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5 Hispanic Americans

September 15, 2023

Five Hispanic Americans to Introduce to Students

Launch the celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month in your classrooms by teaching students about these five individuals.


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Every year in the United States, between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15, we celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month. This recognition of Hispanic heritage began as a weeklong celebration in 1968, and it became a monthlong celebration in 1988. Sept. 15 is a significant start date as it marks the day Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua celebrate their independence, and Sept. 16 and 18 are when Mexico and Chile, respectively, celebrate their independence. During this time, we honor and recognize the significant contributions and achievements of Hispanic Americans. Launch this celebration in your classrooms by teaching students about these five Hispanic Americans.

Carlos Santana

Carlos Santana

Carlos Santana is a 10-times Grammy Award-winning guitarist. He was born in Mexico in 1947 before later moving to San Francisco. His father was part of a Mariachi band and taught Santana to play the violin and guitar at a young age. Santana worked as a street musician before forming the band Santana Blues Band, now known simply as Santana. Santana’s music was a “groundbreaking Afro-Latin-blues-rock fusion outfit in San Francisco.” They performed at Woodstock before even having released their first album and rocketed to success. Learn more about the musical contributions of Carlos Santana with the linked resource below.

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Jovita Idar

Jovita Idár

Jovita Idár was a Mexican-American journalist, born in 1885 in Laredo, Texas. Being a Mexican-American was dangerous at the time, as they had faced lynchings, harassment and discrimination since the Mexican-American War of 1846. Idár’s father published a local newspaper, but she originally sought a different career path by going into teaching. However, the poor learning conditions for her students led her to switch gears and publish a newspaper to champion Mexican-American rights. When during the Mexican Revolution, President Woodrow Wilson sent troops to the border, Idár criticized this decision in her newspaper. This offended the Texas Rangers, who came to shut down her newspaper. But Idár stood her ground and blocked the entrance. Unfortunately, later, the rangers returned when she was not there and destroyed the printing presses and office. Idár would not be silent though and continued to write for other newspapers, later founding another newspaper. Watch the linked educational video to learn about her story.

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Sonia Sotomayor

Sonia Sotomayor

Sonia Sotomayor was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2009 by President Barack Obama, becoming the first Latina in the role. She grew up in the South Bronx, N.Y., to parents of Puerto Rican descent in the Bronxdale housing project. She graduated valedictorian of her class and attended Princeton University, where she wrote about and fought for Puerto Rican rights. She then continued to Yale Law School and went on to become an impressive prosecutor. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush nominated her to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, and in 1997, President Bill Clinton nominated her to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Learn more about her life on Share My Lesson.

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Ynés Mexía

Ynés Mexía

Ynés Mexía was a Mexican-American botanist, explorer and environmentalist. She was born in 1870 in Washington, D.C., but later, following completion of her schooling, moved to Mexico to help her father on their family ranch. She remained in Mexico for 30 years before moving to California, where she began her work in conservation. At the age of 51, she attended the University of California, Berkeley. While her career in botany began at a later age, her impact was monumental. She fought to preserve the redwood forest in California, traveled across the Americas collecting and studying plant specimens, worked with Indigenous peoples, learning from them and advocating for their rights, and had many species and a genus named after her. Learn more about her story with the linked resource.

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Bernardo de Galvez

Bernardo de Gálvez

Bernardo de Gálvez was a Spanish general who played a critical role in the victory of the patriots in the Revolutionary War. Due to his service in the war, a Continental Congress resolution was passed that his portrait would hang in the room where Congress convened. This promise, however, would not be kept until 231 years later when Teresa Valcarce fought for the resolution to be fulfilled. As a result of Valcarce’s work, not only was Gálvez’s portrait finally hung in the U.S. Capitol but President Barack Obama granted Gálvez honorary U.S. citizenship. Learn more about Gálvez’s role in the Revolutionary War and the work Valcarce did to see him honored, on Share My Lesson.

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Share in the comments below how you plan to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in your classroom.

Hispanic Heritage Month Lesson Plans and Activities

Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month with these free activities, lesson plans and resources highlighting the contributions of the Hispanic world to history, music, art, literature and more.

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Megan Ortmeyer

Megan Ortmeyer is an SML Team Member and has worked in the AFT Educational Issues Department since fall 2018. She received her M.A. in education policy studies in May 2020 from the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at the George Washington University.

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