#TBT: 7 Old School Latino Stars Who Americanized Their Names

Latinos have not always been well-received in Hollywood and other arenas of fame (one can argue that we still aren’t, as there is a long way to go to see real, equal representation by Latinos)

Photo: Wikimedia/NBC Television

Photo: Wikimedia/NBC Television

Latinos have not always been well-received in Hollywood and other arenas of fame (one can argue that we still aren’t, as there is a long way to go to see real, equal representation by Latinos). Imagine how it was 50 years ago; many artists felt there was no other choice but to Anglicize or completely change their Latino names in order to be accepted by the world at large, and share their talents. The following are seven old-school Latino musicians and actors who changed their names on the road to fame.

Ritchie Valens

Born Richard Steven Valenzuela, we know him better as Rock ‘n’ Roll superstar Ritchie Valens. Although he Americanized his name, he repped for Mexicanos and Chicanos everywhere when he released one of his biggest hits, “La Bamba,” in 1958.

Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs

“Wooly Bully” is a classic jam, which was released in 1965. But did you know that members of the band who made it were Chicanos? Domingo Samudio became Sam the Sham, and he and the Pharoahs made music at the time without revealing their Latino ethnicity.

? and the Mysterians

https://www.instagram.com/p/BlGdmNtAiL0/?tagged=questionmarkandthemysterians

?  & The Mysterians wanted to be so, well, mysterious, that they didn’t use any names at all. But the band was fronted by Rudy Martinez and included his brother Robert Martinez, Larry Borjas, Bobby Balderrama, and Frank Rodriguez. It was hard to market Chicano bands, so many used names that would hide their identity.

Freddy Fender

https://www.instagram.com/p/BjmtQV1HA5G/?tagged=freddyfender

Born Baldemar Huerta, Chicano Freddy Fender changed his name in 1958, in hopes of reaching a broader audience with his music (Fender is the brand of guitar he played). Although he changed his name to a more Anglo one, Freddy had a lot of songs that contained Spanish lyrics.

Raquel Welch

We know Bolivian-American Jo Raquel Tejada as Raquel Welch. In the 1960s, her manager convinced Tejada to use her husband’s last name, Welch, to avoid being typecasted as a Latina. She did fight Hollywood to keep using the name Raquel (they wanted her to use the name Debbie), which was seen as “too exotic.”

Vikki Carr

https://www.instagram.com/p/mEgG3_leu1/?tagged=vikkicarr

Born Florencia Bisenta de Casillas-Martinez Cardona, Vikki Carr first hit the music scene in 1962. She began in the pop genre, and became a big star. In 1972, she approached the head of her label with the desire to record an album in Spanish, persisting although she initially met with resistance. The album was a hit, which led to her major success in the Latino music world.

Anthony Quinn

Legendary actor Anthony Quinn was born Antonio Rodolfo Quinn Oaxaca. The Mexican-born, El Paso and L.A.-raised star’s father was half Irish, with the surname Quinn. The actor Anglicized Antonio to the more Hollywood-friendly Anthony.

In this Article

culture History latina latino latino history latinx TBT
More on this topic