25 Influential Latinos You've Probably Never Heard Of

We often hear about the amazing work celebrities and high-profiled leaders are doing to change the world, but there are countless of influential Latinos that are left behind-the-scenes. We are honoring these women and men who have made strides in media, science, medicine, corporate America, and more.

1. influential slide 01_Maricel Presilla

Maricel Presilla

This Cuban American star chef, who a James Beard Award in 2012 and has cooked at the White House, isn’t your average culinary professional. The owner of Zafra and Cucharamama restaurants in New Jersey also wrote Gran Cocina Latina, a comprehensive cookbook. She holds a doctorate degree in medieval Spanish history, has a background in cultural anthropology, and is president of Gran Cacao Company, a Latin American food research and marketing company.


2. influential slide 02_Antonio M. Perez

Antonio M. Perez

The Spanish businessman knows better than anyone that a picture is worth a thousand words. He is currently the Chairman and CEO of Kodak and makes $5.3 million a year, according to Forbes. Perez has helped transform the company into a digital imaging leader. As Pitbull would say, “Picture that with a Kodak.”


3. influential slide 03_Nina Tassler

Nina Tassler

As President of CBS Entertainment since 2004, Tassler helped introduce successful sitcoms including, How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory. The Puerto Rican executive and Boston University grad continued the legacy of her father, who worked for CBS back in the 1950’s. "CBS is kind of in my blood," she has said.


4. influential slide 04_Cesar Alvarez

Cesar L. Alvarez

Alvarez is the Executive Chairman of Greenberg Traurig, the seventh largest law firm in the country, a rare position among Latino lawyers. The Cuban lawyer and University of Florida grad previously served as the CEO for 13 years. Alvarez says that his number one lesson is, “Never let anybody else tell you what you can and cannot do.” He has received awards including the American Bar Association’s Spirit of Excellence Award.


5. influential slide 05_Isaac Lee

Isaac Lee Possin

As the President of News for Univision since 2010, Possin is one of the most powerful figures in journalism today. The Colombian professional oversees daily programming and editorial strategy in the on-air and interactive media platforms. He is also the founder and former editor-in-chief of PODER Magazine, which targets the Hispanic business elite. He has a M.A. in Journalism from the Universidad de Los Andes.


6. influential slide 06_Dulce Matuz

Dulce Matuz

Matuz knows how to pay it forward. As the President of the Dream Act Coalition, she lobbies for a pathway to U.S. citizenship for undocumented immigrants experiencing a struggle similar to her own: Matuz immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico as a teenager and received an engineering degree from Arizona University. “There are battles we lose every day. There are dreamers who are depressed, some who have committed suicide or just can’t go on,” she told EFE. She has appeared in Time’s list of the 100 Most Influential People.

 


7. influential slide 07_Eike Batista

Eike Batista

As the fifth richest man in Brazil, the oil and mining magnate’s net worth is estimated to be a cool $11 billion, according to Forbes. The chairman of the EBX Group, who rose from college dropout to successful entrepreneur, he also gives back as part of the Brazilian Olympic Committee. He reportedly donated  $4.5 million to help the country host the 2016 Olympics


8. influential slide 08_Felice Gorordo

Felice Gorordo

After traveling to Cuba to discover his cultural roots, Gorordo co-founded the non-profit Roots of Hope (Raíces de Esperanza), which aids the professional development of Cuba’s youth and boasts over 3,000 members and participating 60 universities. Felice graduated from Georgetown University and was a White House Fellow.


9. influential slide 09_Carlos and Rose de la Cruz

Carlos and Rose de la Cruz

The power couple own Eagle Brands, a Florida-based distributor. Carlos is also the chairman of the board of CC1 Companies, Inc., which has $1 billion in annual sales. But the Cuban couple’s power goes beyond business: As owners of one of the top contemporary art collections (which is open to the public in Miami), they specialize in making world renowned stars out of emerging Latin artists.


10. Influential: Cipriano Santos

Cipriano Santos

As a senior scientist at HP Labs, Santos has helped develop a new program, which makes it easier to transfer money between Mexican citizens working in the U.S. and their loved ones back home. One of the most influential Latinos in technology, the Mexican leader also launched an internship program for students from Latin America to gain professional experience in the HP labs. He has also filed 21 patents and was awarded Mexico's President's Excellence Award in 2004.


11. Influential: Rolando Santos

Rolando Santos

While CNN on-air personalities aren’t very diverse nowadays, behind-the-scenes it’s a different story. Santos serves as the Senior VP of International Relations and oversees the development of CNN’s growth overseas and manages international affiliates. “I have enjoyed working in the international arena and helping launch so many successful CNN services around the world,” said the University of Texas grad.

12. influential slide 12_Mario Molina

Mario Molina

The Mexican scientist is a leading expert in pollution and its effects. In 1995, Molina was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry thanks to his advanced research about the ozone layer. He reportedly donated $200,000 of his Nobel Prize earnings to support other young academics pursuing a career in environmental studies. He is now a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, Mass.

13. influential slide 13_Antonia Hernandez

Antonia Hernandez

As the former President of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), Hernandez ran the non-profit organization responsible for protecting the civil rights of millions of Latinos living in the United States. Today, however, the lawyer, who graduated from UCLA, is focused on improving the lives of Los Angeles residents through her position as CEO & President of The California Community Foundation.

14. influential slide 14_Sebastian Delmont

Sebastian Delmont

He calls himself a geek; we call him a genius. The Venezuelan web developer/consultant created apps for HootSuite, Gilt and GroupMe. The entrepreneur is also working on a real estate website called Streeteasy.com. “Any idea can succeed on the web, no matter where it comes from, and Latinos need to learn that the harder you try, the more chances you have of success,” he said in an interview.

15. influential slide 15_Nora Volkow

Nora Volkow

Dr. Volkow has dedicated her career to understanding the causes of drug addiction and how it affects self-control. As the Director of National Institute of Drug Abuse, the Mexican scientist’s research has proven that most addicts share a reduction in levels of dopamine receptors, which causes them to get conditioned to the substance, whether it be drugs, coffee, food, or alcohol. She received the Laughlin Fellowship Award as one of the ‘10 Outstanding Psychiatric Residents in the USA.’

16. Influential: Alex Charfen

Alex Charfen

As the CEO of Charfen Institute, which helps distressed homeowners find solutions to foreclosure, Charfen is saving hundreds of families affected by the recession across the nation. His venture has also paid off. In 2010, the Mexican businessman made $10 million after previously filing for bankruptcy. “It was one of the most formative experiences of my life,” he says. The experience pushed him to start his own business to help others.

17. Influential: Ana Roca Castro

Ana Roca Castro

The Founder and Chair of LATISM keeps proving that Latinas are running the social media game day by day. She says it all started with a simple Tweet, “Are there any Latinos out there?” She is the owner of her own social media company, Premier Social Media, and leads the largest organization of Latino professionals connected on social media. Since 2010, Castro’s company has created over 200 jobs, and now serves high-profile clients like Viacom, Wal-Mart, and Toshiba.

18. Influential: Cid Wilson

Cid Wilson

He is the Senior Equity Research Analyst for Cabrera Capital Markets and serves on the Ethnic Advisory Board for PepsiCo and Verizon. But His talent goes beyond the boardroom. In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed him on the National Museum of the American Latino Study Commission in order to develop a museum that will capture the long history of Latinos in the U.S.

19. Influential: Ana L. Flores

Ana L. Flores

Flores’ number one advice to being successful in social media is “be inspiring.” The mantra has worked for the Founder of Latina Bloggers Connect and Spanglish Baby, which took the mommy blog world by storm in 2009. Since then her company has created a network of over 400 bloggers who cover fashion, lifestyle, and more. “I’ve never worked this hard in my life, and I was a TV producer so I worked hard. But I love, love, love what I do,” she has said.

20. Influential: Mildred Garcia

Mildred Garcia

Garcia is living the American Dream as the first Latina to hold the post of President at Cal State Fullerton, the country’s largest state university system. Her mission is to stress the importance of education – especially for Latinos. The Puerto Rican leader was raised in New York and attended community college before completing her doctorate and master’s degree from Teachers College, Columbia University, a master’s from NYU, and B.S. from Baruch. “My heroes are my parents,” she said in an interview. “It was instilled in us that the only inheritance a poor family can leave is a good education.”

21. Influential: Juliet Garcia

Juliet Garcia

She was the first Mexican American woman to become president of an American university. Eighteen years later, she’s still the President of the University of Texas. Garcia has made history in more ways than one. She helped establish the growth of academic institutions and helped launch The University of Texas at Brownsville along with other community leaders. During her tenure, she has increased the school’s budget from $31.4 million to $145 million, expanded the size of the campus, and managed to raise enrollment numbers.

22. Influential: Ralph de la Vega

Ralph de la Vega

AT&T is the industry's mobile broadband leader and De le Vega is the mastermind behind its growth. The Cuban executive is the CEO of Cingular Wireless and the best-selling book Obstacles Welcome: Turn Adversity into Advantage in Business and Life. He received a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Florida Atlantic University and a M.A in business administration from Northern University.

23. Influential: Graciela Tiscareno-Sato

Graciela Tiscareno-Sato

Latino children’s picture storybooks are much needed on shelves. As the author of bilingual book Good Night Captain Mama, she hopes to honor mothers and military vets in our nation. Sato is an inspiration to Latinas everywhere as the Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Gracefully Global Group, LLC, a publishing and marketing firm for Latino innovation and business case studies.

24. Influential: Marisol Valles Garcia

Marisol Valles Garcia

Dubbed the “bravest woman in Mexico,” the 23-year-old exiled her hometown of Chihuahua and is seeking asylum in the U.S. Now represented by the organization, Mexicans in Exile, Garcia is speaking out about the growing drug violence in Mexico and sparking a social movement. Now playwright Matthew Paul Olmos is creating a production inspired titled, So Go The Ghosts of Mexico, inspired by her life. 

25. Influential: Anna Maria Chavez

Anna Maria Chavez

Chavez is making history as the first Latina appointed as CEO of Girl Scouts of America, which includes 3.2 million members nationwide. The Arizona native grew up as a Scout and knows first hand the leadership values young girls learn in the program. “People when they hear 'Girl Scouts' the name, they smile, and sometimes think crafts, camping and cookies. But really it is the premiere leadership organization for girls in this country, if not this world,” she said.