The beloved Pittsburgh Pirate was born in Puerto Rico and died in an aviation accident en route to Nicaragua to deliver aid following a devastating earthquake in December 1972. Although his multiple and historic accomplishments in baseball were enough to grant his entry to the sport's Hall of Fame, it was his character that truly endeared him to millions and remains his greatest legacy.
The Queen of Salsa: Celia Cruz
What kind of list would this be without her? Celia Cruz's Afro-Caribbean beats have left an indelible cultural footprint in the U.S and the Americas. The beloved Cuban American singer <a href="http://www.biography.com/people/celia-cruz-40369 " target="_hplink">won three</a> Grammys and three Latin Grammy Awards over the course of her career; and she was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Clinton in 1994. She passed away in 2003 <a href="http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20140689,00.html " target="_hplink">after a yearlong battle</a> with cancer in her home, Fort Lee, NJ. To read more about her remarkable life, please visit the Smithsonian National Museum of American History <a href="http://americanhistory.si.edu/celiacruz/main.asp?lang=MUp4263185268pOGC " target="_hplink">website</a>.
Arturo Alfonso Schomburg
A Puerto Rican writer and historian, Schomburg was active in researching and advocating for greater awareness of the important contributions by Afro-Latinos and black Americans to U.S. history. In doing so, he himself became one of those contributors we should recognize, remember and celebrate. A seminal figure during the Harlem Rennaisance, Schomburg's collection of artwork, letters, slave narratives, African and period pieces became the foundation for the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, located in Harlem's branch of the New York Public Library.
An American artist of Haitian-Puerto Rican descent who died at age 27 in 1988, Basquiat's short life was outpaced by prolific output and a canny sense of where the U.S. was headed in the culture wars of the following decades. His work began as urban graffiti before evolving into powerful social commentary on racism, colonialism and class warfare, utilizing energetic colors, stark figures and sharpened words which seemed to leap of the canvas and attack the viewer, grabbing her attention. Often panned by critics, Basquiat's influence is clearer today as his works sell for large sums and his visual style has been appropriated by fashion designers, musica television, advertising campaigns and more. --- This undated photo provided by Christie's shows Jean-Michel Basquiat's Untitled 1981. Christie's auction house says the colorful acrylic and oilstick canvas could set a new record for the graffiti artist when it's offered in the fall. The current record is $20.1 million. "Untitled 1981" is an important early work by the artist, who died at age 27. It goes on sale Nov. 14. (AP Photo/Christie's)
Sammy Davis Jr.
Born to a Cuban mother, Davis Jr. went on to become one of the greatest entertainers of the 20th century. A singer, dancer, TV actor, movie star, comedian and celebrity impersonator, he was also the only black member of Frank Sinatra's infamous Rat Pack, the epitome of cool in the early 1960's. As the cliché goes, 'every woman wanted to be with them, every man wanted to be like them.'
The half Afro-Cuban and half-Irish journalist explores mixed-race heritage for a living. O'Brien reported on CNN's Latino in America, a wide-ranging look at Latinos living in America and how they're reshaping the country--and Black in America, a special about the state of Black America 40 years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She currently hosts the CNN morning show, "Starting Point."
Since starring as Tina in Spike Lee's breakthrough film, "Do the Right Thing," Rosie has campaigned tirelessly on issues such as HIV/AIDS awareness, Puerto Rican rights and education.
With over 200 million records sold, the part-Irish, part-African American (and part-Venezuelan) Carey is one of the most successful pop singers of all time.
Baseball star Alex Rodriguez was born to <a href="http://jockbio.com/Bios/ARod/ARod_bio.html" target="_hplink">parents from the Dominican Republic</a>. Known as A-Rod, his is the youngest baseball player to have hit 500 home runs and holds the record for most home runs by a Latino player. His pop culture influence goes further though, as Rodriguez is well known for his historic $275 million contract with the New York Yankees and his penchant for dating blonde Hollywood stars like Cameron Diaz and Kate Hudson.
The Afro-Cuban and Puerto Rican actress has worked with great actors (Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Phillip Seymour Hoffman), great directors (Oliver Stone, Spike Lee, Robert Rodriguez)--and she's played iconic roles (Mimi in the movie-musical Rent; Gail in Sin City). But when she's not acting, Dawson is working hard on <a href="http://votolatino.org" target="_hplink">Voto Latino, the non-profit voter registration organization</a> she co-founded in 2004. Why? Because Rosario knows just how important it is to mobilize young Latinos to hit the polls!
She plays several instruments masterfully--including bass, the oboe, the violin and the clarinet. She also sings in three languages and has played for President Barack Obama and First Lady, Michelle Obama at the White House. And, she's part-Latina! "My mom is Welsh, Hispanic, and Native American, and my father is black," says the Afro-Latina Spalding. We love her for breaking the mold in more ways than one.
The Queen of Latin Soul: La Lupe
Born Guadalupe Victoria Yolí Raymond, "La Lupe" was one of the many Cuban artists <a href="http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/lalupe/film.html">exiled after tFidel Castro took power in 1959.</a> In New York City, "La Yiyiyi" became the Queen of Latin Soul, performing with contemporaries la Mongo Santamaría and Tito Puente. She was the<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/26/lauren-velez-la-lupe-movie_n_1895532.html"> first woman to perform in Carnegie Hall. </a>
New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony was on the USA Olympic basketball team that brought home the bronze medal in 2004, the gold medal in 2008 and 2012. In 2005, Anthony founded the <a href="http://www.carmelocares.org/main.asp" target="_hplink">Carmelo Anthony Foundation</a> and was named among the 100 most influential Latinos by Hispanic Business magazine <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/latino/nba-star-carmelo-anthony-treasures-heritage-article-1.373970" target="_hplink">in 2008</a>. <a href="http://www.nba.com/playerfile/carmelo_anthony/bio.html" target="_hplink">Named</a> after his father, Anthony was born to an African-American mother and a Puerto Rican father. Photo Source: USA's Carmelo Anthony laughs after hitting a 3-pointer against Nigeria during a men's basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Daphne starred as the original Mimi in the ground breaking musical "Rent." She also starred in "The House of Bernarda Alba" at the Lincoln Center and Les Misérables on Broadway and has two Tony Award nominations to her credit; one for her role in "Rent" and the other for her performance as Conchita in "Anna in the Tropics."
She's the star of the highest grossing motion picture of all time, James Cameron's "Avatar" AND she's a proud Afro-Latina! "As a Latina, I think we should be very proud of our heritage," the half-Dominican, half-Puerto Rican beauty has said. "We tend to look for European roots and reject the indigenous and the African, and that's disgusting. Being Latin is being a mix of everything. I want my people not to be insecure, and to adore what we are because it's beautiful." Amen, Zoe!
The Puerto Rican actress, who is known for her roles in "New York Undercover," "Oz," and "I Like It Like That," is still just one of a handful of women representing Afro-Latinas on television, as Captain Maria Laguerta on Showtime's hit serial killer drama, "Dexter."
The New York Giants wide receiver was born to an African-American father and Puerto Rican mother. The NFL features Cruz in this short video on their <a href="http://www.nfl.com/features/the-season-2011/episode-19" target="_hplink">website</a>.
The gorgeous Afro-Latina model (who hails from the small Puerto Rican town of Hatillo) has walked the runway for everyone from Marc Jacobs to Gucci. Knowing full well that there are millions of beautiful Afro-Latinas in the world, Estée Lauder Global Brand President Jane Hertzmark explained why they selected Joan to be their new face. "We are thrilled to introduce Joan to women around the world. She truly reflects Estée Lauder's modern vision of global beauty." We couldn't agree more!
Best known for her role as Cheerio Santana Lopez on FOX's hit show "Glee," Naya Rivera is one sexy Afro-Latina! The 24-year-old actress is of Puerto Rican, African American and German heritage, and she's one of the few Afro-Latinas playing a Lesbian on television. Can you say "badass?"
There's never been a more endearing relationship between a Latina TV character and an African American TV character, than the relationship between Carla Espinoza (Judy Reyes) and Turk (Donald Faison) on the long-running comedy, Scrubs. Much of the humor on the show stemmed from Turk's inability to understand Carla's Dominican culture -- but in real life, Reyes--who's Dominican and Black -- loves both sides of her equally. And we love her!
The King of the Cuban Congas: Mongo Santamaría
Ramón Santamaría Rodríguez was <a href="http://www.nndb.com/people/467/000045332/">nicknamed "Mongo" (the Senegalese word for 'tribal chief') </a>by his father as a young boy. In 1950, the Afro-Cuban emigrated to New York and worked with Cuban artists like Perez Prado and Tito Puente.
She was Ashley Banks, the little girl with the infectious smile on the 90s sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and now, Tatyana Ali is an inspiring Afro-Latina who's all grown up. After earning a bachelor's degree in political science from Harvard University, the half-Panamanian actress pulled double duty as the star and executive producer of two TV shows: the BET series,Buppies (2009), and Love That Girl, a new series which airs on TV One.
Best known for her role as Dionne Marie Davenport, Cher's (Alicia Silversone) self-absorbed best friend in the hit 1995 comedy, "Clueless," Dash is a talented actress who recently starred in the hit VH1 TV show, "Single Ladies." She's of Bajan, African American and Mexican descent.
William Omar Landron was <a href="http://www.aceshowbiz.com/celebrity/don_omar/biography.html">born and raised in Puerto Rico.</a> Currently one of the most widely known reggaeton artists, the Puerto-Rican celeb has also tried his hand in acting--starring in the 'Fast & Furious' franchise as Omar Santos.
La La Anthony
In 2011, the former MTV VJ and reality star (VH1's "La La's Full Court Life"), launched a cosmetics line made specifically for African American and Latin women. La La, who's married to NBA superstar Carmelo Anthony, is half-black and half-Puerto Rican.
A current spokesmodel for Lancome, Dominican model Arlenis Sosa is on a first-name basis with everyone from Oscar de la Renta to Anna Wintour. She has also walked for some of the most prestigious designers and fashion houses in the world. But what we love most about Arlenis is the way she supports her fellow Afro-Latinas. "Models need to stick together, especially black models, whom people are always accusing of being too competitive," she said in 2010. "I never think about things in terms of someone taking a job away from me or me taking it away from them. If you get it, I'm happy. If I get it, I'm happy. The important thing is that black models are doing it big now."
For seven years, this gorgeous Afro-Latina hosted BET's hit show "106 & Park." The driven TV personality also has her own self-titled, nationally syndicated radio show called "Rocsi on the Radio," and she just completed filming on her first feature film, "The Great Divide."
Hispanic Heritage Month is about celebrating diversity -- acknowledging one of the many different identities that flow within the melting pot that is the United States. But the term holds true even within the Latino community.
With the Spanish and British crowns’ arrival to the ‘New World’ came more than just settlers -- the Americas required labor to grow economically, a demand that would be fulfilled by the millions of victims that were brought through the Middle Passage.
Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr explored the African diaspora in Latin America in his 2011 PBS series ‘Black in Latin America.’ His research showed that the slave trade brought more individuals to Latin America than the U.S.
"There were 11.2 million Africans who came to the New World in the slave trade and of that 11.2 million, only 450,000 came to the United States," Gates, Jr told Latina.com.
These Africans were instrumental in the development of traditions and customs -- of culture -- across Latin America and the Caribbean, which in turn have made their way into the U.S. through successive waves of immigration. From Puerto Rico, Cuba, Colombia and Peru, from the Dominican Republic, Brazil, and Central America as well.
Today, Afro-Latino influencers grace the covers of major magazines, star in hit TV shows, lead art and literary movements, and excel at America's pastime. But as illustrated in an interview with The Huffington Post, Puerto Rican actress Lauren Vélez -- who will soon portray Afro-Cuban singer ‘La Lupe’ in a biopic -- admitted this wasn’t always the case in Hollywood.
“Somebody asked me about what it was like when I was first auditioning as an Afro-Caribbean woman; I couldn’t get an audition as a Latina. People didn’t know what that was, they just said, 'Well our vision of a Latina looks more Mexican, or Central American, or Spanish.' And that was an interesting journey to take and something that I had to struggle with initially.”
Despite the continuing struggles against prejudice, the slideshow above shows 27 Afro-Latinos who have left their mark on American culture. Who else should be on the list? Tell us in the comments below.
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