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Leadership Development, Personal Growth, Make a Better World, NSLS Blog

Hispanic Leaders Making a Difference

¡Celebremos el Mes Nacional de la Herencia Hispana!

Diversity is one of the pillars of the NSLS mission, driving us to build a more inclusive future for all. As part of that mission, we invite you once again to celebrate one of the many cultures that have made the United States what it is today. Originally designated as a weeklong commemoration in 1968, National Hispanic Heritage Month — spanning from September 15 to October 15  — was established on August 17, 1988.

So join us in celebrating the amazing contributions of Hispanic Americans to our arts, culture, politics, and more!

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

The first leader we’re celebrating always remembers where she comes from: “I wake up every day, and I’m a Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx. Every single day.”

At 29, AOC, as she’s popularly known, became the youngest woman ever to be elected to Congress. With a huge social media following and a talent for straightforward messaging, Ocasio-Cortez is one of the most notable Hispanic politicians today.

Rita Moreno

Originally known for her singing and dancing in the original West Side Story during the Golden Age of Hollywood, Moreno made history when she became the only Latinx actress with an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony) on her resume. She also became the first Latinx actress to earn a Peabody Career Achievement Award in 2019.

Sonia Sotomayor

Justice Sotomayor is far more than the savior of baseball! With an impressive résumé, including graduating with honors from Princeton University and Yale Law School, it’s no wonder she was chosen to become the first Hispanic and the third woman to become a U.S. Supreme Court judge. Check out her autobiography “My Beloved World” to learn more about how she got where she is and what she has achieved!

Lin-Manuel Miranda

Of Puerto Rican, Mexican, and African American descent, Miranda is most famous for creating the Broadway musical hit “Hamilton.” A multifaceted artist, Miranda has taken on roles as actor, singer, film director, playwright, songwriter, screenwriter, and producer, winning Tony Awards, Grammy Awards, and Pulitzer Prizes for his work. He has utilized his public role to advocate for Congress to do more to help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria.

Jorge Ramos

A representative voice and role model for journalists, the Mexican-American journalist has covered many of the major events of our time, including the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Ramos’s journalism has earned him 10 Emmy awards and the status of being named one of “The World’s Most Influential People” by Time magazine.

Rigoberta Menchú

K’iche’ Guatemalan human rights activist Rigoberta Menchú has dedicated her life to promoting awareness of the struggles of Guatemala’s Indigenous peoples for rights during and after the Guatemalan Civil War (1960 - 1996). Author of the autobiographical “Crossing Borders” (1998), founder of Guatemala’s first Indigenous political party, and a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Menchú was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992.

Jennifer Lopez

This pop culture icon is considered one of the most influential Hispanic entertainers in North America. With thirty years of industry experience under her belt, Lopez has provided Western culture with beloved songs and films, earning her a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a Billboard Icon Award. Outside of her career as a singer and actress, she has created beauty products and clothing lines, a production company, and the Lopez Family Foundation, which is dedicated to increasing the availability and health education to underserved populations.

María Teresa Kumar

Named one of the 10 most influential women in Washington, D.C. by Elle Magazine in 2013, María Teresa Kumar is a Columbian American political rights activist and president and CEO of Voto Latino, which encourages young Hispanic and Latinx voters to register to vote and to become more politically active. Through Voto Latino, Kumar has harnessed the power of technology to improve the equality gap in Latinx lives.

Miguel Cabrera

The 39-year-old Venezuelan baseball player for the Detroit Tigers is breaking records and serving as a role model for his many fans. He is only the seventh player in baseball history to reach 3,000 hits and 500 home runs so far in his career, outshining previous role models like Derek Jeter or Roberto Clemente by reaching both landmarks rather than one alone.

Cesar Conde

The current chairman of the NBCUniversal News Group, Cesar Conde, is the first Hispanic to head a major English-language television news program. He created the Fifty Percent Challenge, an initiative to promote diversity in the newsroom, and he is credited with turning the Spanish-language media company Univision Networks into one of the leading global, multi-platform brands.

Gustavo Dudamel

An influential leader in the music world, the Venezuelan musician has made a name for himself conducting for films like “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and with musicians like Beyoncé and Bruno Mars. He is currently the music director for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, and the Paris Opera.

America Ferrera

First known for her starring role in the TV series “Ugly Betty,” Ferrera was recognized as a role model for young Hispanics by the US House of Representatives in 2007. Another member of Time’s “The World’s Most Influential People” list, she was the first Latina to win an Emmy Award for best actress. She is an advocate for Latinx voting rights, and her recent role in the film “Barbie” has contributed to her status as a role model for women.

Isabella Casillas Guzman

Champion of entrepreneurship Isabella Casillas Guzman is the 27th Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and a member of President Biden’s Cabinet. She is a leading advocate for America’s small businesses and startups, and under her leadership the SBA has scaled to help provide small businesses and startups with unprecedented access to capital, contracting, networks, technical training, digital tools, and disaster support, building the resilience they need to grow.

Carmen Maria Machado

Acclaimed science fiction and horror writer Carmen Maria Machado has won numerous awards and a large fan base for her subversion of genre tropes and her integration of heavy, real-world subject matter into her work. The New York Times included Machado’s 2017 “Her Body and Other Parties” on its 2018 “The New Vanguard” list of women who shape how we read and write in the 21st century.

Ellen Ochoa

Ellen Ochoa, an engineer and former astronaut, was the first Hispanic Woman to go to space during her nine-day mission on the Space Shuttle Discovery. She became the first Hispanic director and the second female director of the Johnson Space Center in 2012. Ochoa is also a classical flutist; she played with the Stanford Symphony Orchestra, and she took her flute with her on her first mission to space.

Daniel Pinto

Daniel Pinto began his career as a financial analyst and foreign exchange trader at Manufacturers Hanover in 1983 in Buenos Aires. He is now President and Chief Operating Officer of JPMorgan Chase, a member of its Operating Committee, and CEO of its Corporate & Investment Bank.

Karla Martínez

Since being named as Editor in Chief of Vogue Mexico and Latin America in June 2016, Karla Martínez has headed projects that established new alliances in the market. She has been listed in the Business of Fashion US list of the 500 leaders in fashion, and she is a member of the group that started Project Paz, a non-profit organization that creates extracurricular activities for low-income children in Ciudad Juarez to promote peace.

Jorge Zamanillo

Cuban American Jorge Zamanillo was the chief executive officer of HistoryMiami from 2016 to 2022, where he led a $45 million expansion project to more than double the size of the museum by adding and renovating a new museum building. He was the founding director of the National Museum of the American Latino, whose purpose Congress described as “to illuminate the story of the United States for the benefit of all by featuring Latino contributions to the art, history, and culture of the nation since its early history.”

Fidel A. Vargas

American financial executive Fidel A. Vargas is the president and CEO of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF), the nation’s leading provider of scholarships and services for Latino students. He became one of the youngest elected officials in history in 1992 when he was elected mayor of Baldwin Park, CA, and he was a founding partner of Centinela Capital Partners, a private equity asset management firm that invests and manages nearly $1 billion in minority-owned funds. Time magazine named him one of the Top 50 Young Leaders in the United States.

Maryanne Piña Frodsham

Maryanne Piña Frodsham is CEO of Career Management Partners, a global talent solutions firm that provides executive search, coaching, and transition solutions. She created the Latino Career Assessment (LCA) to provide assessment and development solutions for Latinx professionals. She’s an active proponent of thought leadership and an expert in addressing the Latinx career chasm and working toward gender equality.

As you can see, the list of Hispanic change-makers and role models is an impressive one — and this is just the beginning! So join us in celebrating their amazing achievements, and don’t forget to learn more about Hispanic Heritage Month!