Overlooked Hispanic Figures

Hispanic figures that are not as well known during Hispanic Heritage Month.

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Overlooked Hispanic Figures
Arianna Barry

Hispanic Heritage Month started September 15th and ends October 15th. During Hispanic Heritage Month, we take time to acknowledge Hispanic culture and the great achievements and successes of popular Hispanic figures. Famous Hispanic figures often include talented vocalists like Selena Quintanilla or Shakira, famous political individuals such as Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, or amazing painters like Pablo Picasso. These influential figures have helped pave the way for the Hispanic Community and shine a positive light on Hispanic culture. 

When most people think of famous Hispanic painters, Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dalí, and Diego Rivera are often names that come to mind. Some may not be familiar with, Belkis Ayón, a Cuban artist born in 1967. Her work often portrays Abakuá, an Afro-Cuban religious group for men. Ayòn began painting when she was just five, she was enrolled in an art program at the Maxímo Gómez Library in Havana, Cuba. Ayón’s work often depicted women mouthless to illustrate the absence and involvement of women in the Abakuá religion. Ayón’s most popular piece, The Supper, shows women, men, and androgynous people gathered at a table. This piece mimics the Catholic depiction of The Last Supper, however, it illustrates the perspective of women and how women struggle under the patriarchal society of Cuba. Although Ayón committed suicide on September 11, 1999, her work continues to be admired all over Cuba today.

In fashion, designers like Coco Chanel and Cristóbal Balenciaga’s work are recognized worldwide, their designs are currently worn along with Dominican fashion designer Oscar de la Renta’s pieces. Oscar de la Renta left the Dominican Republic at age 18 to study painting in Milan. Renta studied under Cristóbal Balenciaga and worked as an illustrator for fashion houses. In 1963 de la Renta helped design fashion pieces for Elizabeth Arden’s line. By 1965 Oscar launched his own Ready-to-Wear fashion label, today this label produces bridal wear, home decor and accessories, and fragrances. De la Renta has designed elaborate dresses for presidential first ladies such as Jacklyn Kennedy, Michelle Obama, Nancy Reagan, and Hillary Clinton. De la Renta lost his battle with cancer on October 20, 2014. 

In music, artists like Selena, Shakira, Gloria Estefan, and Jennifer Lopez are all well known for their elaborate performances and their worldwide hits just like Venezuelan musician and producer, Arca. Alejandra Ghersi Rodriguez otherwise known as Arca. She began producing experimental IDM (intelligent dance music) in 2011, her first song was titled My Sword is Like Wo. Arca then went on to produce music with Björk, Kanye West, and FKA Twigs. Most of Arca’s music reflects on her journey as a trans woman and advocacy for the LGBTQ Community. Growing up Alejandra was a closeted teenager living in Venezuela, it wasn’t until Alejandra turned 18 that she met an openly gay person. She then came out as a trans woman in 2018 and in 2020 she released a song called Nonbinary off her album KICK. In the song, it discusses the joys and confidence of being a nonbinary person. In another song off the album, Time,  Arca focuses on the struggle to figure out who she is as she’s transitioning.