Vazquez de Ayllon, Lucas (c. 1475-1526). Vazquez de Ayllon was a Spanish conquistador who, with 600 settlers, founded the first European settlement in the New World at San Miguel de Gualdape on the Savannah River near Sapelo Island. He is best known for the discovery of Chesapeake Bay and the exploration of South Carolina.

Soto, Hernando de (c. 1500-1542). From 1539 to 1543, Hernando de Soto led 3,700 troops on an expedition of southeastern North America. In 1540 de Soto’s party traveled through Georgia, making him the first European to explore Georgia’s interior.

Diaz-Verson Amos, Elena (1926-2000). Diaz-Verson Amos was a Cuban-born philanthropist who moved to Columbus, Georgia in 1955. Named in 1997 as the wealthiest Latina in the United States, she was influential in lobbying the U.S. Army to relocate the School of the Americas (now the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) to Fort Benning. She also served on the board and as the director for a number of arts, advocacy, and humanitarian groups, including the Valladares

Foundation, a human rights organization. Amos was also instrumental in financing dissident Alina Fernandez Revuelta’s covert flight from Cuba. Fernandez is the daughter of Fidel Castro.

Goizueta, Roberto C. (1931-1997). Cuban-born Roberto Goizueta was elected president and chief operating officer of the Coca-Cola Company in 1980. In 1981, he became Coca-Cola Company’s chairman and CEO. Under his tutelage, the company’s stock increased 7,200 percent, creating more shareholder wealth than any CEO in history and making Goizueta the first billionaire corporate manager in the United States. In 1992 Goizueta and his wife, Olga, established the Goizueta Foundation to provide assistance to Georgia-based charitable and educational institutions. The foundation has donated millions of dollars to assist in strengthening educational programs for Latino students.

Vargas, Daniel O. (1942-). Vargas, a noted community activist, is a former art director for Avon Products. In 1990 he founded Vargas and Amigos, Inc., the first Latino advertising agency in the Southeast. His art and advertising concepts are award-winning, including being listed among Advertising Age’s 100 Best Ads Ever Created.❠In 1982 he designed the Georgia peach logo that is the centerpiece of Georgia’s license plate design. His artistic rendering of famous Latino soldiers is on permanent display at the Pentagon.

Sobh, Lou (1944-). Lou Sobh, founder and president of Lou Sobh Automotive, is listed among the wealthiest Latinos in America. His company is the largest minority-owned business in Georgia and one of the twenty largest Latino-owned businesses in the United States. Sobh, who was born in Torreon, Mexico, is founder and chair of the National Association of Hispanic Automobile Dealers and is on the board of directors of the National Council of La Raza.

Zamarripa, Sam (1952-). In 2002 Zamarripa, an investment banker, became the first Latino elected to the Georgia State Senate. A Democrat from Atlanta, Zamarripa is known for his strong advocacy of immigration rights and as a proponent of issues of interest to Latinos. He resigned from the Senate in 2006.

Gines, Venus (1961-). Puerto Rican-born Gines is the founder and chief executive officer of Dia de la Mujer Latina, a Georgia-based organization aimed at addressing health disparities among the Latino population. Along with providing a range of health services, the organization sponsors annual one-day health fiestas in 22 states, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic in order to screen Latina women for breast cancer, help the uninsured gain access to health care, and address health risk behaviors among Latino adolescents.

Smith, Desiree (1985-) and Velez, Beatriz (1985-). Phoenix-born Smith and Houston-born Velez, student activists, spent most of their childhood in Georgia. In 2003 they entered the University of Georgia as freshman, where they organized the Students for Latino Empowerment (SLE), the first student group organized to improve the socioeconomic position of Georgia’s Latinos. With the help of government and private funds, SLE sponsors two annual signature events to promote college enrollment among Latino students. SLE chapters are now forming in other universities in Georgia and in other states.

Sports broadcaster Fernando Palacios and two campers at Campo Nuestro, a baseball clinic for Latino youth sponsored by the Atlanta Braves. Courtesy of Atlanta National League Baseball Club.

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