Latin America’s best & brightest
From sports to science, from the culinary scene to the art world, these talents are either established forces or emerging stars. We think we’ll be hearing a lot about them in the coming years, as they make waves around the world from the southern hemisphere.
Text: Santiago Cruz
Agustina de Alba
ARGENTINA / Sommelier
At 28, Agustina de Alba is the top sommelier in Argentina and among the top five in Latin America. Perhaps she owes it all to her childhood: when De Alba was a girl, her mother would have her smell spices while she cooked. Then at 15, De Alba discovered her love of wine on a trip to Mendoza.
After that adventure, it seems her life has been nothing but good news. De Alba won the Vino Argentino, Un buen vino “Best Sommelier in Argentina” competition in 2008 and 2012 and came in fifth at the “Best Sommelier in the Americas” contest. After a stint of living on an island off the coast Africa and recommending wines at luxury restaurants, De Alba now does the same in her home country. “Argentina’s sommeliers are the ambassadors for our wines. At least that’s the way I feel,” she recently told an Argentinean media outlet, which called De Alba “The Wine Whiz.”
Giovanna Núñez, “La Lá”
PERÚ / Music
Her name is Giovanna Núñez, but everyone knows her as La Lá, a stage name that’s appearing more frequently in the Peruvian press. At 31, La Lá is the country’s most promising singer-songwriter. In 2014, she released her first album, Rosa, a combination of jazz, bossa nova and waltz that was widely acclaimed for its originality. La Lá wants her music to be like her stage name: indefinable, without labels. Her lyrics deal with everyday life, the home and a particularly universal theme: romantic turmoil. Born in Lima, La Lá began singing as a soloist at age 24. Despite her innate talent, she was plagued by a fear: she didn’t know how to read music or play any instruments, so she’d only sing for other groups. One day, La Lá decided to start composing and singing on her own, and she hasn’t looked back.
CHILE / Filmmaking
Part of this filmmaker’s success depends on characters like Elena, a transsexual woman who comes home for her father’s funeral after a 12-year absence. This is the plot of La Visita, Mauricio López’s sharply drawn debut feature, which premiered at the Festival de Cine de Valdivia and stands as one of the favorites for top honors at this month’s Festival Internacional de Cine de Guadalajara. While López was studying at the Universidad Católica de Chile, his thesis film – La Santa – competed at the 2012 Berlinale, where it earned critical praise and a nomination for the Teddy Award, given to films exploring sexual diversity. This past February, the filmmaker returned to Berlin as one of three Chileans selected to attend Talent Campus, the German festival’s prestigious creative summit. Today, the 29-year-old López is working on three ideas for his next movie script.
BRASIL / Surfing
Twenty-year-old Gabriel Medina had already written his name in the annals of Brazilian sports history, becoming the country’s first world surfing champion. He earned the distinction in December 2014, simultaneously joining U.S. legend Kelly Slater as the youngest champion in history. No wonder he’s known as “Supermedina.”
A native of São Paulo, Medina was already riding the waves and besting 15-year-olds when he was only eight. By age 12, he was winning national championships, and a few days before being crowned world champion, he put out a message on social media that turned out to be a premonition of sorts: “I want to be like an eagle, to be able to fly above the clouds, to see the world from on high.” At the 2014 world championship, Medina defeated 33 other surfers, effectively soaring above the competition.
Miguel Ángel López
COLOMBIA / Cycling
Miguel Ángel López earned the nickname “Superman” not because of his track record of victories but because of one particular heroic episode.
When thieves tried to steal his bike, López fought them off like a comic-book hero. But as it turns out, “Superman” also describes his talents as a cyclist. In 2014, López won the Tour de l’Avenir, the most important race for cyclists age 23 or younger. Following that triumph, he was recruited to join one of the top teams in the world: Astana. In 2015, it seems likely that the 23-year-old Superman will vie for the Vuelta a España. Already an icon in Colombia, López looks set to match the accomplishments of his idol, Nairo Quintana.
ECUADOR / Science
Thirty-five-year-old José Andrade thinks big: he collaborates with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on Mars exploration and on solving problems like our increasingly populated planet’s need for renewable energy. Early on, Andrade took a risk, heading to the United States to study civil engineering, and it paid off: his academic achievements earned him a scholarship to the prestigious Stanford University. Today, Andrade runs the geomechanics lab at Caltech, and his work has earned him distinctions from the American Society of Civil Engineers and even the U.S. Department of Defense. Andrade reminds us that, “There’s a very thin line between madness and genius.” Well, that’s one way of summing up his life.