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Constant Contributions: Recognizing Hispanic-American Icons during Hispanic Heritage Month

Constant Contributions: Recognizing Hispanic-American Icons during Hispanic Heritage Month

It takes unique individuals with unique backgrounds to complete the beautiful community that we call the Klein Family, and we pride ourselves on the rich diversity of our district. Join us as we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15. 

Together, we will educate, celebrate, and appreciate the culture and contributions of Hispanic Americans. 

Hispanic Heritage Month originated as a week-long celebration of “the Hispanic tradition” back in 1968. Twenty years later, Congress passed a law extending the week to a month.

Hispanic Heritage Month recognizes the contributions of Americans with roots in Spain, Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Spanish-speaking nations of the Caribbean.

Read on to learn more about four Hispanic-American icons and how they have shaped American history and culture. 

  1. Jaime Escalante – Bolivian | Famous American Educator

Born in La Paz, Bolivia, Jaime Escalante was one of the most renowned American Educators in recent American history. In search of a better life, Jaime immigrated to America. After teaching himself English and working countless odd jobs, Escalante went on to earn two college degrees. He then started to teach troubled students at a Los Angeles high school.

In 1982, Jaime was under media scrutiny after his student’s Advanced Placement Calculus testing scores were invalidated. The testing company claimed Escalante’s students had cheated because their scores were too high. Escalante rejected this claim stating that the students were targeted because they were Hispanic and from a poor school. The students took the test again a few months later and all passed. 

Escalante went on to receive many awards for his contributions to the field of education, including the Presidential Medal for Excellence. He was inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame in 1999.

Sonia Sotomayor

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

  1. Sonia Sotomayor – Puerto Rican | 1st Hispanic/Latina Member of U.S. Supreme Court

Sonia Sotomayor was born in the Bronx in 1954. Sotomayor is of Puerto Rican descent and was the first Hispanic/Latina to serve on the Supreme Court. She made education a constant priority after her father passed when she was just 9 years old. After graduating as Valedictorian of her high school, Sonia attended Princeton University on a full scholarship. She graduated in 1976 and was instrumental as a student advocate in ensuring Princeton began to hire Latin-American faculty. After her time at Princeton, Sotomayor went to Yale Law School and earned her New York bar acceptance the following year. 

Following a 4-year stint working as an Assistant District Attorney in New York, Sonia was nominated to both the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the second circuit in 1997 by President Bill Clinton. Sonia Sotomayor went on to make history when President Barack Obama chose her as his first nominee for the 2009 U.S. Supreme Court. 

Cesar Chavez

Photo: Arthur Schatz/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

  1. Cesar Chavez – Mexican | Latin-American Civil Rights Activist 

Cesar Chavez was born in Arizona to a Mexican-American family. A moment in life that defined him was when his family moved to California during the Great Depression. Their new jobs as farmworkers helped fan the flame of the fight for farmer’s rights. 

While working as a lumber handler in San Jose, Chavez started a chapter of the Community Service Organization. This organization went on to be a crucial Civil Rights organization for Latinos in California. 

Chavez later teamed up with fellow Civil Rights activist Dolores Huerta, and together they visited different chapters across California. They eventually formed the United Farm Workers Union. Chavez was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1993. 

Julia Alvarez (L) and President Barack Obama (R) 

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

  1. Julia Alvarez – Dominican | Critically Revered Latina Writer 

Julia Alvarez was born in New York City in 1950. Shortly after her birth, her family moved to the Dominican Republic where they resided for most of her childhood. In 1960, her family fled back to the U.S. after her father’s involvement in trying to overthrow a corrupt militant dictator in the Dominican Republic. 

This traumatic experience inspired Julia to explore writing. One of her most famous works “Exile” describes the fear she experienced the night her family fled the Dominican. 

Alvarez then went on to become a celebrated Latina writer and her published works still enchant to this day. 

Stay tuned throughout the month as we share unique ways to embrace this month to the fullest!

Show us how you are celebrating by using the hashtag #KleinHispanicHeritage or by submitting to

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