Rafael Baez - The First Latino Milwaukeean
The first recorded Latino to settle in Milwaukee is one Rafael Baez, born originally in May of 1863 in Pueblo, Mexico. Rafael was an accomplished musician, having studied music from the age of nine. He’d been a member of the orchestra of Grand National theater of Mexico City, eventually becoming the chorus master of the C. D. Hess Opera company in 1884. It was with Mr. C.D. Hess that Rafael would visit the United States, and then choose to settle in Milwaukee. He became an acclaimed organist and musical director at local churches as well as a music teacher at Marquette University. Baez would eventually die at the age of 65 in 1931, survived by his wife Maria, two sons, and a daughter. A pioneer of the Latino community here in Milwaukee, Baez was not merely just the first, but also an exceedingly accomplished citizen of Milwaukee (and just look at that mustache!).
You can learn more about Rafael in Men of Progress: Wisconsin an excellent old book from 1897, full of interesting men of Wisconsin from that time. It's mainly available as a reference book, so come down to the downtown Central Library and pop into our Humanities room to check it out!