A round-up of Island-born legends you may recognize.
Puerto Rico may be geographically small, yet some of the world’s biggest stars take pride in being hijos de la isla. From superstar performers and Oscar-winning celebs to the sports hall of Famers and our very own PEGOT, these boricuas have elevated the reputation of the Island of Enchantment on an international level. Here’s a quick roundup of some Puerto Ricans you probably admire, yet may not have known hold ties to the Island.
From Stage to Silver Screen
Puerto Rico cannot talk about Hollywood without acknowledging Rita Moreno, the first Latina and third American to obtain PEGOT (Peabody, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) status. A Humacao native, Moreno gained widespread fame with the musical “West Side Story” in 1961 and was recently recognized for her role in Netflix’s original series “One Day at a Time”. At 87 years old she continues to thrive, serving as an executive producer in Steven Spielberg's remake of “West Side Story”, a film in which she is also co-starring.
From San Germán came Benicio del Toro, who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the movie “Traffic”. Del Toro gained mainstream attention for his roles in films such as “Snatch”, “Guardians of the Galaxy”, “Star Wars Episode VII”, “Sicario”, and more. Most recently, he starred in the award-winning miniseries “Escape at Dannemora”, alongside Patricia Arquette and directed by Ben Stiller.
Raúl Juliá is a legend in Puerto Rico and a source of great pride. From San Juan, the late actor’s fruitful career began on Broadway in “Two Gentlemen of Verona”, for which he received a Tony nomination. In television he appeared in shows such as “Loving Life” and “Sesame Street” and, among the many films he starred in, he is most remembered for his roles in “Man of La Mancha” and his portrayal of Gomez Adams in “The Addams Family” and “Addams Family Values”.
Some other Hollywood “big names” who hail from Puerto Rico include actress and philanthropist Roselyn Sánchez, Academy Award-nominee Joaquin Phoenix, and veteran actor Luis Guzmán.
Hitting the Mic
Considered the King of Latin Pop, Ricky Martin was born in San Juan and began his music career at age 12 with a local boy band called Menudo. This Grammy Award winner has made a name for himself not only in music, but as an actor, from his famous hits like “Living la Vida Loca” and “She Bangs”, to his roles in TV series such as “Glee”, “American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace”, “The Voice”, and others.
Another global phenomenon is Daddy Yankee, the singer, songwriter, rapper, actor, and record producer who coined the term Reggaetón, to describe the urban music genre emerging from Puerto Rico. Dubbed the “King of Reggaetón”, Daddy Yankee has won over 82 awards since his rise to international fame in 2004.
Other big names in music include Gilberto Santa Rosa, Chayanne, José Feliciano, Luis Fonsi, Wisin y Yandel, and Bad Bunny.
An All-Star Roster
Carolina’s very own Roberto Clemente was the first Latin American and Caribbean player to be accepted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. As a Pittsburgh Pirate, Clemente won four National League batting titles as well as 12 Gold Gloves, an award given to the best fielding player in each position. In 1972 Clemente had his 3,000th base hit on his very last at bat as a player. At the time, only 10 other players had reached this mark. He died in an aviation accident in 1972.
Another Hall of Famer is Iván “Pudge” Rodríguez. From the town of Manatí, Rodríguez went on to play Major League Baseball with the Texas Rangers (on two different occasions), Florida Marlins, Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, Houston Astros, and Washington Nationals. During his career in the MLB, he won 13 Gold Gloves.
Known for his flamboyant style in and out of the ring, Héctor “Macho” Camacho was a natural-born boxer and entertainer from Bayamón. His quick footwork made him a world champion in three different weight classes and he held the WBC super featherweight title from 1983 to 1984, the WBC lightweight title from 1985 to 1987, and the WBO junior welterweight title twice between 1989 and 1992. After his death in 2012, he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2016. Camacho became a reference in popular culture after appearing on shows like The Wayan Bros, King of the Hill, and in songs by Lil Wayne.
Other outstanding Puerto Rican athletes include baseballers Carlos Beltrán, Roberto Alomar, and Yadier Molina; boxers Miguel Cotto and Felix “Tito” Trinidad; golfer Juan "Chi-Chi" Rodríguez; basketball players José Juan Barea and Carlos Arroyo; tennis player Mónica Puig; hurdler Javier Culson; and many others.