20 of Our Favorite Celebrities From Nicaragua

Maurice Benard

Many successful celebrities are from Nicaragua. Actors, musicians, writers, and politicians are included. Many of their lives were defined by the civil unrest the country experienced during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Some stayed while some immigrated to the United States of America, Canada, or other countries.

20. Pedro Miguel Arce

Actor Pedro Miguel Arce was born in Managua in 1976. His family later moved to Miami, Florida and then to Toronto, Canada. Arce was captain of his high school football team. He went to the University of Toronto where he also played football. He later tried his hand at acting and eventually moved to Los Angeles, California where he got work in television commercials. Arce appeared in several television shows including CSI: Miami and How I Met Your Mother. He’s been in movies including Land of the Dead, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, and Ice Cube’s Are We There Yet? Arce continues to act and has said he’s writing and is interested in working behind the camera.

19. Gioconda Belli

Author Gioconda Belli was born in Managua in 1948. Her family was wealthy and Belli studied at a boarding school in Madrid, Spain. She studied advertising and journalism in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her first job in advertising was for Pepsi-Cola. In 1970 Belli published her first work of poetry. In the 1980’s she began publishing books. It was around this time that Belli joined the Sandanistas in their fight to turn over the government. Belli has written many books and poems, and she has received many awards. Since 1990 she splits her time between Managua and Los Angeles.

18. Tony Meléndez

Tony Meléndez was born in Rivar, Nicaragua in 1962. He was born without arms but became a great guitar player. He plays with his feet. He’s a successful singer and songwriter as well. Meléndez immigrated to the United States of America and began performing in Los Angeles in 1985. He formed a band called Tony Meléndez and the Toe Jam Band. They recorded 7 albums and performed many concerts. They even performed for Pope John Paul II who was in awe of Melénez’s performance. Melénez continues to perform and gives motivational talks. In 1991 he published a book A Gift of Hope. He lives in Branson, Missouri with his family.

17. Claudia Chamorro Barrios

Nicaraguan diplomat Claudia Chamorro Barrios was born in Nicaragua in 1952. Her father, a newspaper editor, was assassinated in 1978. Her mother would go on to become Nicaragua’s President in 1990. Chamorro Barrios served as Nicaragua’s Ambassador to Cuba and Costa Rica during the 1980’s. She has also served as the country’s public health official. Chamorro Barrios’ son suffered from leukemia. The family sought treatment for him in the US in 1991. Chamorro Barrios wrote a memoir detailing her son’s illness and subsequent death titled Tiempo de Vivir. It was published in 2003.

16. Rod Amador

Rod Amador was born in Matagalpa, Nicaragua in 1976. Always interested in in sketching and painting, his parents sent him to classes at a young age. When he was 12 years old Amador’s family immigrated to London, Ontario, Canada to flee the political turmoil in Nicaragua. Amador studied animation at Sheridan College. He moved to Ottawa, Canada to take an animation program. He found work as a television animator. He later worked for an E-Learning firm creating interactive computer animation. Most recently Amador and 2 friends started their own animation firm, Big Jump Productions,

15. David O. McCall

David O. McCall was one of the first Nicaraguan actors in Hollywood. He was born in 1900 in Leon, Nicaragua. He found his way to Hollywood and had a steady career in film during the 1950’s. His first role was in a film called Lili in 1953. He had a role in Around the World In Eighty Days in 1956. In 1958 McCall was in Peter Gun. The following year he had a role in Rio Bravo. In 1961 McCall was in Summer and Smoke and The Young Savages. McCall died in Los Angeles in 1964.

14. Michael Dallatore

Michael Dallatore, also known as “Mike D” is a Nicaraguan born cinematographer. He was born ibn Jinotega in 1979. His family moved to the United States of America when Dallatore was 3 years old. They settled in south central Los Angeles where Dallatore was influenced by the adversity. It inspired him to film a documentary callled Colours DIIRECTLY which earned him an Oscar nomination. Dallatore received the Deflecting the Odds honor when he was just 18 years old. He studied film at Los Angeles Community College and got a job at the premier camera house Panavision. In 2018 Dallatore received the Film Independent “Project Involve” fellowship.

13. Lillian Molieri

Actress and dancer Lillian Molieri was born in Minagua in 1925. The stunning beauty won several pageants and left for Hollywood in the 1940’s. She was discovered by Paramount, and her first movie was The Princess and The Pirate. Molieri had several bit parts and was sterotyped for her exotic Latin America looks. She was one of the first Nicaraguans to become a Hollywood actress. Her other films include South of the Rio Grande in which she sang 2 songs, Valentino, and Stories of the Century. Molieri also had parts in television shows including a role on I Love Lucy where she played Ricky Ricardo’s old girlfriend. Molieri’s last movie was 1956’s The Three Runaways. She died at her home in Managua in 1980.

12. Dennis Martinez

Dennis Martinez was the first Nicaraguan to play baseball in the US major leagues. Martinez was born in Granade in 1955. He was scouted by the Baltimore Orioles in 1973 and played on 3 minor league teams as a pitcher. Martinez joined the Baltimore Orioles in 1976. He played with the Montreal Expos, the Cleveland Indians, and the Seattle Mariners throughout his career. After retiring from baseball, Martinez cached the Seattle Mariners, the Palm Beach Cardinals, and the Houston Astros. He was inducted into the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame in 2002. Martinez is the manager of the Nicaraguan national baseball team.

11. Luis Enrique

Luis Enrique is a famous Nicaraguan born salsa singer. He grew up in California and entered the music scene in the late 1980’s. He has received several Grammy Award and Latin Grammy Award nominations and won for Best Tropical and Salsa New Artist and for his album Luces del Alma as well as others awards. Enrique is called “El Príncipe de la Salsa”. Enrique has recorded many albums from 1987 through 2014. He remains a favorite singer in the genre of salsa.

10. Maurice Benard

Actor Maurice Benard and his family are from Nicaragua but moved to San Francisco, California where Benard grew up. He began his career playing the character of Nico on the soap opera All My Children. He returned to the show as a different character, mob kingpin Sonny Corinthos, in 1993. Benard, who has bipolar disorder brought awareness to the disease by making Sonny a bipolar character. Benard guest starred on several televisions and was in the television movie Luci and Desi: Before the Laughter as Desi Arnez and the independent film The Ghost and The Whale. He and his wife Pula have 4 children. His brother Marvin was a professional basketball player.

9. Oswaldo Costilla

Oswaldo “Ozzie” Costilla was a construction worker and gardener turned actor. He was born in Nicaragua and fled to the United States of America in 1986 after he was tortured by militants. He settled in Los Angeles where he became good friends with Adam Carolla. They met while both working construction on a Pasadena gym. When Carolla’s comedy and acting career took off, he hired Costillo to co star in his film The Hammer based on Costilla’s life as a construction worker. Costillo also appeared in The Adam Carolla Project podcast in segments including Nicaraguan Movie Review, Nicaraguan Name That Tune, and the Nicaraguan Movie Quote game.

8. Anna Navarro

Anna Navarro was born in Nicaragua on December 28, 1971. She and her family immigrated to the United States of America in 1980 to escape political turmoil. Her father stayed behind to fight with the Nicaragua contras against the Sandinista government. Navarro was supportive of President Ronald Reagan because of his support of the contras. She is a life long Republican and served on the Hispanic Advisory Council to John McCain and John Hunstman, Jr. Navarro helped keep Nicaraguan refugees from being deported during the 1990’s. Navarro earned her law degree in Miami. In 2014 she became a contributor for ABC and CNN. She is currently a regular guest co host on ABC’s talk show The View.

7. Jessica Aguilera

Track and Field sprinter Jessica Aguilera was born in Somoto in Madriz, Nicaragua on June 26, 1985. She is one of the most well known and successful runners in her age group. Aguilera represents Nicaragua when she competes internationally. She is a social media influencer posting about her running and competitions on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. She has many fan followers. Aguilera has a net worth of $1 million.

6. José Areas

José Areas was born José Octavio Areas Dávila on July 25, 1946 in the town of Léon. He is a celebrated percussionist most famous for his work with the band Santana. He performed with them from 1969 through 1977 and again, when they reformed, from 1987 through 1989. Areas was inducted with the band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. Areas released a solo album in 1976 and teamed with a childhood friend Alfonso Noel Lovo in the mid 1970’s to record the album La Gigantona. In 1997 Areas performed with other members of Santana to form the band Abraxas Pool.

5. Barbara Carrera

Barbara Carrera, also known as Barbara Kingsbury, was a successful model and actress. She was born in Bluefields, Nicaragua in 1945. She moved to New York City to live with her dad when she was 15 and was signed with the Eileen Ford Model Agency when she was 17 years old. Carrera was on the covers of magazines including Vogue, Paris Match, and Harper’s Bazaar. She appeared in Playboy twice. Carrera began acting in 1970 and appeared as Fatima Blush in Never Say Never Again, Maria in The Island of Dr. Moreau, and Agelica Nero on Dallas. Carrera was nominated for a Golden Globe Award in 1976 for her role in The Maser Gunfighter.

4. Gabriella Revilla

Film director, producer, and writer Gabriella Revilla was born in Nicaragua on May 23, 1982. She began working with the company Live Nation as a talent booker and casting director for several television shows including the MTV Music Awards, Total Request Live, Kalifornication, and The Windy Williams Shows. She produced 2 MTV Music Awards shows. Gabriella Revilla wrote, directed, and produced the 2013 short film Breakdown.

3. Gabriel Traversari

Host and actor Gabriel Traversari was born in the United States of America but grew up in El Crucera, Nicaragua. He studied theater at Florida State University and moved to Miami, Florida. Traversari made a name for himself in the theater and Spanish speaking television. He co hosted one of Univision’s first major original productions, TV Mujer, an international talk show beginning in 1988. Traversari produced, directed, and hosted Behind the Scenes and Un Dia de Fama for E! Entertainment television. The television shows aired in Spain and Latin America. In 2008 Traversari returned to Nicaragua to host television shows. He founded a foundation supporting Hispanic artists and published a book of poetry, Before the Dawn.

2. Bianca JaggerFunsdacion Culture Hispanimericano

Model, actress, and activist Bianca Jagger was born on May 2, 1945 in Managua. Bianca studied political science in Paris. Bianca famously married Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger in 1971 and enjoyed a jet set life often appearing at New York City’s Studio 51. Bianca and Mick have a son, Jade, but divorced in 1978. On a trip to Honduras in 1981, Bianca witnessed refugees being brutally led away by a death squad. Bianca Jagger founded the Human Rights Foundation and continues to support efforts protecting human rights. She has won multiple awards for supporting international humanitarian causes.

1. Daniel Ortega

Daniel Ortega has been president of Nicaragua since 2007. He was born on November 11, 1945 in La Libertad, Nicaragua. He and his family moved to Mangua where he went to high school. Following in his parent’s footsteps, Ortega became politically active against the country’s dictatorship. He was arrested for bank robbery in 1967, was imprisoned for 7 years and exiled to Cuba. Ortega went underground in Costa Rica for a time and emerged as the leader of the National Liberation Front in 1979. As the leader of the Sandinista Junta, Ortega ran for president of Nicaragua but was defeated. He was elected the country’s president in 2007. He and his wife Rosario Murillo have 8 children together.

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