Mariah Silva, Front Desk and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion + Belonging Special Programming Co-Chair, writes about a few of her favorite Latinx icons in the art world.


Selena was a Mexican-American recording artist born in Texas. She was called the ‘Queen of Tejano Music’ and was known for her songs in both Spanish and English. In fact, she was one of the first major artists to perform in both languages. Tejano means a Texan of Mexican-descent. Incredibly, she did not learn Spanish until she began performing. Her first album sold half a million copies.

Selena not only performed but composed, produced, modeled and clothing designed. She was known for designing her own performance outfits and even opened two clothing stores called Selena, etc. Many called her the Tejano Madonna for her style, makeup and dancing. You can visit her museum in Corpus Christi which has many of her performance outfits. It also has her Faberge egg collection, which contains 500 eggs.

Selena eloped with her lead guitarist, Chris Perez, against her father’s wishes and was known for her willpower and determination. Unfortunately, Selena was murdered in 1995 by her fan club leader, Yolanda Saldivar, when she went to confront Yolanda at her apartment for embezzling money. She was only 23 years old.

Take a listen to one of her most famous albums here:


Frida Kahlo was born in 1907 in Coyoacán, Mexico City, and she was famous for her political activism,  artwork, and feminist expression. Some of her many famous paintings include ‘The Two Fridas’ (1939), ‘Henry Ford Hospital’ (1932), ‘The Wounded Deer’ (1946), and ‘Frieda and Diego Rivera’ (1931). Frida was a very talented surrealist but her specialty was self portraits.

At six years old Frida was diagnosed with Polio, but she stayed active by playing soccer, swimming and wrestling, which were not commonly played by women at that time. Frida was politically active in the Young Communist League and the Mexican Communist Party. As a teenager, Frida  survived a very serious bus accident that nearly killed her. She suffered from chronic pain most of her life due to the accident and ongoing surgeries. Her artwork contained bold dark colors that symbolize pain, blood and passion.

In 1929, Frida began a tumultuous marriage to Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera. Diego later had an affair with Frida’s younger sister, Christina. In 1939 Frida traveled to Paris to display some of her artwork, where she met Pablo Picasso. The two become close friends. Her work is still highly valued today; in 2006 one of her paintings ‘Roots’ (1943) sold for $5.62 million. In 1952, Frida passed away at the young age of 47, some speculate from suicide as an autopsy was never done, but her legacy lives on.

You can watch an excellent movie about here here:


Gloria Maria Fajardo, known famously as Gloria Estefan, is a Cuban-born singer and Grammy award winner. Estefan fled Havana, Cuba with her family during the rise of Fidel Castro and came to the United States, where her father, a soldier for President Baptista, served the CIA and fought in Vietnam. Her dad was diagnosed with MS, more than likely caused by Agent Orange, after returning from Vietnam and Estefan became his primary caretaker while her mother worked. She was very isolated during this time and music became her outlet. She said, “When my father was ill, music was my escape. I would lock myself up in my room for hours and just sing. I wouldn’t cry—I refused to cry. … Music was the only way I had to just let go, so I sang for fun and for emotional catharsis.”

She met her husband, Emilio Estefan in 1975, while he was playing keyboard for the Miami Latin Boys. They did not have a lead singer for the band so when they heard Gloria sing, they asked her if she would like to perform with them. She performed on the weekends while she attended the University of Miami and she and Emilio had only a professional relationship for several months.

They renamed the group Miami Sound Machine and then in 1978, Gloria and Emilio decided to get married after sparking a romance. The song “Conga” was their first major hit in the United States. It was the first single to simultaneously top the pop, dance, Black and Latin charts. Gloria became the star attraction of the band and like Selena, she was likened to Madonna. While she performed, Emilio stayed home with their son and took on a managerial role for the band rather than performing.

After a severe car accident on her tour bus, Gloria took time off to recover from extensive surgeries. On her return, her North America tour grossed $14 million in 1996. She is listed as the 3rd Most Successful Latina and 23rd Greatest Latin Artist of all time by Billboard. Her record sales are over 75 million worldwide which makes her one of the best selling female artists ever. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor in 2015 and the Kennedy Center Honors in 2017 for her contributions to American music and culture. She also has three Grammys and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. There is a musical about her and Emilio’s life on Broadway called On Your Feet!

Check out her music here:

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