Hispanic Heritage

The Hispanic Heritage of the Woodlawn Cemetery

Founded in 1863, the Woodlawn Cemetery has a long tradition of serving New Yorkers of all cultures, religions and ethnic heritages. Among those at rest in the 400 acre burial ground are many individuals who took great pride in their Hispanic Heritage and made great contributions to the growth and diversity of New York. Heroes, Artists, Entertainers, Business Leaders and Sports Figures are among those in Woodlawn’s care.


Founder of the Institute of Languages Cortina, Rafael de la Cortina dedicated his career to the teaching of languages – “without a teacher.” He was interested in Edison’s discovery of the phonograph, identifying as a perfect tool for teaching language. Most of Cortina’s efforts focused on the teaching of the Spanish language.



CELIA CRUZ (1925-2003)

The “Queen of Salsa” was born in Cuba, leaving her native land in 1959 following the take over of Fidel Castro. For over fifty years she performed with several celebrated bands; her most enduring performaces were with “El Maestro,” the legendary Tito Puente. This Grammy winning artist was also known for her flashy stage costumes, colorful wigs and signature line “Azucaaar!”




The son of a merchant from Minorca, Spain, the First Admiral of the United States Navy was born in the South. He settled in New York after the Civil War and is remembered for his battle cry “Damn the Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead!” Farrgut’s gravesite is a National Historic Landmark and a stop on the National Park Service’s American Latino Heritage Trail.




A native of Puerto Rico, Gimbernat was a prosperous merchant who came to New York to send his sons to school. While enrolling his sons, he struck up a conversation with the famous Cuban revolutionist Narciso Lopez whose expeditionary banner became the flag of Cuba. The chance meeting resulted in accusations of conspiracy which forced Gimbernat to move his family to New York. He was the editor and owner of La Gazetta del Govierno prior to leaving the country. His son, Julius Gimbernat was one of the most prominent brokers of the old Gold Exchange.




He was the first to shed blood for Cuba in the fight for freedom and also served as a Colonel in the American Civil War fighting for the Confederacy. Gonzales married Harriet Rutledge Eliot, daughter of a prominent South Carolina state senator and planter. Celebrated as the “Confederate Cuban,” Gonzales memorial is inscribed with quotes from Jefferson Davis and Jose Marti.



JULIO J. HENNA (1848-1924)

A member of the medical faculty at Bellevue Hospital, this Puerto Rican native designed a plan to liberate his country from Spanish colonialism. He was pushed out of the country because of his radical views and settled in New York where he studied medicine at Columbia University.



CHARLES LOPEZ (1870-1906)

Born in Mexico, he came to New York in his early youth and began his professional career as a sculptor with John Quincy Adams Ward and later studied in Paris. Among his works are the figures on the Appellate Court Building in New York. He won a gold medal at the St. Louis Exposition and was a member of the National Sculptors Society.




The Machado/Yglesias tomb memorializes a family from Puerto Rico that made their fortune in coffee, rubber and cocoa. Machado’s son in law, Luis Felipe Yglesias headed the firm of Yglesias &Co. Yglesias came to New York as a boy and at age 16 became an employee of the American Trading Company. Many of Woodlawn’s early Hispanic Families were involved in bringing the products to the United States from the South American and Caribbean countries.




Son of Cuban immigrants, Pompez moved from Florida to New York to work as an executive in baseball’s Negro League. He owned the Cuban Stars and the New York Cubans and helped to organize the first Negro League World Series in 1924. In his later years, he was a scout for the New York and San Francisco Giants. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.



MANUEL E. RIONDA (1889-1950)

Born in New York, and educated at Columbia University in Electrical Engineering, Manuel Rionda was appointed head of the Manti Sugar Company in 1943. His family owned the Czarnikow-Rionda Company which was one of North America’s largest importers of sugar and molasses. Their affiliated companies in Cuba and the United States included cane farms, sugar mills, refineries and distilleries. He was also the mayor of Alpine, New Jersey.



JUAN SALA (1837-1898)

Born in Barcelona, Spain, Sala went to the West Indies as a young man where he established a export business in St. Thomas and Puerto Rico. At the age of fifty he arrived in New York to establish the firm of Hoheb & Co., eventually becoming the sole owner of the company. When war was declared with Spain, Sala was torn between returning to his homeland and remaining in his adopted country where he died just months after the declaration of war.



DIEGO SUAREZ (1878-1974)

A native of Bogota and the great Grandson of General Francisco de Miranda, Suarez served as the press attaché to the Embassy of Colombia. He was a noted landscape architect, acknowledged for his work on the Vizcaya Gardens in Miami. He married Evelyn Marshall (1889-1979) a pioneer in the field of improved maternity care in the U.S. and the founder of the Maternity Center Association in Manhattan.




Of Puerto Rican and Cuban parents, Carmen De Mantilla moved to New York with her family in 1870. She ran a boarding house at 51 E. 29th Street where she housed friends and Cuban exiles known to be revolutionists. Among those who stayed in the house was Jose Marti, leader of movement to free Cuba. Many believe that the couple had a daughter, Maria (mother of actor Cesar Romero) Marti raised and educated the young girl who was his legal goddaughter. In a letter, written right before his death, Marti wrote of Carmen: “I’ve never known a better woman in this world. I can’t nor will I ever, think of her without seeing how clear and beautiful life is.”



JOSE MARIA MUNOZ (1844-1893)

Quietly resting in a beautiful private mausoleum, Jose Munoz was among those early entrepreneurs who capitalized on connecting South America to the United States. Munoz was a director of the Central and South American Telegraph Company.




Of Cuban descent, Yznaga was a major figure in New Orleans New York and Newport Society. His family owned plantations in New Orleans and Cuba. It was after his sister’s marriage to the Duke of Maneville that Yznaga was introduced into the elite social circles. He became a close friend of William Kissam Vanderbilt in addition to serving as his banker. When he was buried at Woodlawn, Vanderbilt hired the firm of McKim Mead and White to create his memorial.


JOHNNY PACHECO (1935-2021)

The Dominican-born bandleader and songwriter helped bring salsa to the world. The acclaimed musician was co-founded prominent Latin music label Fania records.