Indiana notable latinos
Samora, Julian (1920-1996). As Notre Dame professor in the Department of Sociology from 1959 to 1985, Samora trained several generations of Latino researchers who went on to play leading roles in academia. The Julian Samora Research Institute at Michigan State University bears testimony to his contributions. Samora was cofounder of leading Latino organizations at the national level, such as La Raza and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. He also helped found the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project. As a prominent scholar and activist, Samora also served on numerous governmental and private boards and commissions, including the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the President’s Commission on Rural Poverty.
Villa Parra, Olga (1944-). The daughter of farmworkers and a longtime local volunteer for various causes, Villa Parra began her activist career supporting Cesar Chavez’s grape boycott in the 1960s. After working many years for the Lilly Endowment, a position from which she helped fund many Latino initiatives, Villa Parra continues her support and consulting for nonprofit and philanthropic organizations. Probably the most visible and respected Latina in Indiana, she keeps actively promoting Latino events, such as Cinco de Mayo festivities, that celebrate Latin culture.
Kanellos, Nicolas (1945-). Founder of Arte Publico Press, the largest publisher of Latino literature in the United States. He is also the founder of The Americas Review, formerly Revista Chicano-Riquena. Kanellos taught Latino Literature at Indiana University Northwest from 1973 until 1979. Among many awards, Kanellos has won the Latino Heritage Award for Literature in 1988; the American Library Association’s Award for Best Reference Works of 1993, and the 1989 American Book Award for Publishing. Garcia, Charles J. (1950-). Garcia’s greatest contributions are his efforts to mentor aspiring entrepreneurs. His mentoring program has been adopted by the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce to assist minority- and women-owned businesses to grow at rates of 20 to 60 percent. Founder of the Indiana Hispanic Scholarship Foundation, Garcia has helped increase educational opportunities for first-generation college students. Garcia has received many awards, including the Small Business Association’s (SBA) 1994 Regional Construction Company of the Year Award, the 1994 Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the 2000 SBA Small Businessman of the Year
Award, the 1996-1999 Grow 100 Award Indiana, and the 2004 Center for Leadership Development Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
Cardenas, Gilberto (1952-). Former graduate student of Notre Dame, Cardenas returned to found and direct the Institute for Latino Studies (ILS) at that institution. In his work Cardenas has demonstrated a commitment to Latino migrant workers. During his tenure as the head of the ILS, there has been a prolific production of knowledge on Latinos in the Midwest, which has had public policy repercussions. Cardenas’s contributions have earned him the honor of being named repeatedly among the 100 most influential Latinos in the country by the Latino Business Magazine.
Chapa, Jorge (1953-). Professor and founding director of Latino Studies at Indiana University in Bloomington from 1999 to 2006. He has scores of publications reflecting his research focus on the low rates of Latino educational, occupational, and economic mobility, and on the development of policies to improve these trends. He is currently director of the Center on Democracy in a Multiracial Society at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Watson, Juana (1955-). Indiana State’s first senior advisor for Latino Affairs. She is the founder of two Latino community centers and a not-for-profit organization called Badges Without Borders. She has participated in organizations throughout the state helping develop programs regarding Latino cultural awareness.
Puente, Sylvia (1958-). Director of the Metropolitan Chicago Initiative for the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies (ILS). In 2003, Puente was one of 25 Chicago area women named a Pioneer for Social Justice. Puente was introduced to a life of activism by her mother at the age of 13, when she joined her first picket line in support of the United Farm Workers. In 2005, Puente was listed among the nation’s 100 most influential Latinos.
Thon, Richard William Dickie (1958-). Born in South Bend of Puerto Rican parents, Dickie Thon became an outstanding shortstop in Major League Baseball. His professional career started with the California Angels in 1975, reached its peak with the Houston Astros (1981-1987), and ended in 1993 with the Milwaukee Brewers. Dickie Thon was inducted to the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum’s Hall of Fame in 2003.