Mexico has given the United States many cultural icons and treasures. There are many famous Mexican immigrants who came to the United States and continued to flourish. These famous Mexican immigrants have impacted business, entertainment, sports and more.
In this article, we’ll focus on 6 famous Mexican immigrants that migrated to America.
Salma Hayek – Born Salma Hayek Jimenez in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, Mexico in 1966, her mother was an opera singer and her father was an oil company executive who at one point ran for mayor. Her father is of Lebanese descent. Salma visited Baabdat, Lebanon, where her father was from when she was filming the movie Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet. Her mother is of Mexican/Spanish descent. Salma lived in a wealthy family growing up and even spent time in the USA for her early education. She was diagnosed there with ADHD and dyslexia which made schooling particularly challenging. Salma persevered through her schooling and studied International Relations in college in Mexico.
At the age of 23, Salma became a movie star in Mexico. She got the lead role in a telenovela. In 1991 Salma moved to the United States to study acting under Stella Adler. She met up with Robert Rodriguez and his then-wife Elizabeth Avellan and they cast her in Desperado and From Dusk till Dawn. She has starred in many films and began her own production company Ventanarosa in 2000 to make films she wanted to make. In 2002, Hayek starred in and co-produced Frida, based on the life of artist Frida Kahlo. She earned a best actress nomination for her work in that film. Hayek has gone on to direct music videos for Prince and other artists and produced the TV show, Ugly Betty, which she had a reoccurring role. These days Salma is happiest as a wife and mother. She continues to work in TV and film. She’s also a charity ambassador for many causes. She’s an amazing woman and a true star among famous Mexican immigrants.
Cesar Millan – Cesar Millan was born in Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico. He grew up working with animals on his grandfather’s farm. His first job upon entering the United States was at a dog grooming store. He later created the Pacific Point Canine Academy. Jada Pinkett Smith became one of his first clients while he was working as a limousine driver. She helped him find a tutor to learn English. Millan went on to create the Dog Psychology Center that specializes in working with large breed dogs. In 2002, this famous Mexican immigrant was profiled in the Los Angeles Times. Soon after, he developed a television pilot for The Dog Whisperer. In 2009, he created his own magazine called Cesar’s Way which celebrates the relationship between dogs and humans. Millan has also developed a show for Nickelodeon call Mutt & Stuff. His son Calvin stars on the series. He has a documentary and several other shows that have been shown on TV over the years. The ever-vigorous Millan doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all. Millions know this star among famous Mexican immigrants simply as the dog whisperer.
Carlos Santana – Born in 1947 in Autlán de Navarro, Jalisco, Mexico, Carlos Santana brought Latin fusion to rock music in the United States with is band Santana in the 60s and 70s. A truly gifted guitarist, Santana first learned to play violin under the tutelage of his father, a mariachi musician. Young Carlos was influenced by Richie Valens. Eventually, his family moved to San Francisco, California and Carlos began making a name for himself. He eventually formed a band named after him called Santana. After a memorable performance at Woodstock, the band took off. After a while, the band sort of fell by the wayside and Carlos discovered other interests like spirituality. However, in 1998, Santana was inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame and he saw a bit of a resurgence with a duets album. He is one of the most influential rock guitarists in history. Rolling Stone named him number 20 on its list of 100 top guitarists.
Anthony Quinn – Did you even know that Anthony Quinn was a famous Mexican immigrant? We bet you didn’t. Born in Chihuahua, Mexico as Antonio Rodolfo Quinn Oaxaca in 1915, Quinn starred in critically acclaimed movies such as Zorba the Greek, The Guns of Navarone and Lawrence of Arabia among others. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor twice. Anthony’s dad was of Irish descent but he rode with Pancho Villa during the Mexican Revolution. Quinn’s family eventually moved to the United States. He began his acting career on stage, but quickly transitioned to films. Considered a creative genius for his acting and painting, Quinn had a colorful life, even befriending mobsters like John Gotti. He died in June 2001 but his work keeps his memory alive.
Guillermo Del Toro – This director, screenwriter, producer and novelist was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico in 1964. He may be best known for Pan’s Labyrinth. Del Toro loves to work on a wide variety of projects, some that have gained him critical acclaim. Remember Hellboy 2, anyone? This famous Mexican immigrant is friends with famed Mexican directors Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. They are collectively known as “The Three Amigos.” Del Toro was raised in a strict Catholic household. He began making films at a young age. He studied makeup and special effects with Dick Smith. He formed his own company Necropia. He is a co-founder of the Guadalajara International Film Festival and his own production company called Tequila Gang. Del Toro writes books in his spare time and enjoys time with his family in Agoura Hills, California.
Ricardo Montalban – Ricardo Gonzalo Pedro Montalban y Merino was born in Mexico City in 1920. He soon moved with his devout Catholic family to Torreon. His parents were Spanish immigrants. As a teenager, he moved to New York City to live with his brother Carlos. His acting career took off soon after. He began appearing in Soundies, or three minute musicals. He briefly returned to Mexico in 1941 when he learned his mother was dying. This famous Mexican immigrant could not stay away from the screen or the United States for long. He worked on TV, often portraying Japanese characters and in radio. He’s best known as Mr. Roarke in Fantasy Island although sci-fi enthusiasts remember him fondly as Khan in Star Trek’s The Wrath of Khan. He was married for many years to Georgiana Young. He died shortly after she did in 2009. Throughout his life, he never applied for American citizenship and remained a proud Mexican. Montalban helped found the Nostros Foundation to help Latinos get better roles in Hollywood. His legacy is felt today by the children and foundation he left behind.
Of course there are many other famous Mexican immigrants that came to the United States and have shaped the course of its history. We picked these six because they are exemplary. However, we challenge you to find more on your own. For more information on us, visit https://www.hispanospress.com/.