Hispanic Americans are mainly of Latin-American descent, particularly of Cuban, Mexican or Puerto Rican origin. Over the past century, they have been represented in almost every sector of the economy, academia, science, sport and culture.
Severo Ochoa was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1959 for the synthesis of ribonucleic acid (RNA). In 1991, Ellen Ochoa was the first female Hispanic astronaut. She was preceded by Franklin Chang-Diaz who has flown seven space-shuttle missions since 1986. Another Nobel Prize winner was Luiz Walter Avarez, a physicist, for discoveries made about subatomic particles.
Cesar Chavez (1927-1993), a Hispanic civil rights activist, became an icon in the United States. Chávez worked as a migrant farmer, dropping out of school after eighth grade to support his mother. In 1952 he became an organizer for a civil rights group, the Community Service Organization (CSO). Chávez urged Mexican Americans to register and vote, and traveled throughout California making speeches in support of workers' rights. Together with Dolores Huerta (1930-) he founded the United Farm Workers (UFW), which by the late 1970s had become the union for 50,000 Hispanic-American field workers in California and Florida. His public relations approach to unionism and nonviolent tactics made the farm workers' struggle a popular moral cause.
The first Hispanic Congressman was Joseph Marion Hernández (1793-1857). He was elected as the first delegate from the newly established territory of Florida in 1822. Hernandez later became a member of the Territorial House of Representatives and its presiding officer. Romualdo Pacheco (1831-1899) was elected to the California State Senate in 1857. He served until 1863 and went on to represent California in the United States House of Representatives between 1877 and 1883.
Dennis Chavez (1888-1962) served for two terms in the United States House of Representatives (1931-1935) as the Democratic Party Representative for New Mexico. He served as a Senator from 1935 through 1962. Dennis Chavez was a strong defender of civil rights but his bill for the establishment of a commission to prohibit racial discrimination in employment was not passed. The first Hispanic United States Attorney General was Alberto Gonzales (1955-), who held office between 2005 and 2007. Sonia Sotomayor (1954-) was appointed as the first Hispanic United States Supreme Court Justice in 2009. Prior to that, she was the first Hispanic federal judge in New York State, and the first female Puerto Rican judge in a United States federal court.
The Mexican-American literary genre is known as Chicano literature. One major writer was Rudolfo Anaya (1937-). His best known novel was Bless Me, Ultima which was published in 1972. Luis Valdez (1940-) is regarded as the founder of Chicano theater in the United States. Chicano author Ana Castillo (1953-) addressed Chicano feminism, which she called "Xicanisma." Her works center on issues of identity, racism, and classism.
Hispanic American journalists and novelists include the Cuban born Cristina García (1958-) who was a researcher, reporter, and Miami bureau chief for Time Magazine. She obtained a M.A. from Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and has written four successful novels including Dreaming in Cuban, published in 1992. Another Hispanic-American author, Sandra Cisneros (1954-), who in 1984 published the acclaimed novel The House on Mango Street, received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa. Author Richard Rodriguez (1944-) received a B.A. from Stanford University, an M.A. from Columbia University, and was a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley. His most famous work, published in 1984, Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez is a narrative about his own intellectual development.
Hispanic-American sports' firsts include the major league Troy Haymakers baseball player, Esteban Bellán, (1849-1932), and the World Series player Adolfo Luque, (1890 -1957) who played for the Boston Braves, the Cincinnati Reds, the Brooklyn Robins/Dodgers and the New York Giants. Hispanic National Football League players include Ignacio Molinet, (1904–1976), Joe Aguirre, (1918-1985), and Tom Flores, (1937-). Richard González (1928-1995) won the 1948 and 1949 U.S. Open Grand Slam championships, as well as twelve Pro Slam Tournament Titles. The Hispanic-American heavyweight boxer John Ruiz (1972-) has defeated world champions Evander Holyfield, Hasim Rahman and Tony Tucker.
Hispanic-American artists include Frida Kahlo de Rivera (1907-1954). She was best known for her self-portraits. Mexican culture played a central role in her ‘folk' style.