Famous Spanish People and Famous Hispanic People

Frida Khalo portrayed by Salma Hayek

Take a look into the lives of famous Hispanic people -who many call famous Spanish people and how they have contributed throughout time.

Here you can explore the main fields where great Spanish speaking people -Hispanics- made their mark, and get an overall idea of who are some of the most recognized.

Many people call Hispanic people Spanish people. I asked some of my friends why this happens and they simply said: people generalize and consider Spanish people to be those who speak Spanish regardless of the country they come from.

By now you maybe asking: What are the differences in the terms Latino, Hispanic and Spanish? They all mean the same to me.
Well… not exactly. If you want to know more go to my article about Hispanic and Latino culture facts.

Now-a-days famous Spanish people and more specifically famous Hispanic people are in the news, in the movies, hitting home runs, racing in Nascar or even inventing new cures for diseases. An explosion of Spanish speaking talent is visible in the U.S. and the world!

Interested in biographies of famous Spanish/Hispanic people? Go directly to my biography page.

Once I decided to create this page I was determined to pay attention to the media. The purpose? To identify fields which have higher numbers of famous Spanish speaking people specifically -Hispanic. I had an idea that many of the names would be under athletes or musicians, including singers, composers or instrumentalists. This was not far from the truth.

Here is a comprised version:

  • Most famous Spanish people and Hispanic people are in the entertainment field.

They are in film/TV and the music arena. Great examples of these pioneers in the U.S. are the Puerto Ricans José Ferrer and Rita Moreno, who are the first Hispanic actors to win Oscars, in 1951 and 1961 respectively.

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“I Love Lucy” stamp issued in Massachussets in 1999.

Other actors like Desi Arnaz made indelible marks on TV by introducing new formats and elements that were never shown before. This Cuban actor and producer won over world audiences with his wonderful creation “I Love Lucy” in 1951.

In the 80’s and 90’s Cuban figures like Andy García, who starred in “The Untouchables,” continued opening doors for other Hispanic actors in what had started to become a “niche” market.

Today the pool of famous Hispanic actors continues to grow thanks to personalities like Colombian/Puerto Rican John Leguizamo, Spaniard Penelope Cruz, and Mexican Salma Hayek. They are widely recognized by mainstream America not only for their good looks but also for their talent.

The days when non-Hispanic actresses are called to personify Latin icons may be gone. In 1996 Madonna was chosen to play Eva Perón in the successful film adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Evita” but in 2002 Madonna lost the role of another Latina, artist -Frida Kahlo, to Salma Hayek in the award-winning movie “Frida”.

  • Famous Spanish people and particularly Hispanic singers are reaching record numbers among Spanish and English language audiences

Many Spanish singers are becoming very successful crossover artists. In the 50’s and 60’s Puerto Rican Sammy Davis Jr. stole the hearts of many with his multi talented personality as a dancer, instrumentalist, singer and actor.

Amongst the most famous Hispanic people is the Cuban singer Celia Cruz whose fame started in the 50’s, won 3 Grammys, 4 Latin Grammys and had 23 gold albums. Celia is considered the most significant female figure in the history of “salsa” music.

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“La Guarachera de Cuba” Celia cruz.
Picture by Sally Hershberger.

Puerto Rican Tito Puente was also an influential mambo and Latin jazz musician who was awarded a Grammy at the first Latin Grammy Awards. Tito received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in February 2006.

Cuban singer Gloria Estefan and her producer/songwriter husband Emilio made a strong impression on the American public during the 70’s and 80’s. Gloria Estefan is recognized as the first successful Latin crossover artist.

Today singers like Shakira from Colombia, Daddy Yankee from Puerto Rico, and Cristina Aguilera, who is from Ecuadorian ancestry, are mainstream artists.

What is causing this surge of famous Hispanic actors and musicians? I think the answer can be explained by demographics and Hispanics interests.

Just think about this for a moment: the Hispanic population in the U.S. more than doubled from 1980 to 2000 (U.S. Census Bureau). Hispanics also tend to spend more of their entertainment budget on movies, theater, opera, and ballet than Caucasians do -6.5% vs. 4.7% according to a report by the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute in California.

If we go by the numbers, it is all about market demand. It is likely that all of this increased popularity of famous Hispanic people is in part due to the crossover phenomenon of music as well as the mix of cultures through marriage.

At least that is my own experience. I have a great pool of friends in mixed marriages -Hispanic and American with no Hispanic heritage who now sing the songs of Shakira and Maná, amongst other famous Hispanic singers. Believe it or not these couples also dance to the rhythm of Hispanic dances such as merengue, bachata, etc.

  • Besides singing, there is a great influence coming from famous Spanish people and Hispanics who are musicians.

Many people know about Flamenco -from Spain- but rhythms like reguetón, mambo, vallenato, salsa, merengue, tango and bachata are transcending Latin America into American communities.

A great example of Hispanic influence on music is Mexican guitarist Carlos Santana. In the 60’s he stole the hearts of many Americans with his particular style of playing. In 1999 the award-winning Santana sealed his brand of Latin rock with the release of “Supernatural”, an album -like his 2002 follow-up “Shaman” -that featured collaborations with many famous American, European and Latin artists.

Remember the Macarena? A great example of famous Spanish singers. This was a Spanish song by Los Del Rio from Seville who specialized in Andalusian folk music. Its words and dancing movements invaded the U.S. between 1995 and 1997.

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Shakira performing “Hips Don’t Lie.”
Picture by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

Have you noticed pop music mostly sung in English but with distinctive characteristics of Hispanic influence? Yes, I am talking of artists like Colombian Shakira in “Hips Don’t Lie.”

This hit song ranked within the Top 10 in pop music in 2007. It contains words in Spanish and the video shows the typical hip movement combined with brief sounds of the cumbia, a typical Colombian folk dance.

  • Famous Hispanic people also include athletes that have a history dating back over a 100 years.

It was long believed that Luis Castro (one of the most recognized Hispanic athletes) who played in 42 games with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1902 was the first Hispanic to enter the major leagues.

Truth be told, the Cuban Esteban Bellán who played for the Troy Haymakers and the New York Mutuals, in 1871 and 1873 respectively, was the first Latino player to enter the major leagues.

  • Some of the most recognized Hispanic names come from the sport of soccer.

There is no doubt “fútbol” -like we call it- is one of the most popular Hispanic sports that is growing in the U.S. In many Latin American countries our brothers, cousins, etc., play it from a very young age. We have a passion for it; therefore lots of famous Hispanic people are attached to the sport.

Famous Spanish people (from Spain) are less recognized in soccer than famous Hispanic people are. Players like Pelé and Maradona from South America are going to be legends well into the years to come.

As per the infiltration of Hispanic soccer talent in the U.S. we can talk about Chis Armas, who is of Puerto Rican heritage, the Mexican-American Carlos Bocanegra, and Tab Ramos from Urugay who is considered one of the most skillful players to ever wear the U.S. soccer jersey.

  • I was not surprised to learn that baseball is the sport that has the largest number of famous Hispanic athletes.

Famous Spanish people (from Spain) don’t have a strong presence in baseball overall.

Today, the majority of Hispanic baseball players come from the Dominican Republic. I traveled there in May 2007, and I was amazed to find that almost all children dream of the opportunity to become a Major League Baseball player in the U.S.

Wonderful examples of Hispanic baseball players are Roberto Clemente, Keith Hernandez, and Alex Rodriguez just to mention a few.

  • Famous Hispanic athletes are now part of many other sports not only baseball and soccer.

Besides traditional sports, famous Hispanic athletes are emerging today in fields they never had a presence in before.  Examples abound. Take Juan Pablo Montoya,

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Fernando Alonso driving his car in 2006 for Team Renault.
Picture by Tom Martin Photos

the Colombian rookie that won Nascar in 2007. He was mostly unknown in the U.S. but very well known in Europe for its F1 racing with the BMW team. Now he has a flourishing career in Nascar.

Marcelo Rios in tennis, Benjamin Agosto

in figure skating, the retired NBA player Mark Aguirre, and boxer Oscar de la Hoya are examples of famous Hispanic athletes in other sports.

Famous Spanish people have a strong presence in motor sports. Fernando Alonso -from Asturias, Spain- won his first F1 Championship in 2006 while at team Renault.

Famous Spanish people are also recognized in cycling. Spain hosts “La Vuelta a España” a very well know cycling competition that attracts some of the best talent around the world.

Many of these famous Hispanic people and famous Spanish people are Hispanic-Americans, Latinos, or Spaniards who were raised in the Hispanic culture or come from a Hispanic country.

Comments

  1. I go to see everyday a few web sites and
    sites to read posts, except this blog provides quality
    based writing.

    • Marcela Hede says:

      Thank you Steven. The idea is that Hispanic and Latino culture lovers can enjoy knowing and living more this wonderful culture of ours.

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