Black History Month: Ten Afro-Latin Legends of Sports

NOTE: This special was originally published in February on the occasion of Black History Month and the broadcast of the SOMOS Afro-Latinos special.

From Minnie Miñoso and Roberto Clemente, to Caterine Ibargüen and Ana Fidelia Quirot, Afro-Latin figures have left an indelible mark on the world of sports.

The contributions of these legends go beyond the sports field, either because they broke racial barriers and fought against social injustices, or because they proudly represented their Afro-Latino heritage in their respective disciplines.

On the occasion of the transmission of the special WE ARE Afro-Latinos, we set about compiling a list of 10 essential Afro-Latin figures for sports fans. The list does not include athletes from Brazil, a country whose inhabitants do not always identify as Latino.

Roberto Clemente

Country: Puerto Rico

Sport: Baseball

A phrase by Roberto Clemente perfectly sums up his philosophy of life: “If you have the opportunity to do something that improves things in this world and you don’t do it, you are wasting your time in this world.” There is no doubt that he did what he said. On December 31, 1972, he died when the plane carrying supplies for those affected by an earthquake in Nicaragua fell into the sea shortly after taking off from Puerto Rico. His humanitarian work was forever recognized by the Major Leagues, with the award for the player whose social actions make a difference. On the ground it was just as fantastic. He was the first Latin American to hit 3,000 hits, champion in two World Series and finished with a .317 average. He won 12 gold gloves and was selected 15 times to the All-Star Game. He had a prodigious and accurate arm, and his 266 assists are the most for an outfielder in the last 80 years. And whenever he had the opportunity, he raised his voice against racism and discrimination in the 1960s.

Teófilo Cubillas

Country: Peru

Sport: Football

“Don’t worry, I already have a successor and it’s Teófilo Cubillas,” said Pelé after the Peruvian, then 21, scored five goals in the four games he played in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, for which he was awarded as the best young player of the tournament. That performance and the words of ‘O Rei’ gave ‘El Nene’ Cubillas a legend card, considered the best Peruvian player of all time. A midfielder ahead of his time, Cubillas soon arrived in Europe, where after a brief stint with Basel he became a Porto idol. He won the Bronze Boot in the 1970 World Cup and the Silver Boot in 1978, on both occasions, he led the Red-White to the quarterfinals. In addition, he guided Peru to win the Copa América in 1975 and in 1987, he made a heroic gesture upon returning from retirement to rearm his beloved Alianza Lima after the accident in which most of its members perished in 1987.

Caterine Ibargüen

Country: Colombia

Sport: Athletics

The native of Urabá, a region of Colombia with a large population of Afro-descendants, changed the history of Colombian athletics and recorded her name among the best triple jump of all time. He holds the sixth best mark in history in his test (15.31 meters in 2014). He won gold at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and silver in London 2012. In addition, he has five medals in World Championships, three crowns in World Cups and two titles in Pan American Games. In the second decade of the 21st century, her dominance has been such that in 2018 she was awarded as the Best Athlete in the World by the IAAF. He deserved recognition after dominating the Diamond League in two events: Triple Jump and Long Jump.

Mijain lopez

Country: Cuba

Sport: Greco-Roman fight

Few athletes can claim that they have been the best of all time in any discipline. Mijaín López is one step away from achieving it. In fact, he resigned from retirement to pursue his fourth Olympic title in Greco-Roman wrestling in Tokyo (2008, 2012, 2016), which would place him above Russia’s Aleksandr Karelin (3 titles and one silver). Lopez has long competed against himself, injury and weight; In the Japanese capital, he will come out as a favorite despite his 38 years. The Cuban also has five titles in World Championships, three in World Cups, five in Pan American Games and three in Central American and Caribbean Games.

Mireya Luis

Country: Cuba

Sport: Volleyball

Mireya Luis is considered one of the best volleyball players of all time. At just 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 meters) tall, he reached heights in attack greater than a basketball hoop. At his best, he was simply unstoppable. Eighteen days after giving birth to her only daughter, she propelled the Cuban team to the subtitle at the 1986 World Cup. In the 1990s, she was the leader of what is possibly the most dominant Latin American team of all time (without distinction of sex and sport). With that Cuban volleyball team, Mireya won in a row the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, the 1994 Sao Paulo World Cup, the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the 1998 World Cup in Japan and the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Minnie Minoso

Country: Cuba

Sport: Baseball

The Cuban opened the doors to black Latino players in the majors. Minoso made his debut for the Cleveland Indians in 1949, just two years after Jackie Robinson broke the race barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers. After being traded to the Chicago White Sox, Minoso received the opportunity to play regularly and in the Windy City he became a true emblem. With the White Sox he averaged above .300 in eight seasons and dropped his .298 lifetime average. He surpassed 100 RBIs four times and amassed 1,023 in a career that spanned five decades, from 1949 to 1980, when he made his last appearances at 54 years old. In early December, he was finally inducted into the Cooperstown Hall of Fame.

Albert pujols

Country: Dominican Republic

Sport: Baseball

From 2001 to 2011 it was impressive year after year, and only compared to the greats in history. In those first 11 seasons of his career, he produced a .328 / .420 / .617 / 1.037 offensive line and a 170 OPS +, led the St. Louis Cardinals to two World Series titles, hit 445 home runs and averaged 121 towed by season. He was Rookie of the Year in 2001, won a batting title, six silver bats, two Gold Gloves, was a three-time MVP and was second in the vote in four other seasons. Although his production declined in the last decade with the Los Angeles Angels, he enters the 2021 campaign with 3,236 hits, 669 doubles, 662 home runs, 2,100 RBIs, 1,843 runs scored, 100.7 WAR – which should rank him not only as the best Latino player. of all time, but as one of the 15 best in history.

Ana Fidelia Quirot

Country: Cuba

Sport: Athletics

‘La Tormenta del Caribe’ is one of the greatest female icons of Latin American sport, and was the first Latina to win the IAAF Best Athlete of the Year award in 1989. At the peak of her career – in the 800 events and 400 meters flat – suffered a terrible domestic accident in January 1993, when he suffered severe burns to his arms, neck and chest that put his life at risk, and lost the seven-month-old baby in his womb. Although few thought he would compete again, Quirot returned to the slopes nine months later, after 21 surgeries, at the Central American and Caribbean Games in Ponce. Visibly limited by burns, the Cuban won the silver medal in the 800 meters, in one of the most emotional moments in the history of that competition. Quirot had to undergo surgery on numerous other occasions, but that did not stop her and she managed to win the 1995 and 1997 World Championships, as well as obtain a silver medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Felix Sanchez

Country: Dominican Republic

Sport: Athletics

Born in New York to Dominican parents, ‘El Super Sánchez’ built in 12 years one of the most surprising stories of tenacity of any Olympic athlete. After losing in the 400-meter hurdles semifinals at Sydney 2000, he reached the 2004 Olympics in Athens with the stamp of favorite and a streak of 43 consecutive victories, including the 2001 and 2003 World Cups. to the Dominican Republic the first Olympic gold medal in its history. In Beijing 2008, he was eliminated in the first rounds and his decline seemed clear, affected by injuries and the passing of the years. London 2012 received him without much expectation in the most competitive athletics event of those Olympic Games, but he achieved an emotional victory to become the first non-American athlete to win two golds in the 400 meter hurdles and, at 34 years old, in the oldest to achieve it in that event.

Felix ‘Tito’ Trinidad

Country: Puerto Rico

Sport: Boxing

Considered one of the best punchers in the middle divisions, the Puerto Rican won world titles at welterweight, super welterweight and middleweight. Although he attracted attention from his amateur days, he did not compete in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games due to differences with his country’s boxing federation, but as a professional he defeated three Olympic champions – Pernell Whitaker, Oscar de la Hoya and David Reid – in less than a year and made 15 defenses as a welterweight champion. In addition to his achievements on the floor (42-3, 35 knockouts), Trinidad’s triumph celebrations became national holidays in his country and he is still today one of the most beloved athletes among Puerto Ricans everywhere.