Although perhaps not iconic, the Hispanic person I most admire for his contributions to society as a whole is my father, Elfego George Baca Jr. He spent his entire life in the service of people, lifting them up and creating spaces where they could achieve their full potential. My father was a teacher, director of Catholic Social Services, a social worker for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, director of the New Mexico League of United Latin American Citizens, LULAC, the largest and oldest Hispanic and Latino civil rights organization in the United States, and an early childhood educator.
He put all he was into making others great, and not just Hispanics, but everyone. He taught me that people are not the labels we place on them, but they are valuable for their uniqueness and deserve kindness, justice, fairness, and loyalty. His values of inclusion and non-judgment helped shape me.
For my dad: you were kind and loving and fair to everyone, even when there was no one there to see it.
I would say my favorite Latino/Hispanic figure is Gabriel García Márquez. He’s my favorite writer. He won the Nobel Prize in 1982, he was Colombian, and he wrote two of my favorite books, Love in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude. If you haven’t read any of his books, he writes in a style that’s called magic realism, and what happens is that he talks about daily, ordinary situations but in a magical way.
Cesar Chavez. In the 1970s, he was a civil rights activist fighting for the rights of many farmworkers, from Southern California to Central California and even out to Arizona. A lot of these [farm] owners took advantage of the fact that many of their farmworkers were illiterate, there was a language barrier, and they knew that their employees were too afraid to speak about their wages, their living conditions, and any rights they had as employees.