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Author Isabel Allende, pioneering Latino Congressman Edward Roybal to receive Medal of Freedom

Rep. Edward Roybal (center). (Image courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives Photography Office)

Rep. Edward Roybal (center). (Image courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives Photography Office)

Former Rep. Edward Roybal of California, who co-founded the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, is among the latest Americans tapped to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, President Barack Obama announced Tuesday.

"The late Congressman Edward Roybal is among our most beloved Mexican-American heroes," current Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Rubén Hinojosa  said in a statement. 

"He was a relentless civil rights advocate whose work continues to make a difference in the lives of many Latinos and people of color today.  Enough cannot be said about the contributions the late Congressman made - from his work at the local level in Los Angeles to his time on the House Appropriations Committee where he championed federal funding for the most underserved communities."

Roybal's daughter, who is accepting the award on his behalf, will join 16 others, including Meryl Streep, Stevie Wonder and Tom Brokaw, at the White House on Nov. 24 for a ceremony marking their achievements. The medal is the highest honor granted to civilians in the U.S. and honors contributions to U.S. security, world peace and cultural achievement.

"From scientists who kept America on the cutting edge to public servants who help write new chapters in our American story, these citizens have made extraordinary contributions to our country and the world," Obama said in a statement from Beijing, where the president was traveling for an economic summit.

The Chilean-born novelist, Isabel Allende, who first gained international recognition for her 1982 novel, "The House of the Spirits," will also be honored. Streep co-starred in a film adaptation of the novel directed by Billie August.

In that and subsequent novels like "Eva Luna" and "City of the Beasts," Allende has been the foremost practitioner of Magic Realism of the last few decades. She now lives in Northern California. 

Also receiving the award will be musical theater composer Stephen Sondheim and actress Marlo Thomas. Choreographer Alvin Ailey, who died in 1989, will receive the medal posthumously.

Those being honored include slain civil rights activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, who were killed during their work in an historic voter registration effort in Mississippi in 1964.

Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, the longest-serving congressman in American history, will receive the award, as will Ethel Kennedy, the widow of former Sen. Robert Kennedy. Native American activist Suzan Harjo and former Reps. Abner Mikva of Illinois and Patsy Takemoto Mink of Hawaii are also on the list.

Other recipients include scientist Mildred Dresselhaus, golfer Charles Sifford and economist Robert Solow.

The Associated Press contribute to this report.

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