As we close out National Hispanic Heritage Month 2021, we want to recognize some important Hispanic/Latin-American VIPs from a variety of career paths. We’ve chosen to honor those who dreamed big and worked hard to make great contributions to the U.S., inspiring others toward success regardless of their starting points in life. Each of these history-makers reminds us to make the most of every opportunity and give back to the country that makes achievements like these possible as we continue to honor our heritage.
Jaime Escalante (Dec. 31, 1930 – March 30, 2010)
Jaime Alphonso Escalante Gutiérrez is best recognized as the subject of Stand and Deliver, the 1998 movie that was based on his experiences as a teacher. Escalante taught mathematics and physics in his home country of Bolivia for 12 years before immigrating to the U.S. In 1982—after spending many years learning English and earning another degree—he began teaching at the troubled Garfield High School in East Los Angeles. In one year, the AP Calculus program he launched there doubled in size and doubled the number of students who passed the exam.
Gloria Estefan (Sept. 1, 1957 – present)
Born in Havana as Gloria María Milagrosa Fajardo García, Estefan’s family settled in Miami in 1959 after fleeing the Cuban Revolution. In 1975, she met musician Emilio Estefan, Jr., and joined the Miami Latin Boys, his group which became Miami Sound Machine two years later. In 1978, the Gloria and Estefan were married. With a decade, she and the Miami Sound Machine achieved international pop music stardom with hit songs like “Anything for You,” and “Rhythm is Gonna Get You.” She has received three Grammy awards, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and in 2018 become and first Cuban-American to be named one of the Kennedy Center Honors. The following year, she and her husband became the first Hispanics and the first married couple to be awarded the 2019 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.
Ellen Ochoa (May 10, 1958 – present)
The first Hispanic woman to go to space, Ellen Ochoa is a second generation Mexican-American who was born in Los Angeles in 1958, many years after her paternal grandparents immigrated from Mexico. She made her first visit to space aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1993. in 2013, she became the first Hispanic director of the Johnson Space Center.
Narciso Rodriguez (Jan. 27, 1961 – present)
Narciso Jesus Rodriguez III was born in Newark, NJ, to Cuban parents. After studying art and design at Parsons The New School for Design, Rodriguez worked as a freelance fashion designer, then as women’s design direction for Anne Klein before moving to Calvin Klein. There, in 1996, he gained notoriety for designing a wedding dress for coworker Carolyn Bessette for her wedding to John Kennedy, Jr. He launched the Narciso Rodriguez label in 1997, then his first fragrance in 2006. Former First Lady Michelle Obama wore his designs for multiple public appearances starting with her husband’s first appearance as president-elect in 2008.
Aaron’s celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month 2021 is sponsored by IGUAL (Inspiring Growth and Unity at Aaron’s for Latinos/Hispanics) an Employee Business Resource Group dedicated to supporting, encouraging, and boosting opportunities for our Latin/Hispanic workforce and communities. Throughout the month, IGUAL has hosted virtual panel discussions with internal and external Latin/Hispanic community leaders, lunch and learn Spanish 101 classes, shared traditional family recipes, and raised funds for Latin American Association Youth Services by selling Hispanic Heritage Month 2021 t-shirts.