¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo! When many Americans hear that phrase they think of margaritas, mariachi bands and sombreros. For us, it’s a time of eating great food and partying hard. While many erroneously tout the day as a celebration of Mexico’s independence (in the way we would celebrate the 4th of July)*, Cinco de Mayo actually commemorates the Battle of Puebla which occurred on May 5, 1862. On that day small Mexican forces defended the town of Puebla from thousands of French invaders who were attempting to march on to the nation’s capital to establish a monarch under Prince Maximillian. After five years of civil war, Mexico finally defeated the French and executed Maximillian in 1867, saving the people from becoming a part of the French empire. So Cinco de Mayo can really be celebrated as a day that increased national pride and gave the Mexican people the gumption to fight against invasion. That’s definitely still cause for great food and drinks, in my humble opinion.
In honor of Cinco de Mayo, the soldiers who fought so valiantly on that day in 1867 and Mexican heritage, I decided to highlight some Mexican GladiatHers. These women have and continue to strive for greatness for themselves and their nation in sports and beyond. They’re tough, they’re victorious and proud of their country. ¡Felix Cinco de Mayo!
Lorena Ochoa is arguable the best Mexican golf player of all time. Ochoa was a force to be reckoned with on the LPGA tour from 2003 until 2010. In fact, she was ranked number one in the world from 2007 until her retirement. Born and raised in Guadalajara, after dominating in Mexico, Ochoa played golf at the University of Arizona where she won the NCAA Player of the Year twice. Once she left college, she never looked back nabbing the LPGA Rookie of Year, LPGA Player of the Year, and the LPGA Vare Trophy, to name a few. Her list of tournament wins is extensive and includes two majors, the British Open and the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Though she retired at a young age, she left a lasting mark on the sport of golf and her country’s history.
Paola Michelle Longoria López is a beast at racquetball. As the number one player on the Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour, Longoria is the two-time reigning International Racquetball Federation World Champion in both Women’s Singles and Doubles. FYI, she’s the first player to ever hold both titles simultaneously. From May 2011 until October 2014, she was literally unstoppable, going undefeated for over three years. As Mexico’s first ever number one ranked female racquetball player, Longoria’s influence has spanned beyond the racquetball court. In fact, Forbes listed her as one of the 50 most influential women in Mexico.
Ana Gabriela Guevara Espinoza is a track star turned politician. Hailing from Sonora, Guevara’s forte on the track was the 400m event. Just to give you a taste of her accomplishments, she won medals in the Ibero-American Championships, the Goodwill Games, the IAAF World Cup and at the World Championships. One of the highlights of her career was her silver medal finish in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. When she finished making her country proud on the track, she turned to politics and no serves as a Mexican Senator for the 2012-2018 term.
Mia St. John
If the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight bored you, I’m sure Mia St. John won’t. This Mexican-American talent, born in San Francisco to a family that hails from Zacatecas, Mexico; does a little bit of everything. As a boxer, St. John has held the titles of the WBC champion in the super welterweight division and the IBA and IFBA lightweight champion. And her record is pretty impressive. Out of her 47 wins, 18 were Knockouts and she only suffered 12 losses. Beyond the boxing ring, St. John is a successful model, businesswoman and taekwondo champion.
Also hailing from Guadalajara is Laura Aleida Sánchez Soto, a diver who represented Mexico in three consecutive summer Olympic games. Her Olympic journey began in Athens in 2004, continued to Beijing in 2008 and culminated in London in 2012 when she won a bronze medal in the women’s 3m springboard diving competition. Beyond the Olympics, Sanchez won medals in the World Championships, the Pan American Games and the Central American and Caribbean Games. Sanchez is a shining star in a line of successful women to represent Mexico in the pool.
*In case you were wondering, the Mexican Independence Day is actually September 16.