Sports in the U.S. have a wide variety of international figures. It’s a good time to remember and acknowledge those who come from Hispanic backgrounds.
The realm of athletic ability is fantastic to remind ourselves that, as humans, we are far more similar than we are different (regardless of cultural background or ethnicity). A good athlete is remarkable anywhere in the world, whether they come from India or China or Uruguay, and whether they play in the U.S. or France or Mongolia. But we often seem to forget that, beyond the tendency to classify people according to their birthplace, there’s a capacity for any individual to shine through the ranks of native players in any given country.
To remind ourselves of that ever-present possibility, Hispanic Heritage Month is the perfect time to stress how influential Latin America has been in the world of sports. With impressive athletes in every activity, Hispanic culture has produced a vast range of talents throughout history, and many of them have made a permanent mark in the U.S. Here are 7 Hispanic athletes that have changed sports in the United States —in days past as well as today.
This Mexican professional golf player rose to international fame in the 2000s, when she shattered records to end up as the top-ranked female golfer. She held this position for a total of 158 weeks, which is the LPGA Tour record. These are consecutive weeks we’re talking about, which in itself is another LPGA Tour record. She was introduced into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2017.
Julio César Chávez
A monster of the boxing world. Chávez is, simply put, one of the best boxers of all time, with multiple World Champion titles across three different weight divisions. He enjoyed 13 consecutive years (87 wins) without a single defeat. Holder of multiple records (including most title fight victories), Chávez was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2010. He is the father of Omar Chávez and Julio César Chávez Jr., both very successful boxers in their own right.
Juan Martín Del Potro
Also known as “Delpo,” Juan Martín Del Potro has conquered the world of tennis with several achievements under his belt. In 2009, the Argentine athlete won the US Open in a final against Roger Federer and was the runner-up for the same tournament just this year. Currently, he holds 22 career titles and seems to have a long career ahead still.
Over the course of 18 seasons, Clemente amazed the baseball major leagues as one of the best right fielders in history. He’s the first Latin American player to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and it’s no wonder he was —with 3,000 hits, a batting average of over 300, and a recipient of the Gold Glove Award for twelve consecutive seasons.
Marichal was born in a small farming village in the Dominican Republic and fell in love with baseball at a young age. He won more games than any other pitcher in the 1960s and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983. He was famous for a very particular high kick when he pitched, where his left leg went almost completely vertical above his head.
Rodríguez had a stunning career that spanned three different leagues on several levels. He was born in Cuba in 1920 and played 19 seasons for his country’s league, after which he played in the Mexican League for nine seasons, and in the International League for seven. He left a mark as one of the toughest players to strike out in the American League, in which he played for the Chicago White Sox.
Born in Sonora, Mexico, Almada made history as the first Mexican baseball player to play in the Major Leagues. During a career that lasted for 7 seasons, Almada played for the Boston Red Sox, the Washington Senators, the St. Louis Browns, and the Brooklyn Dodgers, finishing with a batting average of .284, 15 home runs, and over 360 runs. He was inducted into the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971.
There’s certainly no shortage of influential names for a list such as this, so regardless of your opinion about Latin American representation in physical competition, one thing’s for sure: a lack of Hispanic talent would be a serious loss for the sports world in the U.S.
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