The United States is a melting pot -- a stew concocted from different flavors found around the world; a dish made to be savored. And Hispanic Heritage Month is a time when the country celebrates one of those ingredients: Latin flavor. So what's there to celebrate?

How about the answer to a prehistoric mystery, an 'America's pastime' legend, or simply the tortillas or arroz y habichuelas that await you back home?

Latinos have done many things throughout American history and this is the time to celebrate them en grande! The slideshow below is but a place to start, a short list of some of the top Hispanic contributions. Think we missed one that you're particularly proud of? Let us know in the comments!

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  • 18 Geniuses

    The MacArthur Fellows Program, <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/1997-06-17/news/mn-4187_1_genius-grants" target="_hplink">nicknamed the "Genius Grant,"</a> is given to U.S. citizens and residents that<a href="http://www.macfound.org/programs/fellows/" target="_hplink"> "show exceptional merit and promise of continued creative work."</a> In other words, these individuals are awarded funds not based on their past merits but because they are likely to contribute to the world in a positive way in the future. Currently, 18 Hispanics have received the coveted grant including writer Sandra Cisneros (pictured), cuban-born anthropologist Ruth Behar, and playwright Luis Alfaro. <a href="http://www.sandracisneros.com/macarturos_bios.php" target="_hplink">Check out the full list of these 'MacArturos' and their impressive resumes.</a>

  • Salsa Music

    Of course Salsa originates from Cuban rhythms like son and rumba (among others) fused with Puerto Rican, Colombian beats. But the truth is that <a href="http://www.thelatinworld.nl/salsahistory-english.html" target="_hplink">the term "salsa" was born in New York during the 1970's,</a> where Latin American immigrants and musicians came together and brewed this new collective sound that has evolved through the decades. From "nuyorican" Willie Colon to cuban legend Celia Cruz up to present day salsa stars like Marc Anthony -- the genre continues to <em>play</em> an important role in the American music industry. Pun intended. Photo shows: Some of the greatest salsa musicians ever, members of the <a href="http://www.fania.com/content/fania-all-stars">Fania All-Stars</a>, including Yomo Toro, Roberto Roena, Papo Lucca, Adalberto Santiago, Johnny Pacheco, Reynaldo Jorge, Ismael Miranda, Puchi Boulong, Luigi Texidor, Leopoldo Pineda, Hector Lavoe, Ruben Blades, Celia Cruz, Cheo Feliciano and Pete 'El Conde' Rodriguez.

  • Helped Prevent World War III

    The tension of the Cold War came to a climax during the October 1962 "Cuban Missile Crisis" -- an event that could have very well led to nuclear war. That's when Puerto Rico-born Vice Admiral Horacio Rivero came (or navigated) into the scene. On October 15, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2000/09/28/us/adm-horacio-rivero-jr-90-vice-chief-of-naval-operations.html" target="_hplink">Rivero was given command of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet's amphibious force</a>, which helped set up the naval blockade in the Caribbean. Rivero's long career with the U.S. Navy included rising to be the first-Hispanic four-Star Admiral, and serving as the NATO Commander In Chief of Southern Europe and as U.S. Ambassador to Spain during the Nixon administration.

  • What happened to the Dinosaurs?

    That's right, Hispanics are behind the extinction of dinosaurs -- well, the theory actually. <strong>The Alvarez Hypothesis</strong> In 1980, physicist Luis Alvarez and his son, geologist Walter Alvarez, (both of Spanish descent) teamed up on an expedition to Italy, where they found a layers of sedimentary rock with high levels of iridium. Long story short, the father-son duo came up with the <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/do80di.html" target="_hplink">theory that 65 million years ago an asteroid hit earth and brought about the end of the "terrible lizards"</a>! Now just think how different your sixth-grade science class would have been if the Alvarez family hadn't answered the giant question on everyone's mind: What happened to the Dinosaurs? <em><strong>CORRECTION: A previous version of this slide referred to Dinosaurs as "giant lizards" when in fact the <a href="http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=dinosaur" target="_hplink">term's etymology depicts them as "terrible lizards."</a> </strong></em>

  • Greatest Hitter Of All Time

    Yes, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/10/25-celebrities-you-didnt-know-were-latino_n_1739113.html" target="_hplink">Ted Williams was Hispanic</a>. Williams' mother was Mexican, but truth be told he <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/26/sports/baseball/26latino.html?_r=1" target="_hplink">wasn't very vocal about his heritage.</a> <a href="http://tedwilliams.com/index.php?page=hfame&level=1" target="_hplink">As the Baseball Hall Of Fame best put it: </a> "[Williams'] 521 Home Runs place him 4th on the all time list. There are many who insist that Ted Williams ranks with Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb as the greatest hitters who ever lived. While Ted's life-time figures are taught by only a few, there is no telling to what heights those figures would have reached had he not given nearly 5 full years of his baseball career to the US Marines." A legendary baseball player and a U.S. Marine... need we say more?

  • Latin American Cuisine

    The brand that brings you all your Latin American guilty pleasures--otherwise nearly impossible to find in the United States--Goya Foods is the largest hispanic owned food company in the United States. What started as a small Lower Manhattan business set up by Spanish-Puerto Rican Immigrant Prudencio Unanue Ortiz now <a href="http://www.goya.com/english/about.html" target="_hplink">distributes over 1,500 products originating from every corner of Latin American.</a> If you grew up watching Spanish-language TV, you never forgot their slogan, '<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYxPj-wsbUU&feature=share&list=PL2C02C6C0985BAE82">Si es Goya, tiene que ser bueno</a>.' In 2012, Goya Food partnered with the United States Department of Agriculture and First Lady Michelle Obama in promoting healthy eating and wellness with the "My Plate" or "Mi Plato" program.

  • Coolest Iconic Christmas Song

    <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=xMtuVP8Mj4o" target="_hplink">Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad, Prospero Año Y Felicidad</a> These are iconic lyrics to Puerto Rican singer José Feliciano's Christmas songs, a tune that has warmed the hearts of U.S. Hispanics and non-Hispanics alike during the season of giving season. But perhaps these first verses sound a little mumbled when sung by non-Spanish speakers, who clearly and loudly belt out the song's second part in English. <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=xMtuVP8Mj4o" target="_hplink">I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas From the bottom of my heart.</a>

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