Manuel Luján, Jr., Congressman

May 12, 1928 is the birthday of Manuel Luján, Jr., born on a small farm near San Ildelfonso, New Mexico.  In 1968, Luján was elected to Congress.  In the 1970’s and early 1980’s Luján was one of the few prominent Hispanic Republicans, and the only Republican member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.  He usually supported the Reagan administration, but in 1986 he sided with Hispanic leaders and opposed legislation that sanctioned employers if they hired illegal immigrants. In 1989 Luján was appointed as Secretary of the Interior by President George Bush.

Richard Alonzo Gonzales

Happy Birthday to Richard Alonzo Gonzales, nicknamed “Pancho”, apparently because his non-Hispanic childhood friends did not know any other Mexican names.  Gonzales’ parents immigrated to the US from Chihuahua, Mexico. His father worked as a house painter and his mother as a seamstress.  His mother bought him his first tennis racket for 51 cents.  Gonzalez was an eight-time World Pro Tennis champ.  In his first round at Wimbledon, the 41 year old Gonzales was matched against 25 year old Charlie Pasarell from Puerto Rico.  Gonzales and Pasarell played the then longest match in Wimbledon history, for five hours and 20 minutes.  One of Gonzales’ books is, “Tennis Begins at Forty: A Guide for All Players Who Don’t Have Wrists of Steel or a Cannonball Serve, Don’t Always Rush the Net or Have a Devastating Overhead, but Want to Win”, demonstrating that there is life after 40.  (Photo by UPI/Corbis-Bettmann)

Graciela Olivárez, Lawyer, Social Activist, Professor

May 9, 1928 is the birthday of Graciela Olivárez, lawyer, social activist, professor, and political appointee.  Olivárez was born in Phoenix, Arizona. Although she initially dropped out of high school, Olivárez graduated from the Notre Dame School of Law in 1970. The then 42-year old Olivárez was the first woman to graduate from this prestigious law school.  She worked as the State Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) for Arizona in 1965 (back then, Hispanics were allowed to do those things in Arizona). President Jimmy Carter, President from 1977 to 1981, appointed her as director of the Community Services Administration in 1977.  Olivárez was the highest-ranking Hispanic woman in Carter’s administration.

“The Bridge of San Luis Rey”

On May 7, 1928, all-American writer Thorton Wilder won the Pulitzer Prize for “The Bridge of San Luis Rey”.  According to a review by Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers, the book was “a stylized fable set in colonial Peru, where a famous rope bridge over a deep chasm collapses while five travelers, all of whom just seemed to be starting to make new lives for themselves after wasted years, fall to their deaths. A scholarly monk piously sets out to learn all he can of their histories in an effort to determine whether the fall can be attributed to divine design or accident, but for his trouble both he and his work are burned by the Inquisition.”

Roberto José Suarez y de Cardenas

May 5, 1928 is the birthday of Roberto José Suarez y de Cardenas, a distinguished journalist, editor, and publisher.   He was the publisher of El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish language newspaper published by the Miami Herald. Cardenas was born in Havana, Cuba, and in his youth he played basketball with Fidel Castro.  He became disillusioned with the Cuban Revolution, and eventually settled with his family in the US.  His first job with the Miami Herald was as a part-time mailroom clerk.  Under his leadership, the struggling El Nuevo Herald grew to be one of the most successful Spanish language newspapers in the US.  (Photo Jeep Hunter/MCT, via Miami Herald)