortiz Walker Pettigrew spent the first 18 years of her life in the U.S. foster care system; for seven of those years she was victimized by sex traffickers.
  • Now a college student, T has become a beacon of hope, raising her voice against the world’s $96 billion human-trafficking industry, which exploits 27 million victims, including youths and children.
  • Testifying last October before Congress, T turned her words into action, offering practical tools to improve the child-welfare system and becoming a modern-day abolitionist.

Jose’ “Pepe” Mujica

  • José Mujica (born May 20, 1935, Montevideo, Uruguay). Mujica  served as president of Uruguay (2010–14) after being imprisoned many years for his guerrilla activities with the Tupamaro revolutionary organization.
  • In October 2012 Uruguay had become the first South American country to allow abortions up to the 12th week of pregnancy, and in May 2013 Mujica signed a bill that made Uruguay the second country in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriage. 

Michelle Bachelet

  • In 2006, Bachelet became the first Chilean woman to become president of that country and during her term advocated for gender equality and women’s empowerment in the workplace. But she didn’t stop there.
  • After the end of her presidential term, she brought women’s rights to the international stage when she became the founding executive director of UN Women.

  • Earlier this year, Bachelet ran for and won a second presidential term in Chile.

Bishop Minerva Carcano

  • In 2004, Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño became the first Hispanic woman to be elected to the episcopacy of The United Methodist Church, the second-largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.
  • Today, she is one of 50 bishops leading more than eight million members of her denomination.

Richard Blanco

  • Blanco, born in Madrid to Cuban exiles, is the youngest, first Latino, and first openly gay person to be named a U.S. inaugural poet.
  • He read his poem “One Today,” written soon after the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., as President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. He describes the poem as “a unique snapshot of where we are as a country.”

Lupe Valdez

  • “I decided to run (for sheriff) because people have two choices in life.  You can simply sit there complaining about something that’s broken or wrong, or you can get busy and actually do something about it,” Valdez says.
  • She is the first woman, the first ethnic minority person, and the first lesbian to be elected Sheriff of Dallas County, Texas.  Valdez was a senior agent with the Department of Homeland Security when she reached a defining moment in her career. 
  • As Dallas County Sheriff, Valdez is responsible for 7,000 prisoners and 1,322 deputies, detention officers and bailiffs. “Going from migrant worker to a professional, that was a challenge.  Going from jailer to federal agent, that was a challenge,” she says.  Compared to all that, she adds, this new job is “not a challenge.”

Sylvia Rivera

  • Civil Rights pioneer Sylvia Rivera was one of the instigators of the Stonewall uprising, an event that helped launch the modern gay rights movement.  After Stonewall, Rivera joined the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) and worked energetically on its campaign to pass the New York City Rights Bill. 
  • Rivera was a persistent and vocal advocate for transgender rights.  Her activist zeal was fueled by her own struggles to find food, shelter, and safety in the urban streets from the time she left home at  age 10.

Orlando Cruz

  • In 2012 Cruz became the first professional boxer to come out during his career and one of the first professional athletes to come while still active. 
  • Soon after, he won a major fight wearing rainbow shorts. A year later he married his boyfriend. 
  • “I have and will always be a proud Puerto Rican. I have always been and always will be a proud gay man,” he says.

Ana Navarro

  • Ana Navarro was born in Nicaragua.  In 1980 as a result of the Sandinista revolution, she and her family immigrated to the United States.
  • Navarro speaks on Latin American and Hispanic issues as a  political contributor at CNN and CNN en Espanol. 
  • Since 1999, she has represented private and public clients on federal issues, particularly related to immigration, trade and policy affecting Central America.  

Alberto Gonzales

  • Alberto R. Gonzales (born August 4, 1955) was the 80th United States Attorney General, appointed in February 2005 by President George W. Bush, becoming the highest-ranking Hispanic American in executive government to date.
  • He was the first Hispanic to serve as White House Counsel, and earlier he had been Bush's General Counsel during his governorship of Texas. Gonzales had also served as Secretary of State of Texas and then as a Texas Supreme Court Justice.
  • Gonzales is currently the Dean of Belmont University College of Law, in Nashville, Tennessee, where he teaches Constitutional Law, Separation of Powers, National Security Law and First Amendment Law.
  • He is also counsel at a Nashville-based law firm, Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, where he advises clients on special matters, government investigations and regulatory matters.

Rev. Tony Suarez

  • Rev. Tony Suárez is an author, speaker and pastor, and serves as the executive vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference/CONEL, the world’s largest Hispanic Christian organization. The group serves more than 40,000 congregations in the United States and hundreds of thousands of congregations spread throughout the international Spanish-speaking community.
  • Through his role as executive vice president and head of NHCLC’s D.C. office, Rev. Suarez has become an active member of the Washington community, where he regularly meets with members of the House of Representatives, the Senate and the White House, and speaks at events where the voice and participation of the NHCLC has been requested.
  • Rev. Suarez was Congressman Luis Gutierrez's guest to the 2014 Presidential State of the Union. 

Alejandro “Alex” Castellanos

  • Castellanos, born in 1954, is a Cuban-American political consultant. He has worked on campaigns for such Republican candidates  as Bob Dole, George W. Bush, Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney.
  • In 2008, Castellanos, a partner at National Media Inc., co-founded Purple Strategies, a bipartisan communications firm. Castellanos is also a regular guest commentator on Meet the Press and a contributor for CNN. 
  • He was named one of Newsmax’s 50 Most Influential Latino Republicans in 2016.

Soledad O’Brien

  • Soledad O’Brien is the chairman of Starfish Media Group, a multiplatform media production company and distributor. O'Brien continues to be a television anchor and correspondent and lists CNN, HBO and their sports news program Real Sports among a growing list of networks she is working with through Starfish.
  • Best known as a former CNN anchor and reporter, O’Brien has relayed breaking news from around the globe and has produced award-winning, record-breaking and critically acclaimed documentaries on the most important stories facing the world today.
  • O’Brien is a graduate of Harvard University and is the daughter of two immigrant parents.  O’Brien’s father is Australian and her mother is from Havana, Cuba.  

Hilda Solis

  • Solis was the 25th Secretary of Labor of the United States, serving under President Barack Obama. She was raised in La Puente, California, by immigrant parents from Nicaragua and Mexico.
  • She earned degrees from the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona and the University of Southern California. She is a former member of the California State Senate, California State Assembly and the U.S. House of Representatives. 
  • She was the first Hispanic woman to serve in the State Senate, and was reelected there in 1998. She was the first female recipient of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in 2000.


Maria Hinojosa

  • Maria Hinojosa (born July 2, 1961) is an American journalist. She is the anchor and executive producer of Latino USA on National Public Radio, a public radio show devoted to Latino issues.
  • She is also the founder, president and CEO of Futuro Media Group, which produces the show.  In 2011, she became the first Latina to anchor a Frontline report on PBS (Lost in Detention, a documentary exploring the issue of deportation and immigrant detention and abuse).
  • Since 1995, she has been named three times as one of the 100 Most Influential Hispanics by Hispanic Business magazine for her work as a reporter for CBS, NPR, and CNN.

Dolores Huerta

  • Dolores Huerta has worked to improve social and economic conditions for farm workers and to fight discrimination. Huerta has received numerous awards for her community service and advocacy for workers', immigrants', and women's rights, including the Eugene V. Debs Foundation Outstanding American Award, the United States Presidential Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
  • To further her cause, she created the Agricultural Workers Association (AWA) in 1960 and co-founded what would become the United Farm Workers (UFW).
  • Huerta stepped down from the UFW in 1999, but she continues to her work to improve the lives of workers, immigrants and women.  

Sonia Sotomayor

  • Sonia Sotomayor was born June 25, 1954, in the Bronx borough of New York City. Her desire to be a judge was first inspired by the TV show Perry Mason.
  • She graduated from Yale Law School and passed the bar in 1980. She became a U.S. District Court Judge in 1992 and was elevated to the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in 1998.
  • In 2009, she became the first Latina Supreme Court Justice in U.S. history.  

Eva Longoria

  • Actress Eva Longoria, a beauty pageant contestant in her youth, got her first break in show business with a regular role on The Young and the Restless from 2001 to 2003. She rose to fame in 2004 as Gabrielle Solis in “Desperate Housewives,” which ended in 2012.   
  • In 2012 Longoria was chosen to co-chair President Barack Obama's re-election. Having a keen interest in immigration and encouraging Latinos in politics, she has spoken out against strict anti-immigration legislation and in 2014 founded the Latino Victory Project to help encourage voting and donations for candidates.
  • Longoria is also known for her support for the Coalition of Imokalee Workers and has executive-produced the worker-based agricultural documentaries The Harvest and Food Chains. 

Carlos Santana

  • Carlos Santana (born July 20, 1947) is a Mexican- American musician who first became famous in the late 1960s and early 1970s with his band, Santana, which pioneered a fusion of rock and Latin American music.
  • The band's sound featured his melodic, blues-based guitar lines set against Latin and African rhythms featuring percussion instruments such as timbales and congas not generally heard in rock music. Santana continued to work in these forms over the following decades. He experienced a resurgence of popularity and critical acclaim in the late 1990s.
  • In 2003 Rolling Stone magazine listed Santana at number 20 on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. He has won 10 Grammy Awards and three Latin Grammy Awards.

Gloria Estefan

  • Gloria Estefan is a Cuban-American singer, songwriter, actress, and businesswoman. She started off her career as the leading vocalist in the group called "Miami Latin Boys" which was eventually known as Miami Sound Machine.
  • Her breakthrough success with "Conga" in 1985 made her known worldwide. It won the grand prix in the 15th annual Tokyo Music Festival in Japan. This is her signature song.
  • She has won seven Grammy Awards. Estefan also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Las Vegas Walk of Fame. In 2015, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contributions to American music.