Here Are 13 Latino Innovators That Prove Latinos Can Do Anything They Put Their Minds To

credit: wendycarrillo / luisvonahn / Instagram

A few months ago a creative group from Mexico helped raise the spirits of their fellow Mexicans after gaining inspiration from Guillermo del Toro’s simple yet effective answer of “I’m Mexican” after his Golden Globes win. The viral video has been viewed more than 1 million times on YouTube and features Mexican artists, scientists and pioneers in their respective fields who broke down walls and surpassed obstacles.

Here’s the video that has inspired millions of Mexicans.

With lines from the video such as, “No. You don’t need contacts. You don’t need money. You don’t need the easy road. Because in Mexico, opportunities aren’t found—they’re created,” how can you not feel pumped up?

If you need some inspiration this week, here are 13 other Latinos who have used their talent, grit and hunger to create advancements in everything from tech to sports.

1. Ellen Ochoa

The California native is the first Latina to head to space and completed four Shuttle missions after being selected as a NASA astronaut in 1990. Ochoa continues to reach for the stars as the deputy director of the NASA’s Johnson Space Center, also as the first Latina to hold that position.

2. Guillermo González Camarena

Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, González Camarena was 17 years old when he invented an early color transmission system. He also brought television in color to his native Mexico.

3. Luis von Ahn

Each time you have to identify a piece of a boat to allow your computer to know you aren’t a robot, you can thank Guatemalan techie Luis von Ahn. After selling several of his companies to Google and working for them, he left in 2011 to co-found language-learning application Duolingo. He is also a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

4. Susana Ibarra

Ibarra is setting her sights on the horizon as a pilot for Kuwait Airlines. She became El Salvador’s first female commercial airline pilot in 2015 when she was 29 and has now become Kuwait Airline’s second female pilot.

5. Oscar Hijuelos

Cuban-American novelist Hijuelos’ bestseller book ‘The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love’ earned critical acclaim and made him the first Latino to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction back in 1990. The novel tells the story of the Castillo brothers who emigrate from Havana to New York City and transform into the Mambo Kings of NYC after playing in an orchestra.

6. Maria Contreras-Sweet

Born in Guadalajara, Contreras-Sweet is most-widely known as the Administrator of the Small Business Administration under President Barack Obama. She was also the executive chair and founder of ProAmérica Bank, the first Latino-formed commercial bank and also founded Contreras-Sweet Enterprises, a marketing and research firm. Contreras-Sweet’s extensive career extends from the public and private sector to corporate America.

7. Adriana Cisneros

At the age of 33, Cisneros became the CEO of Cisneros Group, a family-owned multibillion dollar media and real estate enterprise founded by her grandfather in Venezuela. She joined the family business at 25 and launched its digital media division, focusing on online advertising networks, e-commerce, social gaming and crowd-funding. After five years in the role, she was given the company reigns as its CEO.

8. Linda Alvarado

Alvarado placed her bid to become the first Latina to become a co-owner of a major league team when she became co-owner of the Colorado Rockies. Her success in the business sector began when she started Alvarado Construction with a loan from her parents in 1976. Back then, Latinas could not get access to either capital or even a credit card. Now the company has completed several projects including stadiums, hotels and an aquarium.

9. Dr. Helen Rodriguez Trías

Dr. Helen Rodriguez Trías was elected the first Latina president of the American Public Health Association and was an active force in the women’s health movement. She helped to bring neonatal care and public health services to women and children around the world. Dr. Trías was a founding member of both the Women’s Caucus and the Hispanic Caucus of the American Public Health Association and received a Presidential Citizen’s Medal in 2001 shortly before her death.

10. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa

Known as “Dr. Q,” Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa rose to become the chair of neurologic surgery at Mayo Clinic Jacksonville and also co-founded the non-profit Mission: BRAIN, Bridging Resources and Advancing International Neurosurgery. After moving to California from Mexico, Dr. Quinones-Hinojosa worked as a migrant farm worker and put himself through school at a community college. He then transferred to University of California, Berkeley and attended medical school at Harvard Medical School. He has written an autobiography on his life, Becoming Dr. Q.

11. Jessica Márquez

Named one of CNET’s 20 Most Influential Latinos in Tech in 2017, engineer Márquez began working for NASA in 2007 and helps to plan and schedule software tools for space missions. She received her bachelor’s from Princeton University and her Master of Science degree in Aeronautics/Astronautics and her Ph.D. in human-systems engineering from MIT.

12. Alberto Villarreal

Also on last year’s CNET List of 20 Most Influential Latinos in Tech, Villareal currently works as the creative lead at Google for the hardware group. In his past jobs, Villareal has worked for automotive-design studios in Europe and launched a strategic design firm in San Francisco. He has also been featured as a TEDx speaker in Mexico City.

13. Wendy Carrillo

A former undocumented immigrant from El Salvador, Carrillo was raised in East Los Angeles and worked for 10 years as a radio host, writer and producer before switching to politics. She is currently an assemblymember for the California State Assembly’s 51st District, representing parts of northeastern Los Angeles and East Los Angeles.


READ: Meet The Trailblazing Latinos That Made It Onto The Forbes ’30 Under 30′ List

Which Latinos are inspiring you to pursue your dreams? Let us know in the comments and share this list with your friends!

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