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Obama to Honor Edward Roybal, Isabel Allende With Medal

It was 1962 when this country saw its first Mexican-American, Edward Roybal, elected to the House of Representatives. A Californian, Roybal already had broken a nearly seven-decade absence of Latinos on the Los Angeles City Council. In his lifetime, he built a long record of civil rights battles in housing, education and employment and more. He went on to found the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the National Association of Elected and Appointed Officials, which honors his legacy annually with an awards ceremony and award for public service named in his honor.

Roybal is one of two of the Latinos in a list of 19 that President Barack Obama named as recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in an announcement Monday. A ceremony for the awards is planned for Nov. 24 at the White House.

Roybal's daughter, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., will accept the posthumous award on her father’s behalf.

The president also named internationally-acclaimed author Isabel Allende as a recipient. She is best known for her work “House of Spirits” but has written 21 books and won numerous awards. Although she was born in Peru, she is Chilean-American. She is the niece of Chile’s former president Salvador Allende, a socialist whose overthrow preceded the Pinochet regime.

Isabel Allende
Chilean writer Isabel Allende poses during an interview in New York on May 3, 2010. Peter Morgan / AP, file

She was in exile in Venezuela when she wrote "House of Spirits." She is recognized for writing in the magical realism style of Gabriel Garcia-Marquez. She also operates a non-profit foundation to improve the lives of women and girls in Chile and California.