Most of the time when we see a list of beautiful or powerful Latinas, the same names seem to pop up: Eva Longoria, Sonia Sotomayor, Gloria Estefan, Salma Hayek and the like. But there are a number of beautiful and powerful women whose heritage as second or third generation Latinas never made headlines. Maybe that’s because showing your Latino heritage has only become acceptable or desirable within the last couple of decades. So here are six famous women you probably didn’t know were Latinas.
This Hollywood icon, who had a 40-year career in film, was born Margarita Carmen Cansino. Her father was Spanish and her mother American. For a while, she performed as a dancer with her father in Tijuana, Mexico. Her first role was a small part in a Mexican film. Then she went on to star in films with Fred Astaire, Spencer Tracy and Jack Lemon, and was married to Orson Welles. Hayworth was featured on the cover of Life magazine five times.
The star of the Charlie’s Angels films and There’s Something About Mary has a little Cuban in her. Her father was Emilio Diaz, a second generation Cuban-American who worked as a foreman for an oil company in California. Diaz grew up in a non-Hispanic culture in Southern California, and never learned to speak Spanish fluently, though she can manage simple conversation.
The famous folk singer and activist’s father, Albert Vinicio Báez, was born in Puebla, Mexico. He was a prominent Mexican-American physicist and co-inventor of the X-Ray microscope. Joan Báez became famous in the late 60s as a folk singer. As an activist, Joan Báez was a critic of the Vietnam War and of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America. In 1974 she released the Spanish-language album titled, Gracias a la Vida, (the title song was composed by Chilean Violeta Parra), which was a big hit in Latin America. Báez never shied away from her Latino heritage as eloquently stated in the dedication to the album: “This record is dedicated to my father who gave me my Latin name and whatever optimism about life I may claim to have.”
The actress, singer, entrepreneur and 60s and 70s sex symbol was born Jo Raquel Tejada to a Bolivian father, Carlos Tejada Urquizo. She later took the surname of her first husband whom she married when she was 19. In 1966 she starred in One Million Years B.C. The pin-up from the film, with Welch wearing a fur bikini, became a best-selling poster. She went on to star in dozens of movies and TV shows and earned a Golden Globe in 1974 for her role in The Three Musketeers. She never learned to speak Spanish because her father never spoke it at home. In an interview about her part in the movie Tortilla Soup, she says it was only later in life that she realized what she was missing out on by not embracing her Latino heritage.
The 1972 Miss World USA, and star of Wonder Woman during the 1970s, is a Mexican American. She was born Linda Jean Córdova Carter in Phoenix, Arizona. Her mother, Juana Córdova, is from Chihuahua, Mexico. Carter is an actress and singer. She has released three record albums and starred in dozens of TV shows and movies. Carter supports immigrant rights and has stated in interviews that she was against Arizona’s SB 1070.
She was the first female singer to release four platinum albums consecutively and was the highest paid female rock star in the 1970s. Linda Ronstadt’s grandmother was Mexican. Her father came from a pioneering Arizona ranching family whose contributions are chronicled in the University of Arizona library. A popular and versatile recording artist, Ronstadt has released 30 solo record albums in five decades and won a dozen Grammys. Her discography includes the Grammy winning albums Canciones de mi Padre and Mas Caniones, both of which feature traditional Mexican mariachi songs. A native of Tucson, Arizona, Ronstadt has campaigned for the rights of undocumented immigrants and joined a lawsuit against Arizona’s SB 1070 law.