Five San Diego Latinos are being recognized as part of the Hispanic Heritage Month Local Hero Awards, a program honoring outstanding members of the Hispanic community. The heroes were selected for their exceptional commitment and contribution to San Diego through the arts, business, community activism, education and social services. The honorees include Macedonio Arteaga Jr., Lilia Velasquez, Guadalupe Corona, Fuensanta Lopez and Alberto Cortes.
“This is our eighth year organizing the Local Hero awards and every year the competition grows stronger,” said Maria Gallo, senior vice president and diverse markets administration of Union Bank of California, which sponsors the program. “There are so many Latinos in San Diego who are deeply committed to making our community better. However, these five individuals stand out for their exceptional contributions and were chosen because they truly are the unsung heroes of San Diego.”
· Macedonia Arteaga, in the arts category. Arteaga is founder of Izcalli, a Saturday school program for Chicano/Native American youth that promotes self esteem and self determination through arts and culture. Arteaga also created a theater group, Teatro Izcalli, which has performed for thousands of people throughout the country who do not have access to theater. In addition to this work, Arteaga has been an artist in residence at Sherman Heights community center and San Ysidro Six to Six, and he was instrumental in creating Circulo de Hombres, a cultural/arts mentoring program for adolescent males and adult males.
· Lilia Velasquez, an attorney in private practice, in the business category. Velasquez is a certified specialist in immigration and nationality law since 1991. Her practice focuses on defending women’s rights, victims of domestic violence, refugee women and victims of trafficking for forced prostitution. She has presented at the Hague, the United Nations, and other international conferences and forums. Her work has been lauded by numerous legal industry publications, and she is often featured on the radio and television during coverage of immigration issues.
· Guadalupe Corona, president of the Latina Latino & Indigenous Peoples Unity Coalition, for her community activism. Corona also is co-founder of the Association of Chicana Activists at San Diego State University and the University of San Diego. She served as a member of Mayor Dick Murp-hy’s and the Chief of Police Latino Advisory Boards. She also served the City of San Diego as a member of the Chief of Police’s advisory committee on the use of force and racial profiling and is a member of various community and professional groups.
· Fuensanta Lopez, a secondary school advisor for the San Diego County Office of Education, Migrant Education Region IX, is being honored for her work in education. Lopez works with approximately 300 underprivileged students as a liaison between students, their families and the school. She supports students and works with them to ensure their graduation and foster their participation in higher education. Lopez works with these students to encourage them to create a vision of possibilities for their future, believe in themselves and believe in the power of education to change their lives.
· Alberto Cortes, executive director for Mama’s Kitchen, is being honored for his work in social services. Cortes has been involved in the fight against AIDS since 1983, and has served Mama’s Kitchen since 2002. Under his leadership, the organization delivered 317,000 hot meals and grocery bags last year. In addition to his work with Mama’s Kitchen, Cortes is a member of the board of directors of the Gay Men’s Chorus of San Diego and serves as president of McAlister Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing high quality, low-cost substance abuse services in San Diego County.