VOTE TODAY! Election 2018 is Tuesday, November 6, 2018!  In this very important national election, the entire US House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 US Senators will be elected.  In State elections, which determine local policies for education, immigration, and public spending, Elections will be held for the governorships of 36 US states.  According to the Pew Hispanic Center,  a record 27.3 million of Latinos were eligible to vote in 2016, most of whom are Millennials.  Unfortunately, in 2016, less than half of eligible Latino Voters voted.  Did YOU vote?  Yes, YOU, the person holding this mobile device?  Today is YOUR opportunity in 2018!  For full information on polling locations and where to vote, please download the Voter Pal app from VotoLatino.  YOUR vote counts!

Enrique Barbosa “Henry” González, First Hispanic Representative, Texas

Enrique Barbosa “Henry” González (1916 – 2000) was the first Hispanic Representative elected from Texas.  González took office on November 4, 1961, and served in Congress longer than any other Latino (as of 2017).  His parents emigrated from Mexico, and he was born in San Antonio, Texas.  González studied at the University of Texas and San Antonio College, and earned a law degree at St. Mary’s University School of Law. He fought for his country during World War II.  While serving on the San Antonio City Commission, he spoke out against segregation (a brave act in the 1950s).  In Congress, he attracted national media attention for his courageous and unconventional positions on critical issues.  González retired from Congress in 1998.

LATISM Annual National Conference

The annual national conference of LATISM went live in Chicago on November 9, 2011.  LATISM, a nonprofit organization, is the largest organization of Latinos engaged in social media.  LATISM is dedicated to advancing the social, civic and economic status of the Latino community. LATISM also works to raise awareness among corporate brands, NGOs and government entities on how to use social media to engage Latinos.  Please visit LATISM.org for more information.

“Creating Freedom in the Americas, 1776-1826”

In honor of the bicentennials (200 year anniversaries) of the nations of Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico, and of the shared history and values of the US and South America, the symposium “Creating Freedom in the Americas, 1776-1826” was celebrated in Washington, DC on November 19, 2010.  The symposium was co-hosted by the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs and the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress, and featured leading historians of the revolutionary periods in Latin America, Brazil, Haiti and the US.  The symposium’s panel sessions included:  The Americas on the Eve of the Independence Movements, Comparing Independence Movements in the Americas, and Constitution-Making in the Western Hemisphere.  A recording of the symposium is available free at http://www.ustream.tv.  (Image of the Hispanic Reading Room at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.  Resources are available online at www.LOC.gov.)

The Ultimate Burrito, 2010

Sometimes, you just cannot have too much of a good thing, particularly when you’re trying to set a Guinness World Record.  This dictum also applies to a favorite Mexican immigrant, the burrito.  The largest burrito on record was prepared on November 3, 2010 in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico.  The burrito was made from a single flour tortilla that weighed over 2 tons and measured 1.49 miles (2.4 kilometers).  The tortilla was filled with fish, onions, chilies, and refried beans. Over 3000 volunteers and 54 restaurants participated, under the leadership of the national Mexican food industry association, CANIRAC (Cámara Nacional de la Industria Restaurantes y Alimentos Condimentados).   The machine used to roll out the tortilla was specially designed and adapted by Blas Avila, and required 9.5 hours to cover the full 1.49 miles.  The final delicious dish weighed 12,786 pounds (5,799 kilograms).

The Launch of CBeebies

On November 21, 2008, BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) Worldwide Channels announced the launch of CBeebies, its first wholly-owned, Spanish-language channel in the US. This British invasion is dedicated to preschoolers.  Darren Childs, BBC’s Managing Director, stated, “The introduction of a Spanish version of CBeebies into the U.S. Hispanic market is a momentous achievement for BBC Worldwide Channels in this hugely competitive territory. As well as complementing BBC America, which recently celebrated its tenth anniversary, it means that we’re able to reach out to millions of Americans for whom Spanish is their first language.”  Will a generation of Latino children in the US start speaking English with a British accent?  Stay tuned!

The First Latin Grammy Awards

For the first time in its history, the Latin Grammy Awards were held in Houston, Texas.  Houston is not known for being a mecca of Latin music, but one of the show’s organizers, Gabriel Abaroa, noted that “We decided to take the show where our people are.”  Abaroa has a refreshingly broad view of “our people”, whom he further defined as “Who are our people? Anyone who likes to listen to bossa nova or who likes to dance salsa. You do not need to know the language to feel the music.”  The 2008 Latin Grammys were as beautiful as ever, and all applauded as Latina singer Gloria Estefan received the award for Person of the Year.

“Love in the Time of Cholera” is Released

The story of life-long love was retold on the silver screen, as “Love in the Time of Cholera” was released on November 16, 2007.  The Hollywood film is based on the story by Nobel prize winner Gabriel García Márquez, about childhood sweethearts who are forcibly separated by the girl’s parents.  Despite 50 years of separation and her marriage to another man, the young boy, now an old man, immediately returns to court his love when she is widowed.  The movie was shot in the beautiful historic city of Cartagena on the Caribbean coast of Colombia.  The film stars Javier Bardem, Benjamin Bratt and Giovanna Mezzogiorno, and was produced by Scott Steindorff.  Colombian musician and singer Shakira wrote two songs for the film.


The American Music Award honored Colombian born musician and singer Shakira as America’s favorite Latina artist on November 22, 2005.  Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll’s father was a Lebanese immigrant to Colombia, and her dual Latino and Middle Eastern heritage has greatly influenced her work.  “Shakira” translates as “woman full of grace” in Arabic, and her complex, beautiful music reflects this aspiration.  Shakira’s crossover album into the US market was “Laundry Service” (2001), which earned the number three spot on Billboard’s album sales ranking.  Shakira has continued to win awards for her music, including three Latin Grammys.

Michael Bloomberg travels to the Dominican Republic

In solidarity and compassion, New York City Mayor-elect Michael Bloomberg traveled to the Dominican Republic, to meet with grieving families who lost relatives when an American Airlines flight crashed in New York earlier that month.   About 70% of the 260 passengers who died were Dominican.   Bloomberg arrived in his private jet, and received a welcome motorcade from the airport.  Bloomberg also met with President Hipólito Mejía, and he agreed to aid the Dominican families.  The two government officials also discussed the issues and problems for Dominicans living in New York City.  Bloomberg commented on the situation for the undocumented immigrants:  ”I think, as a compassionate society, we have to find some ways that these people can get some finality.  But the federal government has to be in charge of that, our immigration policy and its borders. I certainly would urge them to understand the pain and suffering and love.”

El Dia de Olga Tañón

The Puerto Rican Senate declared November 9, 1995 as “El Dia de Olga Tañón” (Olga Tañón Day) in honor of the Grammy Award winning singer. Tañón was born in Santruce, Puerto Rico, and began her singing career performing with merengue groups.  (Merengue originated in the Dominican Republic, and is characterized by a fast 2/4 beat.  Please, not to be confused with the Macarena.)  Tañón’s husky alto voice has dazzled fans throughout the Americas and in Europe.  Tañón is also renowned for her charitable work.  In 1998, after the destruction in Puerto Rico by Hurricane Georges, Tañón and her husband rented a truck, filled it with essential supplies, and personally delivered food, clothing, and medicine to people in need.

NAFTA 1993

By a close vote of 234 to 200, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution to establish the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on November 17, 1993.  The goal of NAFTA, according to its advocates, was to eliminate barriers to trade and investment among the US, Canada and Mexico.   Its critics contend that NAFTA undermined domestic industries and labor.  The citizen soldiers of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) were particularly incensed by the removal of Article 27 from the Mexican constitution, which protected Indian communal landholdings from sale or privatization. Under NAFTA this guarantee was defined as a barrier to investment. EZLN declared its war on the Mexican government the day that NAFTA was implemented. US President Bill Clinton, who finally signed agreement into law, stated that, “NAFTA means jobs. American jobs, and good-paying American jobs. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t support this agreement.”

1990 FIFA Soccer World Cup

In an exciting, high velocity game, the US and El Salvador vied for supremacy at the sports stadium in Saint Louis, Missouri on November 5, 1989.  The teams were playing for a place in the 1990 FIFA Soccer World Cup.  After a well-matched competition, the teams tied 0-0.

Happy Birthday to Mark Travis John Sanchez

Happy Birthday to NFL quarterback Mark Travis John Sanchez, born on November 11, 1986 in Long Beach, California.  Sanchez is a third-generation Mexican American.   His father was a strong influence in his life, and Sanchez began playing football in 8th grade coached by his papi.  He played college football for the University of Southern California, leading USC through a victorious season and a win in the 2008 Rose Bowl.  In 2009, Sanchez was drafted by the New York Jets as quarterback.  Off the field, Sanchez is a fund raiser and supporter for a number of charitable causes, including the Inner-City Games Los Angeles, an after-school program or “at-risk youth”. (UPI photo collection/ Archie Carpenter)

NASA Space Shuttle Atlantis

As the NASA Space Shuttle Atlantis launched into the night sky from the Kennedy Space Center on November 26, 1985, Latino Rodolfo Neri Vela was among the crew.  Neri is a Mexican scientist and astronaut who served as Payload Specialist for the mission.  (A Payload Specialist is the technical expert on the carrying capacity of an aircraft or space ship, including cargo and scientific instruments or experiments.)   Neri earned a BA in mechanical and electrical engineering from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), an MA in telecommunications systems from the University of Essex (England) and a Ph D in electromagnetic radiation from the University of Birmingham (England).  Neri and the crew returned safely on December 3.

Mayor of Miami 1985

After persevering through a number of campaigns, Xavier Louis Suarez was finally elected as Mayor of the city of Miami.  He was sworn in on November 13, 1985, and was the first Cuban born citizen to win this office.  Suarez was born in Las Villas, Cuba, and immigrated to the US in 1962.  He graduated from Villanova University and from Harvard University Law School.  Suarez won with 57% of the vote.  As he took office, noting the ethnic divides that characterized Miamian politics, he noted, “Miami will be one neighborhood while I am mayor.”

Zapatista Army of National Liberation is Founded

The multi-faceted political, social, economic, cultural, military and spiritual movement of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) was founded in Chiapas, Mexico on November 17, 1983.  Chiapas is the southernmost state of Mexico, with a large concentration of indigenous people comprising the Mixes-Zoques, the Mayas and the Chiapa.   The movement is named after Emiliano Zapata, the agrarian reformer and commander during the Mexican Revolution.  The movement defies classification, and is an alchemic blend of Mayan and indigenous cultural philosophy and social activism, with a definite distaste for the economics of neoliberal capitalism and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  EZLN has been at war with the Government of Mexico since 1994, though more recently its people have pursued a course of nonviolence and sought international recognition for the rights and welfare of their communities.  For further insight, please check out the EZLN Facebook page.  (Image from EZLN Facebook Page)

The Awards

US baseball’s prestigious Cy Young Award had never been awarded to a rookie player – until Fernando Valenzuela sparkled on the diamond.  (Please note, a rookie in Major League Baseball is a player with fewer than 130 times at bat or 50 innings pitched in the majors, or less than 45 days on the active rosters of an MLB club.)  The 20-year-old Mexican debuted in 1981, and dazzled the city of Los Angeles and the sport of baseball with his left-handed pitching and overall athleticism.  After a brilliant career, Valenzuela retired to become a sports commentator for the Los Angeles Dodgers.  (Image from todanoticia.com)

Happy Birthday to Gael Garcia Bernal

Happy Birthday to actor, director and documentary producer Gael Garcia Bernal, born in Guadalajara, Mexico on November 30, 1978.  Bernal studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London.  Bernal is a star in Mexican and Spanish cinema; his starring roles in Hollywood films include “The Motorcycle Diaries”, “Babel”, and “Letters to Juliet”.  Bernal has produced a series of documentaries on the dangers endured by Central American migrants traveling through Mexico to the US.  Titled “The Invisibles”, Bernal was awarded the 2011 Human Rights Award from the Washington Office on Latin America for these films.  (Please see September 15, 2011 for details.)

Happy Birthday to Big Papi

Happy Birthday to Big Papi, as Major League Baseball player David Américo Ortiz Arias is known.  Born in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, Ortiz was encouraged by his father to play baseball and learn English.  His father’s intuition was correct, and Ortiz is regarded as one of the top clutch hitters in MLB history.  (A “clutch hitter” is the guy who is relied on, and delivers, the big, game-deciding hits.)  In 2005, Big Papi helped to lead the Boston Red Sox to their first World Series victory in 86 years.  Although Big Papi has played with injuries, in July 2012 he hit his 400th career home run.  In 2007, Big Papi formed the David Ortiz Children’s Fund, to assist children in need.

“Los Four” opened at the University of California

An art exhibition created by “Los Four” opened at the University of California at Irvine on November 10, 1973.  The four Latino/Chicano artists were Carlos Almaraz, Roberto de la Rocha, Gilbert Sanchez Lujan and Frank Edward Romero.   The art and photography of these bicultural artists explores themes that range from family and childhood to political and historical, and of coming of age in the Latino barrios in Los Angeles and Chicago.  (Image from the Smithsonian Archives of American Artists.)

Happy Birthday to Sammy Sosa

Happy Birthday to Major League Baseball (MLB) star Sammy Sosa, born on November 12, 1968 in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic.  His father died when he was a child, and Sousa worked selling oranges and shining shoes to help support his mother and siblings.  At age 16, he negotiated a $3,500 signing bonus with the Texas Rangers; he bought his first bicycle and gave the rest of his money to his mother.  In 1992, Sosa started his long run with the Chicago Cubs, and was the first player in team history to chalk up 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in the same season.  A loyal, family-centered man, he established a ritual touching his heart and kissing two fingers as he approached the plate to honor peace, love, and the two women in his life, his mother and wife. In 1997, Sosa founded the Sammy Sosa Foundation to aid underprivileged youngsters in the Dominican Republic and Chicago. (Image by Sports Illustrated)

The Annual Deb Star Ball 1964

Many beautiful, talented women have debuted at the annual Deb Star Ball at the Hollywood Palladium, including Latina actress Jo-Raquel Tejada.  Raquel Welch, as she later became known, graced the Palladium dance floor on 21 November 1964.  Tejada’s father was a Bolivian engineer and her mother was of English and Scottish heritage.  Tejada was born in Chicago, Illinois.  The stunningly beautiful actress starred in a number of Hollywood hits, including “One Million BC”, “Three Musketeers”, and “Myra Breckinridge”.  She hosted her own television variety show, “Raquel!”, and starred in a Broadway production of “Woman of the Year”.  (Image — Raquel is front row, center)

Happy Birthday to Graciela (Chela) Quintana

Happy Birthday to Graciela (Chela) Quintana, the first Venezuelan woman to win a professional golf tournament in the US.  Quintana won the Morgan Town Classic in 1992.  She won the Venezuelan Amateur Championship eight times, and was a tour player on the US-based LPGA and the European and Futures circuits.  Injuries curtailed her career, and she returned to Venezuela where she established a foundation to give underprivileged children a chance to learn and excel at the sport of golf.

The time of the Trujillo dictatorship

The time of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic was years of tears, blood, torture and murder.  Over 50,000 people were killed during his 30 year reign of terror.  Among the few courageous souls who opposed the brutal regime were the four Mirabel sisters.  The sisters were from a comfortable, upper class family, and had much to lose and little to gain for their political activism.  On November 25, 1960, three of the sisters paid the ultimate price, and were savagely beaten to death on a lonely country road.  To commemorate their heroism, and that of other revolutionary women, the United Nations designated November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.  Their heroic story was also honored in the book and film, “In the Time of Butterflies”.

Happy Birthday to Elizabeth Avellán Veloz

Happy Birthday to Elizabeth Avellán Veloz, an American film producer born in Caracas, Venezuela on November 8, 1960.  Her family moved to Houston when she was a child, and Avellán attended Rice University.  A leader of the film production scene in Texas Hollywood (the city of Austin), Avellán was a co-founder of Troublemaker Studios.  With Troublemaker, Avellán produced a string of blockbuster films that included “Sin City,” the “Spy Kids” trilogy and “Desperado”.  Avellán likens her production work to her other starring role as the mother of six children, “I’m the one who tells people, ‘Yes, you can do that,’ or ‘No, we don’t have money for that. It’s a lot like being a mother.”

Alicia Armendariz, Musician and Singer

Happy Birthday to musician and singer Alicia Armendariz, one of the first women in California’s punk music scene to star as the lead singer of a punk rock group.  Known professionally as Alicia Bag, Armendariz was born in East Los Angeles, California; her parents were Mexican immigrants.  Her musical expression is described as “estilo bravio” by the Smithsonian, which “permitted women to vocalize in a bold, brash, unapologetic and rough style”. In her 2011 memoir, “Violence Girl: East L.A. Rage to Hollywood Stage, A Chicana Punk Story”, she describes her difficult relationship with her parents, family trips to visit Mexico City, and life of a young Chicana woman in the 1970s.  Please visit the Smithsonian Institution’s www.AmericanSabor.org program for more on Alicia.

Norma Cantú, Lawyer, Educator, Social Activist

Happy Birthday to educator, lawyer, social activist and politico Norma Cantú, born on November 2, 1954 in Brownsville, Texas.  Cantú earned a double major BA from the University of Texas and then a law degree from Harvard by age 22.  She worked as an attorney with MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund).  In 1993 President Bill Clinton appointed her as assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department of Education.  Since 2001, Cantú has taught law and education at the University of Texas. Cantú is dedicated to social justice and education; as she once stated, “I believe a future with equal opportunity is inevitable, and my job is to make the inevitable happen faster.”

Happy Birthday to Lorraine Garcia-Nakata

Happy Birthday to artist, art professor, and museum director Lorraine Garcia-Nakata, born in Yuba City, California, on November 14, 1950. Garcia- Nakata’s grandparents immigrated to the US in 1914 during the Mexican Revolution.  Garcia-Nakata has served the American public and the arts for over 30 years.  Her professional roles include Commissioner with the San Francisco Arts Commission, publisher and Executive Director of the Children’s Book Press, Executive Director of The Mexican Museum in San Francisco, and program director of Arts-in-Corrections, San Quentin State Prison.  When asked for her advice for Latino youngsters, she said, “When you are thinking in terms of a career, don’t base your choice on what seems to be practical now, at the moment. Remember that the world changes. Just base your career choices on what you really aspire to do. Do what you truly choose to do. Follow your gifts.”

Happy Birthday to Richard Carmona

Happy Birthday to an officer and a gentleman, and a doctor, Richard Carmona.  Carmona was raised in Spanish Harlem, and dropped out of high school.  He joined the US Army, where he earned his GED high school equivalency.  His Army career included service in the Vietnam War, and he was honored with numerous awards for valor, including two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star.   The former high school dropout returned to school, and achieved a BA and MD from the University of California and an MA in public health from the University of Arizona.  In 2002, as the nation was recovering from the shock of the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush appointed Carmona as US Surgeon General.

Happy Birthday to Bill Richardson

Happy birthday to Congressman, Governor, college instructor, diplomat, and baseball player Bill Richardson, born in Pasadena, California on November 15, 1947.  His mother was of Mexican heritage, and he spent his early years with his family in Mexico City.  Richardson graduated from Tufts University with a BA and an MA.  Richardson’s career has been in public service.  In 1982 he was elected to Congress to represent New Mexico, and later was elected as Governor. He also served as Secretary of the Department of Energy and as US Ambassador to the United Nations. His diplomatic missions have taken him to a number of global hot spots, including North Korea, Burma, and Haiti.

Happy Birthday to Daniel Ortega Saavedra

Happy Birthday to Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega Saavedra, born in La Libertad, Nicaragua, on November 11, 1945. Ortega’s father was a citizen-soldier for of Augusto Cesar Sandino, after whom the Sandinistas are named.  Ortega has a lengthy career in public service, starting as a citizen-soldier leader against the US-backed Somoza dictatorship.  He was a central Latin American protagonist in the Cold War who helped lead the 1979 Nicaraguan revolution.  Under Ortega’s leadership, the Nicaraguans fought a long civil war against the Contras, a rebel group funded by the US government during the administration of President Ronald Reagan.  About 50,000 Nicaraguans died during this civil war.  Ortega was elected President of Nicaragua in 1984 and again in 2006, and he remains in office as of this digital copy.

Lucille Ball marries Cuban band leader Desi Arnaz

For better or for worse, Lucille Ball married Cuban band leader Desi Arnaz on November 30, 1940.  The two met while filming in Hollywood.  Their marriage was tempestuous and plagued by Desi’s problems with alcoholism and philandering.  His travel schedule did not help matters either.  To save their marriage and spend more time together, the couple embarked on a sitcom that they pitched to skeptical television executives.  They borrowed $5,000 to start Desilu Productions in 1951.  The show, “I Love Lucy”, became one of the most popular in television history.  Their marriage ended in 1960.

Happy Birthday to Manlio Argueta

Happy Birthday to novelist, political activist, poet and publisher Manlio Argueta, born on November 24, 1936 in San Miguel, El Salvador.  Argueta studied literature and law at the national University of El Salvador, and is internationally known for his chronicling of the brutal civil war in El Salvador through his literary works.  In 1972, Argueta had to flee El Salvador when the national army intervened at the university and his award winning novel, “Un día en la vida” (“One Day of Life”) was banned.  He continued his work in exile in Costa Rica. Argueta has returned to El Salvador, and now directs the National Library of El Salvador and continues his social activism and writing.   In an interview in the Village Voice in 1987, Argueta spoke of his fellow citizens as, “The poor in El Salvador are the majority, and they are the heirs of Mesoamerican culture, which was once so powerful. They remain on the fringes, but they are impossible to destroy.”  (Image from www.ManlioArgueta.com)

Happy Birthday to Leandro Barbieri

Happy Birthday to musician and composer Leandro Barbieri, born on November 28, 1934 in Rosario, Argentina.  Barbieri began piano lessons at age 12, and his internationally successful career ignited when he switched to tenor sax.  Known as “Gato” (“The Cat”), his Latin Jazz style evolved as he played in Argentina, Italy and the US.  His breakout composition was the score for the slightly scandalous film “Last Tango in Paris”.  He refined and reinvented his style throughout the 1970s and 1980s.  Barbieri was renowned in the 1990s for his “smooth jazz” with a Latin rhythm, and he released the successful album, “Que Pasa?” in 1997.  Barbieri continues to inspire musicians and fans, and is still playing at age 80.  Please check his web site for details of his 2013 Tour http://www.GatoBarbieriMusic.com

Tina Ramirez, Ballet Hispanico

Happy Birthday to Tina Ramirez, who danced into the world on November 7, 1933 in Venezuela. Her father was a Mexican bullfighter and her Puerto Rican great aunt founded the island’s first secular school for girls.  A teacher, artist, and social entrepreneur, Ramirez founded the dance company and school Ballet Hispanico in 1970  For Ramirez, dance is “not only an art form but a source of self-esteem, cultural awareness, and social mobility”.   For over 30 years, the company has dazzled audiences throughout the world, and educated and nurtured tens of thousands of children.  An inspiring video tribute to Tina Ramirez is at Dance USA/ Tina Ramirez.

Santiago Iglesias Pantín Iglesias, Resident Commissioner

Santiago Iglesias Pantín Iglesias was elected to a four-year term as Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner to the US House of Representatives on November 8, 1932.  Born in La Coruña, Spain in 1872, he later immigrated to Cuba.   He spent seven years organizing the labor movement, was forced to flee from Cuba due to his support of the Cuban revolutionary movement.   He boarded a ship for England, but instead disembarked in Puerto Rico.  After starting a newspaper that advocated the rights of working class people in Puerto Rico, he was imprisoned.  When US forces arrived at the end of the Spanish American War, Iglesias and other political prisoners were freed.   Iglesias continued his career in the labor movement, and organized Puerto Rico’s first major Socialist party.  Iglesias was a strong advocate of statehood for Puerto Rico.  After his 1932 election, he continued his public service to improve the lives of Puerto Ricans.  Iglesias died in office in 1939.

Hispanic Help Creating Coca-Cola

One of the most successful Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) at Coca-Cola, an iconic American company, was Cuban immigrant Roberto Crispulo Goizueta.  Born in Havana, Cuba, on November 18, 1931, Goizueta earned a BS in chemical engineering at Yale University.  He returned to Cuba and started as a production supervisor for Coke plants.  He immigrated to the US and continued with Coke, working his way up to become CEO.  During his tenure, he revitalized the company and increased its value by almost $150 billion.  Goizueta became one of the wealthiest Hispanic Americans in the country, and started the Goizueta Foundation, which continues after his death.  The Foundation’s motto is, “Educate yourself.  Educate each other.  Educate the world.” (Image from Goizueta Foundation by Chip Simone)

Colombian Workers Strike against the United Fruit Company

The sharp burst of rifles tore through the assembled crowd, and Colombian workers screamed and fell as hot lead bullets ripped through them.  The workers were striking in the central square of the town of Ciénaga, Colombia, against the United Fruit Company, a US corporation.  The troops that fired were from the Colombian Army.  Colombian populist Congressman Jorge Eliécer Gaitán claimed that the army acted under instructions from the United Fruit Company.  The ensuing political scandal forced the Colombian conservative party out of office, and Gaitán continued to campaign for workers’ rights.

Happy birthday to Saturnino Orestes Armas “Minnie” Miñoso Arrieta

Happy birthday to Major League Baseball (MLB) star Saturnino Orestes Armas “Minnie” Miñoso Arrieta, born November 29, 1925 in Havana, Cuba.  Minnie began his MLB career in 1949 with the Cleveland Indians.   Minnie’s courageous life included several significant “firsts”:  the first Latino of African heritage to play in the major leagues and the first African American player in White Sox history.  In the early 21st century, Minnie came out of retirement and made history once again as the only player in the MLB to play professional baseball in seven different decades.  Minnie was a favorite of his fans and his teammates, playing his well-loved sport with heart and spirit.

The First Bond Girl

Among the Hispanics that you didn’t know were Hispanic is Linda Christian, the first Bond girl.  That’s Bond, as in James Bond.  Christian, whose given name was Blanca Rosa Welter, was born in Tampico, Mexico on November 13, 1923.  Her life story could have been written by an imaginative screenwriter.  Christian’s aspiration as a youth was to become a physician, but Hollywood megastar Errol Flynn convinced her to abandon her humanitarian aspirations for the bright lights of Los Angeles. After a romance with Flynn, Christian eventually married another Hollywood heartthrob, Tyrone Power, the first of her three husbands.  Christian starred in the first screen production of a Bond novel, a television production of “Casino Royale”.  She appeared in an Alfred Hitchcock film, and with the strong/silent Johnny Weissmuller in “Tarzan and the Mermaids”.  (Mermaids in the jungle? Who knew?)  A stunningly beautiful woman, she was nicknamed the “anatomic bomb” in a profile by Life magazine (the celebrity precursor to People magazine).


The Mark of Zorro

The iconic mark of “Z” was first slashed on North American movie screens on November 27, 1920, with the release of the Hollywood film, “The Mark of Zorro”.  The mythic tale stars a mysterious masked hero who defends the poor and exploited against the rich and oppressive (99% versus 1%).  Flashing his sword, swirling his cape, and always narrowly escaping on his faithful horse, Zorro inevitably triumphs without revealing his identity, and lives to fight another day.  Hollywood megastar Douglas Fairbanks starred in this first screen version, and Hollywood actually managed to cast a Latino actor, Antonio Banderas, for the 1998 version.  Ole!

Ricardo Gonzalo Pedro Montalbán y Merino Happy Birthday

One of Hollywood’s leading men of the 20th century, Ricardo Gonzalo Pedro Montalbán y Merino, was born on November 25, 1920, in Mexico City, Mexico.  Montalbán entertained audiences across the Americas.  In the US, his most famous appearances were as Mr. Roarke in the TV series “Fantasy Island” and as a truly evil illegal alien in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”.  For decades, Montalbán was the Go-To Guy for ethnic roles in Hollywood, and he was cast as an American Indian, Babylonian, Brazilian, Cuban, and occasionally, even as a Mexican.  Montalbán was deeply committed to improving the image of Latinos in the media, and he supported the activist organization, Nosotros.

Martial Law in the Dominican Republic

The US military declared martial law for the Dominican Republic on November 29, 1916, during the US invasion and occupation of the island.  The Marines landed to “protect American interests”, which meant the island’s proximity to the Panama Canal.  (The Panama Canal opened in 1914 with substantial financial investment from the US, along with a few invasions and support for revolutions.)  The Marine forces continued to occupy the sovereign nation until 1924.  In the official history of the event, no mention is made as to whether the US Marines ever obtained proper documents or visas from the Dominican immigration authorities. (Image of book cover)


US Leaves Mexico

On November 23, 1914, undocumented and uninvited US forces finally withdrew from Veracruz, Mexico, which they invaded and occupied for seven months.  From the Mexican point of view, the US is usually very nonchalant about crossing the border into Mexico, and this invasion spurred by the Tampico Affair was another example.  After Mexican authorities arrested American naval personnel who were in their territory, the US demanded an apology, and much more.  The US also demanded that the Mexican Army give the US a 21-gun salute and raise the US flag on Mexican soil.  Um, guess what happened next?  The Mexican commanding general released the US sailors and gave a written apology, but refused the salute and the flag ceremony.  From the US perspective, this incident was a perfectly justifiable reason to invade a sovereign nation.  (No, really, we do not make this stuff up.)  A huge convoy of US warships was soon dispatched and the invasion commenced.   (Image of US Navy ships surrounding Veracruz, Mexico)

Happy Birthday to Albert Vinicio Baez

The brilliant physicist, educator, and researcher Albert Vinicio Baez was born in Puebla, Mexico on November 15, 1912.  Baez earned an MS from Drew University and a Ph D from Stanford.  Baez taught and conducted research at a number of prestigious institutions including MIT, Harvard, the University of California-Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science, the Algerian Institute of Electricity and Electronics and the National Polytechnic Institute of Mexico.  Baez, the son of a Methodist minister and a Quaker, inspired the social activism of his daughters, two of whom were singers Joan Baez and Mimi Fariña.  He chaired the Commission on Education of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources for four years and founded Vivamos Mejor/USA to support education and economic development in rural Mexico.

Libertad Lamarque

At the height of her luminous career, Libertad Lamarque was hailed by the London press as “the second biggest export from South America, the first being Carmen Miranda….” Lamarque was born in Rosario, Argentina, on November 24, 1908, and made her first appearance on stage at age 8.  She became a star of the silent silver screen, but turned down contracts with big name Hollywood studios in 1940.  Even without the Hollywood studios, Lamarque starred in more than 60 motion pictures and sang on 2,000 recordings.  She performed on stage and television in South America and the US. Her alchemic music comprised soulful tangos, boleros, waltzes, milongas, and Mexican rancheras, and influenced many of our contemporary music performers. Lamarque loved to entertain her audiences; a month before her death at age 92 she said, “I’ll work forever.  As long as I have a good pulse to put my make-up on, I’ll keep working.”

President Theodore Roosevelt and the Panama Canal

President Theodore Roosevelt was keenly interested in Latin America — usually to advance US expansion and influence in the region.  As a young cavalry officer, Roosevelt fought in the Spanish American War in Cuba. He actively supported the Panamanian Revolution against Colombia, which “coincidentally” succeeded in 1904 during his administration (1901-1909).  A treaty with the new nation of Panama enabled Roosevelt and US business interests to proceed with construction of the Panama Canal.  Roosevelt was a hands-on guy, and traveled to Panama to review the construction.  In this image from the Library of Congress taken on November 26, 1906, Roosevelt is operating an American steam-shovel at Culebra Cut, a major construction milestone in the building of the canal.

The Death of José Francisco Chaves

An assassin’s bullet finally stopped the great heart of José Francisco Chaves on November 26, 1904.  Chaves was born in 1833 in Los Padillas, Mexico (now Albuquerque, New Mexico).  He began his education in Mexico and studied at St. Louis University and at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City.  A doctor, businessman, soldier, rancher, and lawyer, Chaves was a leading political figure in the Republican Party and the state of New Mexico.  He was a passionate advocate of statehood, and a dedicated public servant who worked as district attorney, Congressional representative, state legislator, superintendent for education, and official state historian.  His assassin was never found.

US Invades Panama, 1903 to 1914

What would a revolution in South America be without the arrival of undocumented and uninvited US Marines from North America?  With keen geopolitical interest in the Panama Canal, the US and President Theodore Roosevelt were determined to protect the Panamanian Revolution that started the previous day.  US Marines landed on November 4, and were stationed on the Isthmus from November 4, 1903, to January 21, 1914 to “guard American interests”.  After the Panama Canal opened in August 1914, the US continued a heavy military presence in the Canal Zone until Panamanian General Omar Torrijos renegotiated the Treaty in 1977.  (Please see more on Torrijos and the Canal on October 11.)

Independence Day in Panama

On November 3, 1903, the newly formed nation of Panama declared its independence from Colombia, to which it belonged in the period after independence from Spain.   The Panamanian revolution was heavily aided by US interests, which were determined to seize the territory from the Colombian government to build the Panamanian Canal.  Shortly after Panama declared independence, the nation’s founders signed the Hay/Bunau-Varilla Treaty with the United States.  The treaty granted sovereign rights to the US for the strategic canal zone in perpetuity (meaning no expiration date).  The Panamanian Revolution of 1903 occurred during a period of rapid US expansion, after Spain’s defeat and the loss of territory in the Spanish American War (1898).  The North Americans quickly moved in with builders and bulldozers, and continued construction of the valuable canal in 1904. The event is now celebrated as Independence Day in Panama.  (Image from www.LonelyPlanet.com)

US Forces Invade Colombia 1901

Uninvited and undocumented US forces landed in Colombia on November 20, 1901, and remained until December 4.  The US forces were “protecting American property” in the Isthmus of Panama, which was then part of the Colombian nation.  The troops kept the railway transit lines open during “serious revolutionary disturbances”.  (Image from Library of Congress collection, political cartoon of business interests dictating to Uncle Sam.)

A War Hero’s Memory

As gunpowder and bullets burnt through the humid air in the tropics of the Philippines, Hispanic-American war hero Maximiliano Luna was killed in action.  Luna was fighting with the American “Rough Riders” led by Theodore Roosevelt in the Spanish American War (1898).  Luna was a native of New Mexico; his ancestors settled there in 1650.  He was a graduate of Georgetown University, and served as the Speaker of the House of Representatives for the Territory of New Mexico.   At the time of his death, he was a Captain for Troop F of the “Rough Riders”, and was 38 years old. Luna was the first Latino war hero to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC.

José Iturbi, Musician

José Iturbi’s elegant piano music filled concert halls throughout Europe, South America, and the US, and he was one of the few musicians to popularize classical music in Hollywood.  Iturbi was born in Valencia, Spain, on November 28, 1895.  He began taking piano lessons at age 4.  Within three years he was studying at the Conservatorio de Música in Valencia and working as a child star playing piano for silent movies.  A local journalist galvanized the citizens of Valencia to raise funds for him to study music in Paris when he was 13.  After Paris, Iturbi immigrated to the US and became a citizen in 1943.  During World War II, he enthusiastically supported his new homeland by enrolling in the Civilian Air Patrol and performing for war bond drives.  Iturbi’s next frontier was Hollywood, where he became a highly successful composer and was featured in a number of films.

José Clemente Orozco

The rich, complex murals of artist José Clemente Orozco grace the walls of respected institutions throughout the Americas.  Orozco was born in Jalisco, Mexico, on November 23, 1883.  Orozco faced numerous hardships in his passionate pursuit of art.  A gunpowder explosion in his youth destroyed part of his left hand and wrist, and partially blinded him.  While establishing himself as an artist, he endured financial difficulties and misunderstanding.  In 1917, when he traveled to North America for the first time, the US Customs Service seized his work as indecent – his wrenching, realistic scenes of war, injustice, tyranny, and desperation were ahead of their time.  Orozco achieved recognition later in his life. One of his most famous works is in New Hampshire, in Dartmouth College’s Baker Memorial Library.  He painted “The Epic of American Civilization” while at Dartmouth from 1932 to 1934.  The mural covers 3,200 square feet and displays the history of the Americas from the migration of the Aztecs into central Mexico to the development of modern industrialized society.

Carlos Saavedra Lamas, Noble Peace Prize Winner

Carlos Saavedra Lamas, an Argentine diplomat, scholar, and Noble Peace Prize winner, was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on November 1, 1878.  During the Great Depression and the regional conflicts within South America, he worked as a peacemaker.  He served as Argentina’s Foreign Minister, as President of the Assembly of the League of Nations, and as Mediator in a conflict between Paraguay and Bolivia.  His relationship with the US was turbulent, as are many government-to-government relations between the US and South American nations.  However, he was able to work with the US in resolving the Gran Chaco War (1932-1935) and was supported by the US Secretary of State for the Nobel Peace Prize of 1936.  Saavedra was a pioneer of labor law, and he devoted some of his Nobel acceptance speech to labor issues, “Unemployment is a great tragedy. The man who goes about hopelessly seeking work in order to earn bread for his children is a living reproach to civilization. Economic conditions, however, arise out of facts, and the dislocation of interchange, national selfishness, the barriers and obstacles which the blindness of man places in the path of international commerce are contrary to nature, which, recognizing the unequal distribution of wealth and the diversity of its regional distribution, has sought to establish a means for the interchange of products.”

US Troops invade Uruguay 1855

As noted earlier this month, what would a revolution in South America be without the arrival of undocumented and uninvited North American troops?  US and European naval forces landed in Montevideo, Uruguay, on November 25, 1855, during a battle between insurgents and Uruguayan government troops.  Approximately 100 undocumented US troops stayed until November 29, occupying the customs house in the port city.

Santos Benavides, Texas Cavalry Captain, 1823

Latino soldiers fought on both sides in America’s greatest internal conflict, the Civil War (1861 – 1865).  Among the Confederate officers was Santos Benavides, born on November 1, 1823 in in Laredo, Texas.  Benavides was the great-great- grandson of the founder of Laredo.  Benavides was commissioned a captain in the Thirty-third Texas Cavalry and was the highest ranking Tejano (Texan-Mexican-American) in the Confederate Army.  After the war, Benavides continued to served his Texas homeland.  He was elected to three terms in the Texas legislature and twice as an alderman of Laredo.

A Hero’s Downfall

As the firing squad readied their guns, one woman stood defiantly among the eight rebels kneeling in the central plaza of Bogota, Colombia, calmly waiting for her death.  Policarpa Salavarrieta was one of the revolutionary leaders in Colombia’s wars of independence against Spain.  La Pola, as she was known, worked with her brothers to organize a highly effective underground resistance movement.  She gathered intelligence to aid the rebel fighters, and recruited other Colombians to the movement.  Her activities were discovered by the Spanish colonists, and La Pola was executed on November 14, 1817.  She refused to kneel in front of the firing squad, and as she stood, her last words reportedly were, “I have more than enough courage to suffer this death and a thousand more. Do not forget my example.”  In commemoration of her heroism, November 17 is celebrated in Colombia as the “Day of the Colombian Woman”.

Independence Day in El Salvador

The church bells of La Merced in San Salvador, the capital of the nation El Salvador, rang out for freedom on November 5, 1811.  Salvadoran priest and doctor José Matías Delgado sparked this 1811 Independence Movement from Spain.  The rebels held power for a few months, but were soon defeated.  In 1814, the rebels began their resistance again and eventually succeeded in winning their independence from Spain.  November 5 is now celebrated as the first call for the independence of Central America.

Happy Birthday to Félix Varela y Morales

Félix Varela y Morales was an educator, priest, social activist, writer and publisher.  He was born in Havana, Cuba, on November 20, 1787.  He was educated in Saint Augustine, Florida, when it was still under Spanish rule.  As a social reformer, Varela’s beliefs were far advanced for his era; he opposed both slavery and the monarchy.  As a result of these radical liberal views, he had to flee Cuba, and lived in exile in the US for about 30 years.  In New York, he founded three religious schools, two churches, and a hospital.  A brilliant intellectual and educator, he promoted the ideals of democracy, and translated US President Thomas Jefferson’s “Manual of Parliamentary Practice” into Spanish.  After his death, Varela received a truly American honor, with a commemorative postage stamp.

Founding of San Jose 1777

Do you know the way to San José?  Spanish explorers and settlers certainly did, and they founded the city on November 29, 1777. José Joaquín de la Santísima Trinidad Moraga, who was born in the area of the Spanish empire now known as Arizona, led the expedition.  San José was Spain’s first civilian and secular settlement in California, meaning that it was not part of a military expedition or a mission.  San José was a village of farmers that provided agricultural produce for the larger Spanish settlements nearby.  San José is now the 10th most populous city in the US, and is the center of technology leadership at Silicon Valley.  (Image: map of the city in 1781 from the Pueblo papers)

The Dollar / Peso 1776

The Spanish empire and its economy dominated the Americas in the late 18th century, and the Spanish peso was the premier currency in the rebellious North American colonies.  The Spanish peso was so widely used that even the British paid their soldiers in the colonies in Spanish pesos.  The US Congress instituted the Continental dollar in May of the previous year (1775), and provided that the notes would be payable in “Spanish Miller Dollars or the value thereof in gold and silver.”  As the American Revolutionary War progressed, the Continental dollar hyper-inflated and rapidly lost value.   In November of 1776, Congress adopted the Spanish peso as their unit of currency. (Please visit www.OurAmericanHistory.com for more information on the contribution of the Spanish and Latinos to the American Revolutionary War.)

Mission of San Juan Capistrano, 1776

The rustle of swallows’ wings and their soft songs have graced the area now known as San Juan Capistrano since all of our times began.  The region was initially settled by the Native Americans.  The Spanish arrived in 1775, and founded the Mission of San Juan Capistrano on November 1, 1776.  This mission was the 7th of 21 missions established by the Spanish across California.  In 1821, the area was under rule by the Mexican government.  The territory changed hands again in 1848 after the Mexican-American War, and the US took control. The mission was in a period of decline until President Abraham Lincoln returned it to the Catholic community, who restored the mission to its present beautiful state.  And each year, regardless of wars or governments or ownership, the swallows faithfully return.

Happy Birthday Junipero Serra

Junipero Serra, the zealous Spanish priest whose influence on California’s history and architecture continues to this day, was born on November 24, 1713 in Majorca, Spain.  As a missionary in North America, Serra founded a total of nine missions from San Diego to San Francisco, forming the base of 21 missions throughout California.  He often clashed with the Spanish military and colonial administrators, given his stance to protect the Native Americans.  In 1780, when Spain declared war on the British during the American Revolutionary War, Serra cheered for the North American rebels, “We prayed fervently last evening for the success of the colonists under George Washington, because we believe their cause is just and that the Great Redeemer is on their side.”  (Image of the statue of Junipero Serra in the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC)

Sebastián Vizcaíno and His Discovery

Surf was up!  It was a beautiful sunny day in San Diego, on November 10, 1602, as Spanish explorer Sebastián Vizcaíno (1548 – 1624) sailed through the waves into the gorgeous bay.  Vizcaíno was an accomplished globetrotter, and traveled to Europe, the Philippines, Japan, Mexico and South America — an impressive record in the early 17th century.   On that trip through San Diego and up the California Coast, he also named (and in some cases renamed) prominent geographical features, including Point Lobos, Sierra Point, Monterey Bay, and Carmel Valley.  An observant voyager, he noted ecological wonders such as the wind-swept cypress trees at Monterey Bay, some of which have stood quietly watching travelers for 2,000 years.  (Image by Avalon Travel.)

Fall of the Incan Empire

It was a tragic day in the history of the powerful, sophisticated Incan empire, as their emperor was captured and the conquest of their empire began.  The Spanish termed the encounter on November 16, 1532 as the “Battle of Cajamarca”.  From the Incan perspective, noting that the Incans who met with the Spanish were unarmed, this was the day of a massacre.  The Incans, thinking that they were to attend a meeting with the Spanish, were massed in the town square.  Acting on a pre-arranged signal, the Spanish opened fire with canons and charged on horseback.  The Incans were defeated by gunpowder, steel, and horses, and their emperor was captured, beginning the long, deadly conquest.

Tenochtitlan / Mexico City 1511

Spanish conquistador (invader) Hernán Cortés and his small troop of soldiers first approached Tenochtitlan, the island capital of the Aztecs, on November 8, 1511.  As one of his soldiers, Bernal Diaz, wrote, “…we saw so many cities and villages built in the water and other great towns on dry land and that straight and level Causeway going towards Mexico, we were amazed and said that it was like the enchantments they tell of in the legend of Amadis, on account of the great towers and temples and buildings rising from the water, all built of masonry.  And some of our soldiers asked whether the things that we saw were not a dream.”   In 1511, an estimated 250,000 to 350,000 people lived in Tenochititlan and its suburb Tlatelolco, which was five times the population of London at that time.  The Aztecs were ultimately defeated not by the strife within Mexico or by the guns and swords of the Spanish soldiers, but primarily by the smallpox germs carried by one of the Spanish slaves.

The Invasion Continues 1493

The Spanish continued to finance and support Christopher Columbus’ voyages, and on November 19, 1493, Colombus landed on the island of Borinquen, as it was titled by the Taino nation who resided there.  Most of the Taino nation died from diseases brought by the Europeans, though a number of Taino people survived in the Cordillera Central area of the island.   Puerto Rico, or Rich Port, as the island was later renamed, remained under Spanish rule until the Spanish-American War (1898).  It then became part of the US, and is currently a US Commonwealth.  In 2012, a majority of Puerto Ricans, who are US citizens, voted on a referendum to affirm their preference to become the 51st state of the US.  (Image from the National Museum of the American Indian by Marisol Villanueva, of a Taino family in Puerto Rico in 1999)


Mayan King

Butz’an Sak Chiik, the third king of the Mayan city state of Palenque, Mexico, was born on 12 Ahaw 13 Sak in the Mayan long count calendar, or November 14, 459 in the Western Calendar.  The panel in the image was carved in the 7th century to commemorate a dedication ritual performed by Chiik in 490. The king’s name translates as “Smoking White/Resplendent Coati (a coati is the South American relative of the North American raccoon).  (Photo by Joel Skidmore, online publication, “The Rulers of Palenque: A Beginner’s Guide.”)