Philadelphia notable latinos
Torres, Manuel (1778-1822). Manuel de Trujillo y Torres played a key role in establishing political connections between Philadelphia and Latin American in the early nineteenth century. He emigrated from Spain to New Granada (which later became the Republic of Colombia) in 1778. After a failed attempt to overthrow the Spanish government there in 1794, he was forced into exile in the United States. He lived the rest of his life in Philadelphia, where his activism in favor of Latin American independence fit well with the city’s status as a center of revolutionary activity. Through his writings and his personal relationships with political leaders in the United States and Latin America, Torres became the premier liaison between the two worlds. Shortly before his death, he met with President James Monroe as a diplomatic officer of Gran Colombia, a union of New Granada and Venezuela. This marked the first official acknowledgment of an independent Latin American nation, an event that Torres made possible. He is buried in the cemetery of old St. Mary’s Church in Philadelphia with a plaque that reads, As minister of the Republic of Colombia he was the first Latin American diplomatic representative in the United States of America.
Varela, Felix (1788-1853). A Catholic priest, philosopher, political agitator, educator, and Cuban nationalist, Felix Varela lived half of his life in exile in the United States. He lived in Philadelphia only briefly from 1823-1825, roughly but his time there marked
an important moment in the early history of Latinos in the United States. Philadelphia, densely populated with revolutionaries agitating for Latin American independence, provided the perfect setting for Varela to begin publication of El Habanero, a newspaper devoted to the liberation of Cuba from Spanish rule. Varela also published the second edition of his acclaimed Lecciones de filosoffa (Lessons in Philosophy) in Philadelphia. He moved to New York in 1825, where he became associated with St. Peter’s Church.
Clemente, Roberto (1934-1972). Roberto Clemente, born in Carolina, Puerto Rico, was a Major League Baseball player from 1955 to 1972. He played all 18 seasons of his professional career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, leading them to World Series titles in 1961 and 1972. Known for his defensive prowess as well as his batting skills, he won twelve Gold Glove awards and was a four-time National League batting champion. Equally important is his legacy as a humanitarian and social activist. He focused his attention on aiding Puerto Rico and the rest of Latin America in any way he could, often taking food and baseball supplies to them. He died in a plane crash on December 31, 1972, while en route to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
He was elected to the Hall of Fame posthumously in 1973, becoming the second Latino ever to be selected (Lefty Gomez was the first, in 1972) and the only exception to the mandatory five-year post-retirement waiting period since it was instituted in 1954. In Pittsburgh the Sixth Street Bridge was renamed in his memory, and the Pirates retired his number, 21, at the start of the 1973 season. Major League Baseball presents the Roberto Clemente Award every year to the player who best follows Clemente’s example with humanitarian work. In 2002, Clemente was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. There is also currently a campaign under way to have all major league teams retire Clemente’s number.
Aguilera, Christina (1980-). Christina Aguilera, one of the most famous pop stars, was born in Staten Island, New York, to Fausto Wagner Xavier Aguilera, a migrant from Guayaqil, Ecuador who had become a U.S. Army sergeant, and Shelly Loraine Fidler, a Spanish teacher of northern European ancestry. Her parents divorced when she was 6 years old, at which point her mother moved to Wexford, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh. Aguilera attended the Ingomar Middle School, in Wexford, and later the Rochester Area Elementary School, in Rochester, Pennsylvania. In 1990 she appeared on the popular talent show Star Search, but failed to win. She returned home and performed on Pittsburgh’s KDKA-TV’s Wake Up with Larry Richert and became a regular performer of The Star-Spangled Banner before games played by the Pittsburgh Penguins (hockey), Steelers (football), and Pirates (baseball).
Before long Aguilera became known nationally, and she recorded her self-titled debut album in 1999, winning the Best New Artist award at the 2000 Grammy Awards. In 2000, Aguilera released her first album in Spanish, Mi Reflejo. The album topped the Latin charts and won Aguilera a Latin Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Aguilera remains connected to her hometown of Pittsburgh, contributing regularly to the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. According to her official Web site, she has toured the center, donated $200,000 to the shelter, and auctioned off front row seats and backstage passes to raise funds for the charity.
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