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CONVERGE | Community

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: 5 Hispanic Americans to Know

September 18, 2020

5 Hispanic Americans you may not know...but should.


Hispanic Heritage Month — observed from September 15 to October 15 each year — is an opportunity to celebrate the deep and lasting contributions of Americans of Hispanic descent. Read on for a list of these incredible Hispanic Americans you may not know, and their important work in science, human rights and sports:


Albert Baez: Renowned Physicist


An esteemed Mexican-born physicist, Albert Baez in 1948 co-invented the X-ray microscope, which is able to examine living cells. The equipment is used to this day in both astronomy and medicine. While Baez could have used his work to develop weapons of mass destruction during the Cold War's nuclear arms race, he decided to instead pursue humanitarianism and pacifism. 

In a different way, he also contributed to the music sector — he is also the father of folk singers Joan Baez and Mimi Fariña. Baez died at 94 in 2007, but his legacy in astronomy and medicine endures.


Sylvia Rivera: LGBTQ Rights Pioneer


A prominent transgender rights activist, Sylvia Rivera was far ahead of her time, blazing trails for the LGBTQ community. She fought for her rights at the historic Stonewall Inn riots in New York City in June, 1969, and later founded an organization to assist homeless transgender youth. Today, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project offers supportive and legal services for low-income communities and people of color who are transgender, gender-nonconforming or intersex.


Ellen Ochoa: Pioneering Astronaut


As the first Hispanic female astronaut, Ellen Ochoa broke barriers (and the stratosphere) when she launched into space in 1993 on Space Shuttle Discovery. During her time with NASA, she participated in four space flights and logged a whopping 950 hours in space. Ochoa is also an inventor, patenting her research on optics (the study of the behavior of light) while in graduate school at Stanford University. 


Roberto Clemente: Baseball Hall of Famer, Humanitarian


A native of Puerto Rico, Roberto Clemente became the first Latin American baseball player to amass 3,000 career hits (and was only the 11th player of all time to hit the milestone). He began his career in baseball's minor leagues, ultimately joining the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1955 and twice leading them to World Series titles. Beyond his baseball achievements, however, Clemente was a major humanitarian. 

In 1972, he headed to Nicaragua to help with earthquake relief, and died in a plane crash off the coast of Puerto Rico on his way to deliver supplies and aid. Shortly afterward, he was immortalized in the Baseball Hall of Fame, via a vote that waived the usual five-year waiting period.


Lizzie Velásquez: Motivational Speaker


Lizzie Velásquez is a Mexican-American motivational speaker who was born with a condition called Marfanoid–progeroid–lipodystrophy syndrome that causes her to age prematurely and prevents her from gaining weight. After being bullied for her appearance in a viral YouTube video as a teenager, Velásquez fought back. She started her own YouTube channel to combat bullying, and after her 2013 TEDx Austin Women talk, How Do You Define Yourself?, she became an in-demand motivational speaker and even starred in her own 2015 documentary.


Celebrating Hispanic Americans, Diversity


Of course, this list offers only a small sampling of the many contributions from Hispanic Americans to celebrate throughout Hispanic Heritage Month. 


How will you observe Hispanic Heritage Month this year?​


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