Minnesota notable latinos
Garzon, Luis (1867-1954). Luis Garzon was the first Latino to settle in Minnesota. Although he lived in Minneapolis, he was a leader in the west side community. He opened Tienda de Abarrotes, the first Mexican grocery store in Minnesota, which was
also an information center for the community. Garzon also helped found the Sociedad Mutua Beneficia Recreativa Anahuac in 1922, which helped first-generation Mexicans settle into their new neighborhood.
Rangel, Ray (1932-). A member of Mexican American Veteran’s Post #5, Ray Rangel has successfully brought attention to the contribution of Minnesota’s Mexican Americans to the U.S. military. Following a major organizing effort, he has recently been able to get an area on Harriet Island, in St. Paul, dedicated for a memorial to Minnesota’s fallen Mexican American soldiers.
Gomez-Bethke, Irene (1935-). The daughter of migrant farmworkers, Irene Gomez-Bethke has been involved in social justice issues for most of her life. In the late 1970s she sat on both the Hispanic Advisory Committee, representing Minneapolis mayor Don Fraser, and the Spanish-Speaking Affairs Council. In 1982 she became commissioner for Minnesota’s Department of Human Rights. She has also served as state chair of the Hispanic American Democrats, and she has been a member of the board for the Harriet Tubman Center and of the Chicana Caucus. Gomez is also cofounder of Centro Cultural Chicano in Minneapolis and executive director of the Instituto de Arte y Cultura. Her son Jesse Bethke Gomez is the president of CLUES (Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio), the state’s largest Latino service organization.
Calderon, Maria Elena (1936-). Maria Elena Calderon was the first Latino administrator in the St. Paul school district. She arrived in Minnesota from El Salvador in 1968, and she was one of the first Central Americans to settle in Minnesota. A teacher and single mother of four children, she earned her PhD in education.
Vega, Conrad (1938-). Conrad Vega was the first Latino elected to the Minnesota legislature, in 1976. He served as a Democratic senator for Dakota County for 10 years.
O, Gilbert de la (1945-). Gilbert de la O was the head of the Brown Berets in Minnesota and a celebrated community leader. Born in New Ulm, Minnesota, his parents migrated to Minnesota from Texas to work in the sugar beet fields. In addition to his political work, his service work with youth on the west side has earned him notoriety. Included in his many service awards are the Martin Luther King Community Legend Award for the Twin Cities, and his induction into the Neighborhood House Alumni Hall of Fame, in Washington, DC.
Silva, Maria (1947-) and Tomas (1944-). In 1979 Maria and Tomas Silva opened up El Burrito restaurant on the west side of St. Paul. El Burrito has since expanded its services to include a grocery store, a bakery, and a factory that produces wholesale foods, which are distributed throughout Minnesota and the Midwest. The Silvas employ over 100 Latinos and remain dedicated to running a business that gives back to the Twin Cities’ Latino community.
Cervantes, Manuel (1951-). The first of seven children of migrant farmworkers, Manuel Cervantes is a judge and the first Chicano attorney for the city of St. Paul. Previous to his service as city attorney, he served as a judge on the State Workers’ Compensation Court, as a referee in Ramsey County District Court, and as a judge in Minnesota’s Family and Juvenile Court. He remains very active in the Latino community.