Holiday in Michigan

Michigan notable latinos

Barbosa, Jose Celso (1857-1921). Puerto Rican intellectual and politician known for his position in favor of statehood, Barbosa lived in Michigan for 4 years, between 1876 and 1880, while he studied medicine at the University of Michigan. This made him the first Puerto Rican to receive a medical degree in the United States. The feat was more notable because Barbosa was of mixed African and European ancestry.

Gonzalez, Jane (1918-1977). City council member and community leader who migrated to Muskegon from Texas in 1946. After working as a court reporter, in the mid-1960s, Gonzalez headed migrant programs for the Office of Economic Opportunity. In 1964 she won a seat on the Michigan School Board, becoming one of the first Chicana women elected to public office in the United States. She later won election to the North Shore City Council, in Muskegon. In the 1970s Gonzalez served as chairperson of Midwest Mujeres de la Raza.

Benavides, Tony (1937-). Community leader and mayor of Lansing, Benavides migrated to Lansing from Mexico in 1952. He worked part-time in farm labor while studying in public schools and attending Lansing Community College and Lansing Business College. In 1969 he became executive director of Cristo Rey Community Center, a church-based social assistance agency providing services such as health clinics, employment programs, and youth activities. In 2003, while serving as president of Lansing City Council, he was elected mayor.

Lopez McKnight, Gloria (1937-2003). The child of a Mexican American mother and a Mexican migrant father, she grew up in Los Angeles, where she became a designer of costume jewelry and an entrepreneur. She was road manager for singer Dinah Washington before moving to Detroit in 1963 to attend Wayne State University. She began working for the state’s Department of Social Services in 1969. She led the movement to defend Southwest Detroit from urban renewal projects in the 1970s, and she testified before the U.S. Senate in 1972. As president of the Michigan chapter of LULAC in the 1980s, she organized protests to resist cuts in social programs.

Lozano, Raymond (1947-). Latino business owner and community leader in Detroit. The child of Mexican migrant workers who settled in the Midwest in the 1920s, Lozano attended Wayne State University and fought in Vietnam before becoming director of Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development in 1979. In 1980 he launched a professional and managerial career with DTE Energy. He became active in Latino business and civil rights organizations, eventually serving as executive director of the Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He was on the board of directors and served as vice-chairman of the National Council of La Raza.

Abreu, Andres (1957-). Founder and editor of El Vocero Hispano, Abreu moved to Grand Rapids from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in 1991. Trained as a journalist, he

founded El Vocero Hispano in 1993, while working full-time at a local factory. Within a decade the newspaper grew to a circulation of 20,000. Taking active editorial positions, Abreu helped to elect the first Latino to the Grand Rapids school board and organized large demonstrations in Grand Rapids to support immigrant rights in 2006.

Herrada, Elena (1957-). Detroit community activist and historian, Herrada is the granddaughter of a Mexican revolutionary who fought with Emiliano Zapata before moving to Detroit to work in the automobile plants. Many of her family members moved to Mexico during the repatriations of the 1930s, but they soon returned to Detroit, where Herrada grew up. She worked as an advocate for prisoners in the early 1980s, and then as a labor activist with the Service Employees International Union. She created an oral history project to document the history of Mexican repatriation in Detroit. The resulting film, Los Repatriados, was released in 2000. After 2001 she helped create El Centro Obrero in Detroit, dedicated to defending the rights of migrant workers.

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