Men and women from Central America have made their voices heard in different spheres throughout history.
In technology, space sciences, politics and sports there are hundreds of characters born in the region who have stood out for their triumphant battles.
This is how we tell the story of Central America in our special Bicentennial
In this edition, meet more than six characters who help write the future of the isthmus and outline the value of what has been done in Central America.
Luis Von Ahn: a genius of the 21st century
Luis Von Ahn is a very unconventional disruptor chapín on the altars of technological innovation worldwide. He invented captcha and recaptcha (the distorted words that Internet users must decipher and write on websites to prove that they are human and not machines) and sold it to Google.
With this tool he won the MacArthur Prize in 2006, known as “the award of genius” and Popular Science magazine designated him as one of the 50 best brains in science. He was 27 years old. He later created Duolingo, selected in 2013 by Apple as the best App in the educational sector.
In 2013 and 2014 it was the most downloaded education app on Google Play. Free education available to everyone. That is the engine of Duolingo and its creator.
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Duolingo has more than 300 million users and offers courses in English, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Esperanto and Jopará for Spanish-speaking users; as well as Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Turkish, Russian, Hebrew, Irish, Ukrainian, among others. With ‘the language incubator’ they are developing new courses.
Salvador Moncada: a very catracho Sir
Graduated from the University of El Salvador. He did specialized studies in Pharmacology at the University of London. He naturalized British and a member of the Royal Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences. A member of the research team on the pharmacological actions of prostaglandins, he was Director of Research at Welcome Laboratories (1986). Awarded for his scientific work with the Prince of Asturias Award for Scientific and Technical Research (1990).
In Honduras he received the José Cecilio del Valle National Science Prize, he was a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his important findings on nitric oxide as a signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system. He holds the title of Sir, awarded by Queen Elizabeth II in January 2010.
Appointed Doctor Honoris Causa by the UNAH. He has given important lectures at prestigious universities and published research advances in renowned journals.
Promotes the Honduras Global Foundation with the aim of providing opportunities to young people aspiring to scientific work and lead their lives through the world of science. He published the book: “Nitric oxide: a new biological messenger”.
Crista Ramos: facing Donald Trump
This Salvadoran teenager has played an important role in defending the rights of migrants in the United States.
The story began when his mother was facing possible deportation from the US to El Salvador. At that time Crista was just 14 years old and she decided that she had to do something. Something very big.
Donald Trump wanted to end the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program in 2018 and Crista stood up to him with a lawsuit to prevent the deportation of some 300,000 migrants (mostly Salvadorans; in total, the TPS benefits some 400,000 people of six nationalities: El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, Sudan, Honduras and Nepal), including his mother, who had fled El Salvador in 1993 when she was just 12 years old.
Central America: A region in its labyrinth
TPS offers temporary shelter to live and work in the United States to people who have been in that country for decades. The so-called Ramos vs. Nielsen lawsuit achieved a court order in favor of extending TPS protection.
Denis Martínez: the perfect game
Major league pitcher already retired at the end of the 20th century (he extended his career until he was 43 years old), his fame increased in the 21st century when he entered the World Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015.
A few years earlier, in 2011, Major League Baseball (MLB) consulted a group of Latino baseball experts and historians to create the list of the five best Latino pitchers in Major League history: “El Presidente de la mound” ranked fourth place.
Among many other achievements, Martínez pitched a perfect game on July 28, 1991, establishing himself as the 13th pitcher to do so and the first Latin American to do so. He was the first Nicaraguan baseball player to play in the majors (September 14, 1976 with the Baltimore Orioles).
During his career he participated in three World Series, four All-Star Game appearances, won 100 games in each league, 30 shutouts, 122 Complete Games and one Perfect Game, pitched 3,999 2/3 innings.
He played 23 seasons in the Major Leagues (from 1976 to 1998). He finished his career with 245 wins (among the winningest Latin American pitchers in Major League history) and 193 losses.
Franklin Chang: To Infinity and Beyond
A national hero, that is Franklin Chang, the astronaut with the most space missions (seven, between 1986 and 1992). Chang was the first NASA astronaut without US ancestry. A 1977 Ph.D. from MIT, Chang concluded his successful 25-year career at NASA in 2005. But he has remained very active in Costa Rica, his home country, by operating his company, turning Costa Rica into a fledgling aerospace cluster.
After leaving NASA, he founded Ad Astra Rocket, an American advanced technology company.
of rockets with operations in the US and Costa Rica in which the development of a plasma engine is promoted, with which it seeks to lower the costs of space travel.
In recent years the company has broadened its horizons, towards renewable energies, developers of green hydrogen systems for stationary energy and electric transport applications. This technology would mitigate the impact of the transport sector on the environment.
Irving Saladino: a Panamanian gold bath
World champion and Olympic champion. The two great world athletics medals are held by Irving Saladino, who on August 18, 2008 made an entire country fly in front of their televisions by jumping 8 meters and 34 centimeters at the National Stadium in Beijing, in the jump final length of the Beijing Olympics. His personal best, achieved that same year, is 8.73.
Saladino thus hung the third Olympic medal in the history of Panamanian sports after the two bronzes of Lloyd La Beach (London, 1948) in the 100 and 200 meter events.
He arrived at the Olympic event as one of the great favorites and he did not disappoint. Just a year before he had hung the other great medal from him, at the World Athletics Championships in Osaka (Japan), where he had jumped 8 meters and 57 centimeters.
He currently serves as Technical Director of Reporting and Recreation of the Panamanian Institute of Sports (Pandeportes).
*This article was published in our special Bicentennial of Central America. Edition 261 (August-September 2021)
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Six Central Americans who write the future of the region