Wisconsin NOTABLE LATINOS
Samudio, Alcario (1937-). Alcario Samudio, a longtime advocate for Latinos in the Midwest and Texas, grew up in Mercedes, Texas, but migrated with his family for work in Wisconsin. He worked as a recruiter and a foreman at a seed potato company and lived in Wisconsin full time from 1952 to 1978. During the 1970s, he worked as the supervisor of migrant services for the state of Wisconsin and the Bureau of Migrant and Rural Services. He resigned in 1978, shortly after he worked to pass comprehensive legislation to help migrant workers in 1977. He then returned to Weslaco, Texas, in the Rio Grande valley, where he currently resides and works as a paralegal for Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid. He assists migrant workers who seek legal action against recruiters or employers.
Chacon, Ernesto (1938-). Ernesto Chacon was an active player during Wisconsin’s farmworker movement during the 1950s. He grew up in Pearsall and San Antonio, Texas, and first came to Wisconsin through a high-school program that provided support to migrant families while they were up north. He helped buy groceries and translate. Although not a migrant worker himself, Chacon worked with La Raza Unida and was the lead organizer of the Latin American Union for Civil Rights. He also was involved with the Wisconsin part of the 1964 United Farm Workers grape boycott. He served as president of the Federation for Civic Action and currently is the deputy director of the Milwaukee office for Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle.
Hernandez, Roberto (1944-1994). Roberto Hernandez was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee when he helped lead the takeover of the chancellor’s office in 1970 to advocate for more Latino students. After the protest, the university began the Spanish Speaking Outreach Institute (which officials would rename after Hernandez in 1996). While in Wisconsin, Hernandez chaired the Council for Latin Americans and helped choose the first staff and director of the Spanish Speaking Outreach Institute; he then returned to Texas.
Martinez, Lupe (1945-). Lupe Martinez, current chief executive officer of United Migrant Opportunity Services (UMOS), traveled to Wisconsin with his family during the harvest. A native of Corpus Christi, Texas, Martinez settled year-round in Wisconsin during the 1950s. He started as a UMOS outreach worker in 1969 and became executive president in 1974, a distinction he currently holds.
Salas, Jesus (unknown). Jesus Salas, one of the prominent Latino activists in Wisconsin and Texas, migrated to Wautoma, where his family decided to stay during his teenage years. Salas, a native of Crystal City, Texas, organized Wisconsin’s migrant workers during the 1960s and 1970s. His work began in Wautoma, but he organized workers throughout Wisconsin and Texas. Salas helped lead the 1966 March on Madison to direct attention to the hardships migrant workers faced. He founded the union Obreros Unidos. He also served as UMOS executive director from 1969 to 1970. He now serves on the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents and resides in Milwaukee.
Ortiz, Eliza (1967-). Eliza Ortiz, the first Latino to serve on the executive board of United Food Commercial Workers Local 538, relocated from Texas to Wisconsin during high school. After attending the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, she began working at an Oscar Mayer plant as a union steward. Ortiz’s co-workers also elected her to the executive board, where she was the only female member.
Colon, Pedro (1968-). Pedro Colon, originally from Puerto Rico, became the first Latino elected to the Wisconsin legislature in 1998. Colon grew up in Milwaukee and received a law degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A Democrat, Colon is currently serving his fifth term. The Milwaukee Business Journal named him one of the Top 40 under 40 in 1998.
Romo, Tony (1981-). The National Football League has capitalized on Tony Romo, the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, to appeal to the Latino market and attract more fans. Romo, a third-generation Mexican American, grew up in Burlington, Wisconsin. His grandfather migrated from Coahuila, Mexico, to Texas.