LATINO VOICES

Breakout Latinos Of 2013

12/30/2013 04:20 pm ET | Updated Dec 30, 2013
Vatican Pool via Getty Images

With a Latino pope, a weed-legalizing president, and an immigrant inaugural poet, 2013 was a year in which Latinos rose to prominence like never before. Have a look back at the biggest names to burst on the scene this year.

  • 1 Jose "Pepe" Mujica
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  • Uruguay's president had already made international headlines for his austere lifestyle, with the BBC dubbing him the "world's poorest president." There's plenty of reasons for him to be famous. A former guerrilla fighter who was tortured by his country's U.S.-backed military dictatorship and spent 14 years in jail, Mujica built a political career as a progressive with the return to democracy, winning the presidency in 2009.

    But his most internationally notable achievement came in 2013, the year he led a drive to legalize the government-controlled production and sale of marijuana. The unprecedented blow against Washington's failed drug war policies prompted The Economist to name Uruguay its country of the year.
  • 2 First Latin American Pope
    AP
  • After a career of ministering to Argentina's poor, Jorge Mario Bergoglio became the first Latin American to lead the Vatican. The yerba mate-toting pontiff is known for defending the poor, criticizing capitalism and sneaking out of the Vatican in the middle of night to minister to the homeless.
  • 3 Sebastien De la Cruz
    AP
  • The 11-year-old mariachi was thrust into the national spotlight when Twitter haters pounced on him, wondering why a "Mexican" was singing the National Anthem before the third game of the NBA Finals. The San Antonio native responded with aplomb to the racist outpouring and said the bright side was that it gave him a chance to show off his "cultura." With this much equanimity at age 11, imagine what he'll be like as an adult.
  • 4 Ted Cruz
    AP
  • The first Hispanic U.S. Senator from Texas rocked the nation this year by leading a futile but destructive effort to derail Obamacare that culminated in a government shutdown. We're not exactly proud of that, but there's no doubt that Cruz made his presence felt in 2013.
  • 5 Richard Blanco
    AP
  • As the first Latino to give the inaugural poem, Spanish-born, Cuban-descended Richard Blanco rethought was it meant to be American. "I finally realized that my story, my mother's stories, all those millions of stories of faces that were looking at me at the podium, that is America," Blanco told the Associated Press. "I finally realized that I'm not the other."
  • 6 Erika Andiola
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  • A longtime community organizer and prominent Dreamer, Erika Andiola began 2013 making headlines when she went to work as a congressional staffer for U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). In December, she gave up the coveted job to fight a public battle to keep Immigration and Customs Enforcement from deporting her mother.

    "It was a hard decision, but I could no longer just sit there in a place full of political games -- games that are causing too much pain in our community," Andiola wrote in a blog for the Huffington Post. "After the country helped stop my mother's deportation, I came to realize that our community and the American people have the power, not politicians inside the beltway."

    Andiola's efforts and those of her supporters proved successful. Her mother, Maria Arreola, received a one-year stay of deportation. Despite the positive outcome, it was one of many episodes in 2013 that highlighted the growing tensions between President Obama and an immigration reform movement that has grown frustrated with record-level deportations and congressional inaction.
  • 7 Stephanie Beatriz And Melissa Fumero
    AP
  • Stephanie Beatriz and Melissa Fumero are both part of the new hit, "Brooklyn Nine Nine," a sitcom starring a diverse cast of characters in a Brooklyn police department. The Latina stars portray two very different detectives.

    Beatriz plays Rosa Diaz a no-nonsense quick-witted cop who defines "too cool for school". Fumero on the other hand plays the very competitive, rule-following Amy Santiago.

    "Brooklyn Nine Nine" received rave reviews and has already been picked up for a second season.
  • 8 Dascha Polanco
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  • Dascha Polanco is one of the stars of "Orange is the New Black," the groundbreaking show by Jenji Kohan (creator of "Weeds") that follows a variety of characters in a woman's prison.

    Polanco plays Daya Diaz, a Latina inmate with mother issues. Before this the actress had minor roles but nothing close to the popularity that playing Daya has brought her.

    In an interview with Vulture Polanco opens up about her new-found fame "...people are like, “Oh my God, you’re on that show. Great job!” It just feels good, not that they’re recognizing me, but that they’re enjoying my work," she said.

    The show airs on Netflix and has been a huge success for the site. A second season will premier in 2014.
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