Hispanic Heritage Month: remembering the greats

Courtesy of ABC News

Whitney Ervin, Features Editor

Hispanic Heritage Month kicked off on September 15. This month is a time to celebrate the heritage of Hispanic people. Furthermore, it’s a time to learn more about the contributions of those of Hispanic heritage to the world.

The origins of Hispanic Heritage Month began in California during the height of the Civil Rights movement. Congressman George E. Brown at the time represented East Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley, both heavily populated by members of the Hispanic community. Brown introduced the idea of a commemorative week to observe the contributions of the Hispanic community. The movement was passed in Congress. 

At that time President Lyndon Johnson enacted Hispanic Heritage week. In his proclamation, he acknowledged that the dates chosen coincided with many Hispanic nation’s celebrations of independence. Including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua who all celebrate their independence from Spain on September 15. 

Twenty years later, in 1988, President Ronald Reagan expanded on the observation. Dedicating the month between September 15 and October 15 to the celebration of the Hispanic community. 

In the spirit of Hispanic Heritage Month, here are some notable Hispanic figures who have left their mark. 

  • Rita Moreno

Rita Moreno is a Puerto Rican actress who became the first Hispanic American woman to win an Academy Award for her portrayal of Anita in “West Side Story.” Moreno has continued to be a staple in film and television. In 1977 she became the third person in history to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award. 

  • Roberto Clemente 

Roberto Clemente was a major league baseball player for the Pittsburgh Pirates. His career began in 1954 when he was only 16 years old. Clemente was the first Hispanic American and Caribbean to win a World Series and to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He died in a plane crash while trying to deliver aid to Nicaragua in 1972. The Commissioners Award was later renamed the Roberto Clemente Award in his honor. 

  • Dr. Ellen Ochoa

Dr. Ochoa is an engineer, astronaut, and former director of the Johnson Space Center. She became the first Hispanic woman to go to space when she took part in a nine-day mission aboard the Discovery space shuttle. She has won four awards from NASA in acknowledgment of her contributions to her field. Including the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. 

  • Cesar Chavez 

Chavez was a Civil Rights activist who co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, now known as the United Farm Workers Union. He organized nonviolent protests to fight for the rights of migrant farmworkers. Along with his organization, he helped hundreds of farmworkers in California negotiate better working conditions and contracts. 

  • Sylvia Rivera 

Sylvia Rivera was a transgender activist and an influential drag queen. She was one of the leaders of the famous Stonewall Inn uprising and dedicated her life to defending the rights of marginalized people. She is best known for being an activist for LGBT+ rights as well as an advocate for the homeless population in New York City.

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