By Leonard Rodriguez
This column highlights inspiring stories of Latino leaders. For more than 500 years, Latino men and women have positively influenced the face of United States society. Let us celebrate these outstanding hispanics.

Ritchie Valens
Richard Valenzuela was born in 1941 in California, but adopted the stage name Ritchie Valens when he signed a contract with Del-Fi Records in 1950 his career was launched with the release of “Come on Let’s Go” in August of 1958.

He performed the song on American Bandstand and with the release of “Donna” and “La Bamba” secured his reputation as rock and roll’s brightest rising star. On February 3rd 1959, Valens boarded an ill-fated flight with Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper.

He was laid to rest 18 days before the release of his first album. “Ritchie Valens”.

For almost 30 years his success was overshadowed by attention given to Holly until director Luis Valdez unveiled the immortalizing film Balanced Life in 1987 La Bamba.