THE BLOG

Feliz Cumpleaños Luis Olmo!

08/10/2011 10:42 pm ET | Updated Oct 10, 2011
  • Miguel Ferrer Managing Editor, HuffPost Black Voices, Latino Voices & Voces

Luis Olmo was born on August 11, 1919. So, Happy Birthday Luis Olmo!

Many people won't remember Luis Olmo and many more probably never heard of him -- a common effect of the shifts in popular culture and the relentless march of history -- but his story is essential to appreciating the American Latino experience.

Luis Francisco Rodríguez Olmo was born 92 years ago in Arecibo, along the northwest coast of Puerto Rico. In the shadow of the island's economic underdevelopment during the pre-war era, he combined hard work and luck to reach the baseball big leagues, where he enjoyed a distinguished career as an outfielder for the Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Braves in the mid-40s and early 50s. He was pretty good too, batting .289 over his career and leading the league in various stats in 1945.

In 1949 and against the New York Yankees, Luis Olmo became the first Puerto Rican to play in a World Series, during which he hit a home run and three hits in one game; also a first for a Puerto Rican.

On his birthday, Luis Olmo can look back on these accomplishments with pride. While they did not change the world in one big bang, they contributed to changing America for the better.

Luis Olmo never made it to the Baseball Hall of Fame, but he and others helped keep open the doors of inclusion and meritocracy, leading to close to a dozen Latinos in the Hall (although we could ask why so few) and hundreds of great moments in the history of the sport, enriching America's culture along the way.

And this is what the American Latino experience is all about; what it has always been about. Individuals stepping forward to do the best they can against long odds. Never forgetting their roots or culture, and always cognizant that the real promise of the American Dream is that it has been nurtured by those who came before, by those who added their own culture and flavor to the mix.

I don't know if while playing professionally Luis Olmo ever thought of the many Latino baseball players who would come after him. But I am sure that those who did come after have often thankfully thought of those who cleared the path

The experience of millions of Hispanics over hundreds of years in the U.S. echoes this story. Just as Luis Olmo, a skinny kid from Puerto Rico, found his way forward by playing in America's pastime, today's Latinos are finding their way forward by integrating the very best that both, American and Hispanic culture, have to offer.

Hispanic Americans embrace the promise of liberty and justice, as our community knows all too well what it is like to live in corrupt and dangerous places. We thrive as entrepreneurs, as time and time again our forefathers had to start over to make better lives for our families. We are accepting of others and unwelcoming of intolerance, as we still know what it is to be excluded in our own country. And, we remain true to family values as we know that much of what is great in our lives was passed down to us through tight-knit & extended families.

And so today, as we welcome HuffPost LatinoVoices into our community and dedicate ourselves to fulfilling its promise of bringing authentic Latino perspectives to the fore, we do right by wishing Luis Olmo a happy birthday and remembering that wonderful things can happen when Hispanic and American cultures fully embrace each other.