Ultimate magazine theme for WordPress.

Black History Month — 10 essential Afro-Latino sports icons


From Roberto Clemente to Caterine Ibarguen, Afro-Latino athletes spanning various nationalities and disciplines have left lasting marks on the sports world.

Some of these legends might not be household names to American fans, but they nevertheless serve as a beacon to those who navigate the complicated waters of identity — be that in the U.S. (where a quarter of Latinos identify as having African roots), elsewhere in the Americas or the Caribbean.

As ESPN prepares to re-air its first Afro-Latino Town Hall (Somos Afro-Latinos, 7 p.m. ET Sunday, Feb. 28, on ESPN2), we have compiled a list of 10 essential Afro-Latino athletes from across the spectrum. The criteria was simple enough — pick 10 Afro-Latino athletes whose contributions are too big to be ignored. An important caveat: Brazilians, who don’t generally identify as Latinos, were excluded.

The final tally was still impressive in its own right. Among the athletes selected:

  • A Cuban sprinter who overcame a horrific accident to earn every accolade imaginable save for Olympic gold.

  • An attacking midfielder from Peru worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Pele.

  • A prolific Dominican slugger who moved to New York City as a teenager and continues to inch up the all-time home run list.

  • A Hall of Fame boxer and world champion in three weight classes from Puerto Rico who defeated America’s own Golden Boy in his prime.

As he was with last summer’s Latino Face of Baseball project for Hispanic Heritage Month, Clemente is a featured player here as well. The purpose now is to shed light on the feats of those who might not have enjoyed the mainstream spotlight in the U.S. but have nevertheless made important contributions to their sports and countries.

Roberto Clemente

Sport: Baseball
Country of origin: Puerto Rico

Roberto Clemente was powered by what he preached. Perhaps the best example of this: “Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on Earth,” he said. Clemente died on New Year’s Eve 1972 when the plane he was on, which was carrying supplies to victims of an earthquake in Nicaragua as part of a relief mission, went down over water. Major League Baseball’s top humanitarian award, given to the player whose deeds off the field best exemplify Clemente’s spirit, bears his name. On the field, Clemente was just as dynamic. He was the first Latin American player to reach 3,000 career hits. The two-time World Series champion finished with a career batting average of .317, and his .328 average in the 1960s was by far the best during a span defined by dominant pitching. Clemente won 12 Gold Gloves and was a 15-time All-Star. With a powerful and accurate right arm, he led the majors in outfield assists in six seasons and compiled 266 for his career — the most by an outfielder in the past 80 years. Still, it was always about much more than greatness on the field to Clemente. He was fully conscious of his impact as a Black and Puerto Rican public figure, never missing an opportunity to denounce racism and discrimination.

Teofilo Cubillas

Sport: Soccer
Country of origin: Peru

It was at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico where the great Pele declared he had found the person to whom he would pass his torch as soccer’s greatest player. “Don’t worry. I have found a successor, and it’s Teofilo Cubillas,” Pele said. The 21-year-old Cubillas scored five goals in Peru’s four World Cup matches and was named the tournament’s best young player — which along with Pele’s words elevated him to legendary status on his way to becoming the greatest player from his country. A midfielder who was ahead of his time, Cubillas didn’t take long to make an impact in Europe. He had a brief stint with Swiss club Basel but came into his own at Porto, whose fans consider him an all-time idol. He won the Bronze Boot in Mexico in 1970 and the Silver Boot eight years later in Argentina, leading Peru to the World Cup quarterfinal on both occasions. He also guided Peru to Copa America titles in 1975 and 1987. Cubillas further cemented his place in the hearts of Peruvians when he came out of retirement to join a reconstructed Alianza Lima after most of the team’s members died in a 1987 plane crash.

Caterine Ibarguen

Sport: Track and field
Country of origin: Colombia

With an ever-present smile, Ibarguen changed the face of Colombian sport as one of the greatest triple jumpers of all time. She recorded the sixth-longest jump ever — 15.31 meters (50.23 feet), achieved in 2014 — and won Olympic gold in 2012 and 2016. She is also a five-time medalist at the world championships and a two-time winner at the Pan American Games. Ibarguen’s run, including dominant performances in the triple and long jumps at the Diamond League, earned her IAAF honors as the Female Athlete of the Year in 2018.

Mijain Lopez

Sport: Greco-Roman wrestling
Country of origin: Cuba

It is a select few who can claim to be the uncontested greatest ever in their sport. Cuba’s Lopez is one Olympic gold away from entering that category. The 38-year-old wrestler came out of retirement in a bid to win his fourth straight Olympic gold in Greco-Roman wrestling at the Tokyo Games — a feat that would place him over Russia’s Aleksandr Karelin (three golds, one silver) as the GOAT. Lopez’s biggest challenges could come from Lopez himself as he fends off injuries and watches his weight. Still, he will be considered a favorite to win his fourth gold in Tokyo despite his age. Aside from his Olympic résumé, Lopez also has won five world championships, three World Cups and five Pan American titles.

Mireya Luis

Sport: Volleyball
Country of origin: Cuba

Volleyball legend Luis packed many of the qualities found in the best world-class athletes within her 5-foot-9 frame. The range of her leaping ability would have easily covered the standard 10-foot height of an NBA rim. Luis was unstoppable on the court, perhaps the best female volleyball player of all time. She led Cuba to a runner-up finish at the 1986 women’s world volleyball championship in Prague just 18 days after giving birth to her only daughter. Over the next decade, Luis steered one of the most dominant volleyball dynasties of all time as Cuba captured every Olympic and world championship gold between Barcelona 1992 and Sydney 2000.

Minnie Miñoso

Sport: Baseball
Country of origin: Cuba

The Cuban native opened the door for Afro-Latinos in the majors when he debuted for the Cleveland Indians in 1949 — two years after Jackie Robinson knocked down racial barriers in baseball. However, it wasn’t until Miñoso was traded to the Chicago White Sox that he received regular playing time and became a Windy City legend in the process. He batted above .300 on eight occasions, drove in over 100 four times and finished with an average of .298 and 1,023 RBIs over a career that spanned five decades. Despite his numbers and longevity — Miñoso’s final appearance came in 1980 at age 54 — he has not been elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Sport: Baseball
Country of origin: Dominican Republic

The Dominican-born Pujols, who grew up partly in New York and Missouri, stacked up season after season of impressive baseball from 2001 to 2011, a feat that puts him side by side with the all-time greats. In those first 11 seasons of his career, Pujols put up a line of .328/.420/.617/1.037 to go with an OPS+ of 170. In the meantime, he led the St. Louis Cardinals to two championships, hit 445 home runs and averaged 121 RBIs. His accomplishments include a Rookie of the Year award in 2001, a batting title, six Silver Sluggers, two Gold Gloves and three MVPs (finishing second in that voting on four other occasions). Injuries slowed the “The Machine” a bit after he joined the Los Angeles Angels in 2012. However, they haven’t kept him from reaching Hall of Fame numbers: 3,236 hits, 669 doubles, 662 home runs, 2,100 RBIs, 1,843 runs and a 100.7 WAR. When all is said and done, Pujols will have the credentials to be considered not only the greatest Latino ballplayer of all time but among the best ever regardless of background.

Ana Fidelia Quirot

Sport: Track and field
Country of origin: Cuba

Quirot, whose specialty was the 800 meters, is an icon throughout Latin America. She was the first Latina athlete to win the IAAF’s Athlete of the Year award in 1989. She was well into her prime when in 1993 she suffered an accident in her apartment while seven months pregnant that left her with third-degree burns all over her chest, face and arms. Her child was delivered prematurely as a result and did not survive. However, Quirot persisted on the track despite the tragedy. Nine months and 21 surgeries later, her silver-medal effort at the Central American and Caribbean Games continues to give fans chills. Despite frequently returning to the operating table, Quirot would win gold at the world championships in 1995 and 1997. She also secured silver at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. Her personal best of 1:54.44 in the 800 remains the standard in the Pan American region.

Felix Sanchez

Sport: Track and field
Country of origin: United States

A man of many nicknames, “Super Felix,” who was born to Dominican parents in New York and raised in California, had one of the most resilient 12-year runs of any Olympic athlete. After falling short in the semifinals of the 400-meter hurdles in Sydney 2000, he arrived in Athens four years later having won 43 straight in the event — including the world championships in 2001 and 2003 — on his way to delivering the Dominican Republic its first Olympic gold medal. He didn’t make it out of qualifying at Beijing 2008 and appeared to be past his prime. With low expectations coming into London 2012, Sanchez nevertheless captured an emotional victory in becoming the first Olympian not representing the U.S. to win two gold medals in the 400 hurdles — and at 34 became the oldest gold medalist in the event’s history at the Games.

Felix “Tito” Trinidad

Sport: Boxing
Country of origin: Puerto Rico

Considered one of the best punchers of all time in his class, Trinidad won belts as a welterweight, a super welterweight and a middleweight. Given his differences with Puerto Rico’s boxing federation, “Tito” never got a shot at vying for Olympic glory at the 1992 Games in Barcelona. However, he would defeat three Olympic champions within the course of a year in his professional career — Pernell Whitaker, Oscar De La Hoya and David Reid. Trinidad also made 15 successful title defenses as a welterweight on his way to a 42-3 mark, including 35 wins by knockout. Trinidad’s victories on the canvas were a source of pride and celebration in Puerto Rico, where he remains a beloved figure.

Compiled by Hiram Martínez and Damián L. Delgado Averhoff.

Source link

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.