Great List: Famous firsts for Hispanic Americans


Member of U.S. Congress: Joseph Marion Hernandez, 1822, delegate from Florida territory

U.S. representative: Romualdo Pacheco, from California, elected in 1876 by a one-vote margin.

U.S. senator: Octaviano Larrazolo was elected in 1928 to finish the term of New Mexico senator Andieus Jones, who had died in office. The first Hispanic senator to serve an entire term was Dennis Chavez, of New Mexico, who served from 1935 through 1962.

U.S. treasurer: Romana Acosta Bañuelos, 1971-74U.S. cabinet member: Lauro F. Cavazos, 1988-90, secretary of education

U.S. surgeon general: Antonia Coello Novello, 1990-93. She was also the first woman to hold the position.

U.S. secretary of transportation: Federico Peña, 1993U.S. secretary of housing and urban development: Henry Cisneros, 1993

U.S. attorney general: Alberto Gonzales, 2005


Flying ace: Col. Manuel J. Fernández Jr., who flew 125 combat missions in the Korean War

Medal of Honor recipient: Philip Bazaar, a Chilean member of the U.S. Navy, for bravery during the Civil War.

Admiral, U.S. Navy: David G. Farragut. In 1866, he became the first U.S. naval officer ever to be awarded the rank of admiral. The first Hispanic American to become a four-star admiral was Horacio Rivero of Puerto Rico, in 1964.

General, U.S. Army: Richard E. Cavazos, 1976. In 1982, he became the Army’s first Hispanic four-star general.

Secretary of the Navy: Edward Hidalgo, 1979

Science and medicine

Astronaut: Franklin Chang-Diaz, 1986. The first female Hispanic astronaut was Ellen Ochoa, whose first of four shuttle missions was in 1991.

Nobel Prize in physics: Luiz Walter Alvarez, 1968, for discoveries about subatomic particles

Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine: Severo Ochoa, 1959, for the synthesis of ribonucleic acid


Novel in English, written and published in U.S.: María Amparo Ruiz de Burton, 1872, for “Who Would Have Thought It?”

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction: Oscar Hijuelos, 1990, for “The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love”

Pulitzer Prize for Drama: Nilo Cruz, 2003, for “Anna in the Tropics”


Opera diva: Lucrezia Bori, 1912, debuted at the Metropolitan Opera

Rock star: Richie Valens, 1958

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee: Carlos Santana, 1998


Oscar, Best Actor: Jose Ferrer, 1950, “Cyrano de Bergerac”

Oscar, Best Supporting Actress: Rita Moreno, 1961, “West Side Story”

Oscar, Best Supporting Actor: Benecio Del Toro, 2000, “Traffic”

Hollywood director: Raoul Walsh, 1914, “The Life of General Villa”

Matinee idol: Ramón Navarro, 1923, “The Prisoner of Zenda”

Leading lady: Dolores del Rio, 1925, “Joanne”


Tony, Best Director: Jose Quintero, 1973

Tony, Best Supporting Actress: Rita Moreno, 1975, “The Ritz.” In 1977, Moreno became the first Hispanic American to have won an Oscar, Grammy, Tony, and Emmy.


Star of a network television show: Desi Arnaz, 1952, “I Love Lucy”

Broadcaster of the Year: Geraldo Rivera, 1971.


Major league player: Esteban Bellán, 1871, Troy Haymakers

World Series player: Adolfo “Dolf” Luque, 1919, relief pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds

All-Star Game player: Alfonso “Chico” Carrasquel, 1951, starting shortstop for the American League

Rookie of the Year: Luis Aparicio, 1956, shortstop, Chicago White Sox

No-hitter: Juan Marichal, June 15, 1963, for the San Francisco Giants, against the Houston Colt .45s

Hall of Fame inductee: Roberto Clemente, 1973

Team owner: Arturo “Arte” Moreno, 2003, bought the Anaheim Angels, becoming the first Hispanic owner of any major U.S. sports franchise.

Other sports

Grand Slam championship winner: Richard “Pancho” González, 1948

Starting NFL quarterback: Jim Plunkett, 1971

Football Hall of Fame inductee: Anthony Muñoz, 1998

LPGA Hall of Fame inductee: Nancy Lopez, 1987. In 1978, she became the first player to have won the the Rookie of the Year Award, Player of the Year Award and Vare Trophy in the same season.

Heavyweight boxing champ: John Ruiz, 2001

NHL first-round draft pick: Scott Gomez, 1998

Other firsts

Supermodel: Christy Turlington.

Labor leader: Juan Gómez, 1883. First female Hispanic labor leader of note was Lucy González Parsons, 1886

Entertainer on the cover of TIME magazine: Joan Baez, 1962

Source: Pearson Education Inc.
©Times Community Newspapers 2006


Spread the love

More Articles for You

Frida Kahlo As An Iconic Disability Advocate

PBS is once again featuring Frida Kahlo in a new three part documentary series, airing now that seeks to to …

Spread the love

The Unknown History of the Spanish Inquisition & Witchcraft Trials in Puerto Rico

Spain’s centuries-long witch hunt killed 700 women – in the region. Estimates indicate that roughly 30,000–60,000 people were executed during …

Spread the love

Justin Torres’ Blackouts

One of my favorite author interviews ever. Right before I departed from my publicity desk Hachette Book Group, I was …

Spread the love

Valeria Aloe on Her Barrier-Breaking Book “Uncolonized Latinas”

If you are not following Valerie Aloe or have not read her book Uncolonized Latinas: Transforming Our Mindsets And Rising …

Spread the love
— Featured —

Portuguese Ethnicity in Puerto Rico

According to a chronology, made available by the Library of Congress, in 1593, “Portuguese soldiers, sent from Lisbon by order …

Spread the love

The Italian at a Glance

Becoming Italian Back in December 2020, I started a new research project on Instagram, @ItalianAtAGlance to curate and share some …

Spread the love