Top Authors, Activists, and Public Figures for Hispanic Heritage Month

Each year, we observe Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15. This time period is also special because many Latin American countries, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Chile, celebrate their independence days around this time. During Hispanic Heritage Month and beyond, we honor the cultures and contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans to United States history.

Having diverse speakers and including multiple perspectives from people with different backgrounds is key to a successful event. Check out these top Hispanic Heritage speakers who will inspire your audience with a culturally rich perspective.

Popular Hispanic & Latino Authors

Writing is one of the most powerful ways to illustrate one’s stories and experiences. These authors of Hispanic and Latino heritage write in a variety of genres, including comedy, memoirs, and fiction. But their voices carry their own experiences and help see the world through their eyes. Their identities are woven deeply into their works. And their ability to express and uplift their communities through their words will impress and inspire your audience. Check out some of these popular Hispanic and Latino Authors for your next event!

Esmeralda Santiago

Award-Winning Author & Documentary Filmmaker

Esmeralda Santiago was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She came to the United States at age thirteen and attended New York City’s Performing Arts High School, where she majored in drama and dance. After eight years of part-time study at community colleges, she transferred to Harvard University with a full scholarship. She graduated magna cum laude in 1976. In 1977, she and her husband, Frank Cantor, founded CANTOMEDIA, a film and media production company. The company has won numerous awards for excellence in documentary filmmaking.

Her writing career evolved from her work as a producer/writer of documentary and educational films. Upon publication of her first book, the memoir “When I was Puerto Rican,” Santiago was hailed as “a welcome new voice, full of passion and authority,” by the Washington Post Book World. Her first novel, “América’s Dream,” was published in six languages, and was an Alternate Selection of the Literary Guild. Her second memoir, “Almost a Woman,” received numerous “Best of Year” mentions, in addition to an Alex Award from the American Library Association. Santiago’s third memoir, “The Turkish Lover,” has received enthusiastic reviews as “an earthy, heartfelt tale of liberation, desperation, and the crippling grip of love.” She has also edited anthologies, written children’s books, and is a spokesperson on behalf of public libraries.

Anjanette Delgado

Award-Winning Novelist, Speaker & Journalist

Anjanette Delgado is an award-winning novelist, speaker, and journalist. She has written or produced for media outlets such as NBC, CNN, NPR, Univision, HBO and Vogue Magazine’s Latam and Mexico divisions, and for Telemundo, among others. She’s covered presidential coups, elections, the Olympics, both Iraq wars, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Early in her career, Delgado became fascinated with heartbreak, the different ways in which it occurs, and the consequences it brings. Her human-interest television series “Madres en la Lejanía” won an Emmy award for its depiction of Latina mothers working as undocumented nannies in the United States, while living with the consequences of having left their own children behind in search of a better life.

Delgado’s original screenplay for HBO, Good in Bed, was a thesis on the life moments in which sex, love, identity, self, and society collide. Her first novel, “The Heartbreak Pill,” won first prize at the Latino International Book Award for Best Romance in English, was a Triple Crown Winner for Best Romance Book in Spanish in 2010. And it won first prize for Best Romance in Latino Literacy’s “Books into Movies” competition in 2011. “The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho” is Delgado’s latest novel. Set in vibrant Little Havana, it tells the story of Mariela Esteves, a woman whose choice to renounce her true calling results in two failed marriages, a brush with murder, and a lot of heartbreak. 

Lizzie Velasquez

Motivational Speaker; Author of “Lizzie Beautiful” & “Be Beautiful, Be You;” Once Labeled “The World’s Ugliest Woman”

Lizzie Velasquez is a motivational speaker, YouTube personality, anti-bullying activist and author. Ever since she was dubbed the “World’s Ugliest Woman” in a video posted on YouTube in 2006, when she was 17, Velásquez has spoken out against bullying. In January 2014, she gave a TEDxAustinWomen Talk titled “How Do YOU Define Yourself” and her YouTube videos have received over 54 million views. She is an executive producer of the award-winning documentary based on her life, A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story, which chronicles her journey from cyber-bullying victim to global anti-bullying activist. The film was released by Cinedigm in the U.S. in 2015 and began its international release in 2016.

In 2017, Velasquez starred as the host of the Fullscreen series “Unzipped,” where she explores the concept of beauty standards — which have played a major role in her own life — through the experiences of others. Velasquez released her fourth book, “Dare To Be Kind,” in 2017. In this daring, revelatory book, Velasquez reveals the hidden forces that give rise to self-doubt, shame, and cruelty, and empowers us to redirect them to unlock empathy and kindness for ourselves and others.

Inspiring Hispanic & Latino Activists

With racial and ethnic inequalities still persisting in our society today, the voices and work of Hispanic and Latino activists help to bring awareness and shed light on the experiences of struggles these communities face, while also highlighting their invaluable impact on the United States’ history. From political advisors to immigration activists, these speakers work tirelessly to change society for the better. Check out these inspiring Hispanic and Latino activists who are changemakers in their communities to see how their message can impact your audience today!

Cristina Jiménez Moreta

Ecuadorian Immigration Activist; Executive Director & Co-Founder of United We Dream (UWD)

Cristina Jiménez Moreta is Executive Director & Co-Founder of United We Dream (UWD), the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the country. Originally from Ecuador, Moreta came to the U.S. with her family at the age of 13, attending high school and college as an undocumented student. She has been organizing in immigrant communities for over a decade and was part of UWD’s campaign team that led to the historic victory of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012 that protects close to a million young immigrants from deportation. Under Moreta’s leadership UWD has grown to a powerful network of 57 affiliates in 25 states with over 400,000 members.

In October 2017, Moreta was named a MacArthur Fellow by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for her work as a social justice organizer. Moreta is also one of Forbes’ 2014 “30 under 30 in Law and Policy.” She has appeared in hundreds of media outlets, including CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, the LA Times, ABC, NPR, The Huffington Post, Univision, Telemundo, and La Opinion. She proudly serves on the Board of Directors of the National Committee for Responsible Philanthropy (NCRP), Hazen Foundation, and Make the Road Action Fund. Additionally, Moreta co-founded the New York State Youth Leadership Council, the Dream Mentorship Program at Queens College, was an immigration policy analyst for the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, and an immigrant rights organizer at Make the Road New York.

Erika Andiola

Chief Advocacy Officer of RAICES & DREAMer

Erika Andiola is a DREAMer and the Chief Advocacy Officer for RAICES, a nonprofit providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families and refugees. Andiola’s personal struggle as an undocumented woman herself, with an undocumented family, has given her the drive and the passion to keep fighting for immigrant and human rights. She is originally from Durango, Mexico but immigrated to Mesa, Arizona, with her family, when she was 11 years old. She was previously Political Director of Our Revolution, a progressive American political action organization that educates voters about issues, gets people involved in the political process, and works to organize and elect progressive candidates. Our Revolution was spun out of Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, where Andiola served as the Press Secretary for Latino Outreach.

Previously, Andiola was a Congressional Staffer for Arizona Congresswoman, Kyrsten Sinema. She is the co-founder of the Dream Action Coalition and started her community organizing experience when she co-founded the Arizona Dream Act Coalition. Andiola also served on the National Coordinating Committee and the Board of Directors for the United We Dream Network.

Hispanic & Latino Public Figures

There are Hispanic and Latino voices in all different industries using their platforms and voices to advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion. No matter what kind of event you are putting on, there are plenty of Hispanic and Latino heritage speakers who can bring a unique perspective for your audience. These motivational Hispanic and Latino speakers come from a variety of backgrounds and careers, from actors and advocates to journalists and politicians.

Danny Trejo

Actor, Activist & Restaurateur

Danny Trejo developed a prolific career in the entertainment industry with a hard-earned and atypical road to success. From years of imprisonment to helping our youth battle drug addictions, from acting to producing, and now onto restaurant ventures, Trejo’s name, face, and achievements are well recognized in Hollywood and beyond.

Years into his journey as a drug and alcohol counselor, Trejo visited the set of Runaway Train to offer support to a man he’d been counseling. Upon arriving on set, Trejo was immediately offered a role as a convict. Since then, he has gone on to star in dozens of films including Desperado, Heat, the From Dusk Till Dawn film series, Con Air, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, and the Spy Kids movies. An appearance in Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse led to a spin-off movie based on the original trailers called, Machete, in which Trejo plays an ex-federale with a gift for wielding a blade. The success of Machete spawned a sequel, Machete Kills, which led to co-starring in Death Race: Inferno and the Bad-Ass trilogy. He can also be seen in Muppets Most Wanted and Dead Again in Tombstone. On television, Trejo reunited with Robert Rodriguez for Miramax’s “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series.” He held recurring roles on “Sons of Anarchy” and “King of the Hill,” “Breaking Bad,” and “The Flash,” and has been featured in episodes of “Blue Bloods,” “What We Do in the Shadows,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “Kidding.” Additionally, Trejo has voiced numerous animated characters, such as the role of Skeleton Luis in The Book of Life, Bane on Cartoon Network’s “Young Justice,” and Filthy the Foot on Nickelodeon’s “Pig Goat Banana Cricket.” 

If you didn’t think Trejo was busy enough, he has expanded his Trejo’s Tacos empire to six locations, including the Hollywood area, the Southwest Terminal at LAX, and at the Original Farmer’s Market. Trejo’s Coffee & Donuts has also proven to be just as successful.

José M. Hernández

Former NASA Astronaut & Engineer; Former Candidate for U.S. Congress; Author

NASA engineer Jose Hernandez wanted to fly in space ever since he heard that the first Hispanic-American had been chosen to travel into space. “I was hoeing a row of sugar beets in a field near Stockton, Calif., and I heard on my transistor radio that Franklin Chang-Diaz had been selected for the Astronaut Corps,” says Hernandez, who was a senior in high school at the time. “I was already interested in science and engineering,” Hernandez remembers, “but that was the moment I said, ‘I want to fly in space.’ And that’s something I’ve been striving for each day since then.” And that hard work has paid off. He was selected to begin training as a mission specialist as part of the 2004 astronaut candidate class.

After graduating high school in Stockton, Hernandez enrolled at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, where he earned a degree in electrical engineering and earned a full scholarship to the graduate program at the University of California in Santa Barbara, where he continued his engineering studies. In 1987, he accepted a full-time job with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory where he had worked as a co-op in college. While at Lawrence Livermore, Hernandez worked on signal and image processing applications in radar imaging, computed tomography, and acoustic imaging. Hernandez has won recognition awards for his work on this project. He has also worked in the international arena where he represented Lawrence Livermore and the U.S. Department of Energy on Russian nuclear non-proliferation issues.

J.R. Martinez

Actor, Best-Selling Author, Motivational Speaker, Advocate & Wounded U.S. Army Veteran

After high school, J.R. Martinez joined the army. In September of 2002, he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. In March of 2003, Martinez deployed to Iraq. On April 5, he was driving a humvee in Karbala when his front left tire hit a roadside bomb. The three other soldiers were ejected from the burning vehicle, but Martinez was trapped inside. He suffered smoke inhalation and severe burns to 34 percent of his body, spent 34 months in recovery at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC/SAMC) in San Antonio, Texas, and has undergone 34 different surgeries since his injury. Since then, he has traveled the world as a motivational speaker. Martinez has had the privilege of speaking with troops at various bases around the world, as well as serving as the keynote speaker for Delta, Wells Fargo, Verizon, State Farm, General Motors, Red Cross, and numerous other Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, and universities. His story may be unique, but his message is universal; change isn’t bad if you are willing to adapt. Your path in life is decided by your own ability to Adapt & Overcome.

Many may remember Martinez as “Brot Monroe,” a combat veteran who was injured in Iraq and returned home to face the new challenges of reintegrating to civilian life, on the Emmy Award winning ABC Daytime drama “All My Children.” After “All My Children” ran its final season in 2011, Martinez went on to surprise and inspire a nation as a contestant on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. Along with partner Karina Smirnoff, Martinez won the coveted mirror ball trophy, and they were named season 13 champions. Later, Martinez co-starred on the syndicated action series, “SAF3” (CW Network). He also guest starred in the season 6 finale of Lifetime’s “Army Wives.” 

Martinez is the author of the New York Times best-selling book “Full of Heart: My Story of Survival, Strength, and Spirit,” a memoir about how he was able to take his own personal tragedy and turn it into an inspiration for others. As a firm believer in giving back, his dedication to the nonprofit world is something about which he is very passionate. Martinez serves as an ambassador for Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, Glasswing International, No Barriers and Debra of America.

This September and beyond, honor and celebrate the unique voices and stories from the culturally rich perspective of speakers from Hispanic and Latino heritage. Whether they be authors with interesting life stories, activists who work tirelessly for immigration rights, or public figures who have used their platforms to promote diversity and inclusion, there is a speaker who is right for you. Feel free to reach out with any questions about your event— we’re here to help!

Lucy Marr: Lucy is a freelance writer for AAE. A self-proclaimed pop culture addict, Lucy loves keeping up with current events, the entertainment industry and finding exciting new talent to feature in her articles. In her free time, she loves traveling, going to the movies, trying out new recipes, and doing improv comedy.
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