The following is a guest post by Yesenia Alcoser, a public affairs intern in the Copyright Office’s Outreach and Education Section.
Since 1988, Americans have observed Hispanic Heritage Month, which celebrates cultures full of rich art, music, and traditions, from September 15 to October 15. Linda Ronstadt, José Andrés, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Rita Moreno are just a few of the many influential figures actively creating art that inspires those from all walks of life. Join us for a deeper look at these four creators, whose creativity is inspired by their heritage.
Linda Ronstadt’s successful music career began with the release of her first solo album in 1969. She started her career recording rock songs, but her love of various genres led her to record over twenty albums in rock, country, folk, jazz, and Mexican folk.
Ronstadt is from Tucson, Arizona, and grew up in a Mexican American family. In a 2022 PBS News Hour interview, Ronstadt spoke on the importance of representing and connecting with her Mexican heritage through her music. She said, “I wanted to possess it musically, because it was such— such emotional music, and it moved me so much to listen to it.”
In 1987, Ronstadt released her first Spanish-language album, Canciones de mi padre, which translates to Songs of My Father or My Father’s Songs. In it, she reflects on her Mexican roots. Throughout her career, Ronstadt became a multi-Grammy winner for albums of all genres, like Hasten Down the Wind (1976) and Canciones de mi padre (1987). Ronstadt also wrote songs, such as her 1976 hit “Lo siento mi vida” and her 1993 hit “Winter Light.” Her songs and albums have been registered with the Copyright Office and are searchable in the Copyright Public Record System.
Ronstadt released two more Spanish-language albums before her retirement in 2011. After retiring, Ronstadt was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2013 for her “one-of-a-kind voice and her decades of remarkable music.” Today, with millions of monthly Spotify listeners, Ronstadt remains an influential figure in the music industry.
Chef José Andrés was born and raised in Spain, where he learned how to cook from his parents and in the kitchens of Spanish restaurants.
At twenty, Andrés immigrated to the United States in hopes of following his American dream to cook and eventually open a restaurant. Since then, Andrés has built his career around sharing his heritage through restaurants in Washington, DC; New York; Miami; and Los Angeles. In a 2011 NPR interview, Andrés said, “Well, I always say that I don’t believe I’m a chef; I try to be a storyteller.”
Andrés has shared his story through authoring several cookbooks, including Made in Spain: Spanish Dishes for the American Kitchen, which was registered with the Copyright Office in 2008 and includes not only his recipes but narratives providing cultural context.
The Office showcased authors like Andrés, who use the culinary aspects of culture to tell diverse stories across different media—including cookbooks, blogs, and film—to inspire and bring people together around food, in its 2021 Copyright Office Presents event “Food and Copyright.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda was born and raised in New York City, where he grew up in the Washington Heights neighborhood with his Puerto Rican family. As an actor, composer, lyricist, and writer, he has created works for the recording studio, stage, and screen.
Miranda is most recognized for his works In the Heights and Hamilton, and his writing often incorporates his Puerto Rican heritage. In the Heights, which started as a Broadway production, transformed into a film in 2021. The story focuses on the Latino community in the same neighborhood Miranda called home as a child. In a 2020 NPR interview, Miranda explained that In the Heights was a result of wanting to address the lack of Hispanic representation in musical theater. He said, “Every time I write a piece of theater, I’m trying to get us on the board and that continued with Hamilton . . . how can we write the parts that I didn’t see existing?”
Hamilton became popular because of Miranda’s decision to use hip hop in a history-based musical production with a diverse cast. After reading Ron Chernow’s 2004 Alexander Hamilton biography, Miranda worked with Chernow to create Hamilton: An American Musical (2015). The Copyright Office’s Find Yourself in Copyright exhibit features both Chernow’s biography and Miranda’s Broadway production.
Multiple components from the dramatic works In the Heights and Hamilton are registered with the Copyright Office, including sound recordings of the scores and the choreography. Miranda has received many awards for his writing, particularly for Hamilton, including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2016 and Best Book of a Musical at the 2016 Tony Awards.
Rita Moreno is a powerhouse actress, dancer, singer, author, and the first Latina to EGOT (that is, win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony award). She first moved to the United States from Puerto Rico at a young age and began her acting career dubbing for Spanish-language versions of American films. In 1962, Moreno won the Academy Award for her portrayal of Anita in West Side Story (1961). Now in her nineties, Moreno continues to act, including in the 2021 remake of West Side Story, where she played a wise widower guiding one of the lead characters, Tony, out of trouble.
In 2013, Moreno released Rita Moreno: A Memoir, a book reflecting on her life, which she registered with the Copyright Office. Mariem Pérez Riera directed Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It, a 2021 documentary registered with the Office, which looks back on Moreno’s seventy-year career.
As we reflect on the contributions that Ronstadt, Andrés, Miranda, Moreno, and other Hispanic and Latin American creators have made to our copyright system, we cannot forget that the copyright system is always growing. There is always room for more works and new creators. We encourage photographers, writers, musicians, and other creators of all ages and from all backgrounds to check out our Engage Your Creativity webpage to learn what creators need to know about copyright to get started.
The Copyright Office is committed to increasing public understanding of the scope of the copyright system and how to take part in it. A main goal of our current strategic plan is Copyright for All, and the Office is committed to making the copyright system as clear and accessible to as many members of the public as possible, particularly individuals, small businesses, and historically underserved populations.
Looking for resources to learn more? Visit the official National Hispanic Heritage Month website; find the Copyright Office’s Spanish-language resources on our El derecho de autor en español webpage; and for general information about the Office and how registering your work with the Copyright Office can empower your creative success, visit us at copyright.gov.