Hispanic Heritage Names: Inspirational Namesakes
As a first-generation Cuban American, Hispanic Heritage Month is a celebration of my identity. And as a first-generation Cuban American name nerd, that means exploring the rich world of Hispanic names and namesakes.
The beautiful Hispanic names here belong to influential figures of the past as well as to rising stars of film, music, and literature. Choosing one of these honor names can help define your child's identity and help them discover who they are and who they might become. Here, some Latinx and Spanish heroes with names that might speak to you.
Hispanic Girl Names
True to the meaning of Rita -- it's short for Margarita, meaning "pearl" --Rita Moreno is an absolute gem and treasure. She is one of only three women in history to win the coveted PEGOT Awards (Peabody,Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony). The name Rita may be ready to dust itself off and join the modern ranks of vintage classics.
A trailblazer for women in art, Mexican painter Frida Kahlo is one of the most impactful artists of the 20th century. Frida remains an enigmatic figure who serves as an inspiration toyoung women. A German name meaning "peaceful", Frida is growing in popularity in several European countries. Get the baby Frida Kahlo costume pictured here at Costume Works.
Selena Quintanilla and Selena Gomez
The name Selena means "moon goddess," and Selena Quintanilla is a goddess in her own right. Known as "the Queen of Tejano Music," her life was cut far too short. But her legacy inspired many around the world. World-famous pop star Selena Gomez was named after Quintanilla.
Sonia Maria Sotomayor
Sonia Sotomayor is the first Latina Supreme Court Justice in US history. It is then quite fitting that Sonia, means "wisdom." A Russian and Scandinavian name, Sonia might make a more unusual alternative to its close relative Sophia or its Spanish form, Sofia.
Isabel Allende is the first successful woman novelist from Latin America. She is most notable for her novel The House of the Spirits. The name Isabel reigned in the top names of Spain before and during the 1920s. Isabel is a sweet, melodic classic whose popularity follows that of Isabella, a Top 10 name in the US.
A top 15 name in the US, Camila is famously rocked by Grammy-nominated pop star Camila Cabello, who was born Karla Camila Cabello Estrabao. In her megahit song, Havana, Camila pays tribute to her home country, Cuba, musing what it meant to "leave her heart in Havana." The name Camila is of Latin origin and reflects Hispanic heritage.
Ileana, pronounced Helena, means "torch; shining light," appropriate for the first Latina elected to Congress. She notoriously gave the State of the Union address in Spanish for the first time in US History. Ileana is a unique but lovely name for fans looking for alternatives to Elena, Eliana, Iliana, or Helena.
Penelope Cruz is the firstSpanish-born actress to win an Oscar for her role as Maria Elena in Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Over the moon with the birth of her daughter, she gave her the Spanish name for the moon, Luna. Luna Encinas Cruz and brother Leonardo (Leo) Encinas Cruz take on her father and mother's paternal last names, keeping with Spanish tradition.
Sylvia Mendez is a champion American civil rights activist. She was instrumental in the court case Mendez v. Westminster, which ruled against the segregation of Hispanic children in public schools. Mendez, whose case preceded Brown v Board of Education, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. While never hugely popular, Sylvia has always been in the US Top 1000 and is poised for a comeback on the heels of such vintage names of Olivia and Sophia.
Known as AOC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is among the most famous and influential figures in United States politics . Alexandria, a name meaning "defending men," appropriate for the congresswoman's public persona. Before she was AOC, Alexandria was known in high school as "Sandy Cortez". Taking office at age 29, Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest woman ever to serve in the United States Congress.
The name Celia means "heavenly," appropriate for the singer who rang her catchphrase "Azucar!" at jammed-packed concerts as a celebration of life. Celia reigned as the undisputed Queen of Salsa, popularizing the genre in the US, winning five Grammy Awards. She captured the international stage with her larger-than-life personality, sensational costumes, and powerful voice.
Hispanic Boy Names
Before skyrocketing to fame the Award-winning composer, lyricist, and actor, best known for Hamilton and In the Heights, went by "Lin" in high school. Best known for his productions. His first name is derived from a Spanish poem. Miranda's more popular middle name Manuel has been a popular name in Spanish countries for generations, often shortened to Manny.
Wilmer, like the meaning of his name, was "destined for fame." Wilmer, better known as Fez from That 70's Show, created an iconic character for one of the most beloved sitcoms of the '90s. The name did have a small spike in popularity in 1997 but has declined ever since. Wilmer is a unique alternative to William with a lot of personality.
Desi -- born Desiderio Alberto -- Arnaz and Lucille Ball practically invented the modern-day sitcom, with "I Love Lucy." Desi played Lucy's long-suffering husband, Ricky Ricardo. The name Desiderio is a boy's name of Spanish origin meaning "desired one" -- the male version of Desiree. Desi is also a sleek nickname for the boy's name Desmond, which grows in popularity.
Born Antonio Ramiro Romo, Tony Romo is one of the most famous American quarterbacks of all time. On his Hispanic heritage, Romo's grandfather said, "Tony Romo may not speak Spanish, but he knows he's Antonio Ramiro Romo."
A-Rod is the nickname of Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez, otherwise known as Alex Rodriguez. Alex is best-known as a baseball player for the New York Yankees. His name combines the classic multicultural Alexander with the middle name Emmanuel, well-used in the Hispanic community.
Junot Díaz is a prolific Pulitzer Prize-winning author known for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Junot is pronounced as the same as the goddess name Juno or the Alaska city Juneau, and is the Spanish variation of Junius.
Benicio Del Toro
Benicio Del Toro is, among other roles, the "code-breaker" in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. He won an Academy Award for Traffic. Benicio is a Spanish form of Benedict, meaning "blessed." Benicio can be a Latinx route to the nickname Ben.
Picasso, the Spanish artist who changed art forever, is the most famous bearer of the name Pablo. This unique name is similar in style to the popular Leonardo, another name with a rich history of an iconic artist. Pablo is the Spanish form of Paul, which means "small".
Born Peter Gene Hernandez, Bruno created his famous name from a childhood nickname and the last name Mars, "because girls say I'm out of this world!" Known for his funky pop music, he adopted his stage name to avoid eing pigeonholed into Latin Music.
Óscar Isaac Hernández Estrada went from being a ska musician to a lead in a Star Wars film, Poe Dameon. Oscar is a pan-cultural name that's among the top baby names in Spain.
Carmelo Anthony won a whopping three gold medals for the US in basketball, the Olympic team's all-time leader in points, rebounds, and games played As a kid, Carmelo Anthony struggled with name mispronunciation. But as an adult, he sees his unique name as an advantage. He says he enjoys being the first Carmelo, a name no one forgets.