Who's making Hispanic Latinx history right now: The 'GMA' Inspiration List 2021
Meet the next generation of Hispanic, Latinx, Latino, and Latina change-makers.
National Hispanic Latinx Heritage Month is an annual observance of the remarkable achievements that Americans who identify as Hispanic, Latinx, Latino, and Latina have made throughout history. The celebration runs from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, and encompasses the national independence days of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Mexico, Chile and Belize -- just a snapshot of the many places to which people in the community can trace their roots.
Hispanic, Latinx, Latino, and Latina traditions have made and continue to make an undeniable impact on daily American life, from the food we eat and the music we listen to, to the ways we communicate with one another. During the month, we reflect on the idea that this group's history, including the ongoing fight for equality and increased representation, is at the heart of American history.
As we honor the community, we also embrace intersectionality and each person's individual background, identity, and story.
"Good Morning America" and ABC News asked influential people who identify as Hispanic, Latinx, Latino, and Latina to nominate fellow members of the community to create the "GMA" Inspiration List. Many of the people nominated for the list are rising stars whose influence and work could have the power to reshape our world. Others are figures who have made a significant impact but may not have received recognition they deserve.
This is the first "GMA" Inspiration List: Who's Making Hispanic Latinx History Right Now.
Gloria Estefan nominates Dr. Aileen M. Marty
I met Dr. Aileen Marty when we were both 14 years old and attending Our Lady of Lourdes Academy in Miami, Florida. And, although we didn't become close friends until the last year in high school, tales of her genius and daily "challenges" to established doctrines and ideas were famous throughout the school and impressed me to no end. She graduated from the University of Miami School of Medicine, then joined the U.S. Navy, serving for over 25 years while becoming an expert in tropical medicine, infectious disease, disaster medicine and medical response involving nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction.
Throughout the years we would talk about the things she was doing, like her impressive work with leprosy or the fact that she was on her way to help contain an Ebola outbreak in another country, and my admiration grew as it was made clear that her true calling, despite the dangers, was to help mankind and make the world a better and safer place.
Despite her incredible accomplishments and impressive resume, she remains a tireless soldier still fighting to protect and serve and has been one of the most trusted, rational and inspirational voices throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, serving as an advisor for our South Florida community and appearing on a myriad of television programs, speaking about how we can better protect ourselves from this horrendous health challenge. I kid with her all the time telling her that what she needs to do is get some sleep, but I know that as long as there is anything that Dr. Aileen Marty can do to help others, she will never rest. She is one of the most altruistic and service minded people that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and I feel blessed and privileged to call her my friend.
Gloria Estefan is an award-winning singer-songwriter, actress, author and activist. Along with breaking chart records and receiving countless awards throughout her career, she also became the first Cuban American singer-songwriter to receive the Kennedy Center Honors in 2017 and she has been honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Marc Anthony nominates Cami
In Chile, Cami is a staple female voice who has been praised by many. She is an absolute vocal powerhouse. Her exquisite voice … it's as if it emanates from every pore of her body. And as a live performer she immediately captivates her audience from the minute she walks on stage. I was blown away from the very first note, when I first saw her.
Marc Anthony is an award-winning Latin singer-songwriter, actor and producer. He has sold over 12 million albums worldwide and is one of the best-selling salsa artists of all time. Anthony is currently on his Pa'lla Voy U.S. Tour, which runs until December 2021.
Cecilia Vega nominates Sister Norma
I was on assignment on the border in Texas earlier this year and I needed to find Sister Norma Pimentel. She is the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley and has dedicated her life to helping migrants along the Mexican border. I couldn't get Sister Norma by phone so I decided to head to a bus station where refugees are known to be dropped off during their dangerous journey north. My plan was to walk block by block in search of Sister Norma. Sure enough, there she was. Right across the street from the bus station, working her cell phone, solving that day's crisis -- one of many.
Sister Norma is on the front lines. She helps the poorest of the poor -- people fleeing some of the world's most dangerous conditions -- find shelter, food and comfort once they've crossed the border in search of asylum. Sister Norma and her organization have helped more than 100,000 people, offering them something they rarely ever see during their life or death trek: compassion and dignity.
Cecilia Vega is an ABC News anchor and the network's chief White House correspondent.
Pitbull nominates Sergio Garcia
A teacher changed my life. Her name is Hope Martinez, which one way or another got me involved in education and building schools. I would have never thought that someone that graduated from our high school would be someone that I'm looking at. I'm going, "Man, I'm so proud of you." And his name is Sergio. Sergio is someone that, basically we're from the same neighborhood, got pretty much the same story. Got the same passion, same love, same drive, same hustle and we don't take no for an answer. So to watch him live out his dream -- and not only being one of the top breakdancers in the world, soon we're going to see him in the Olympics -- but to be able to have him on tour, and him come out on a couple of shows around the United States of America, it just goes to show you that it comes full circle. So, when I watch him I'm inspired and I'm motivated, because it reminds me of when I was 18 out there trying to get it, trying to figure it out and nobody believed in me -- only a select few, which was Hope Martinez, clearly my mother, and [my mentor] Eddie, may he rest in paradise. But those are the people that push me, motivated me and inspired me. To watch Sergio doing the same, it's mind-blowing. I'm so happy for you Sergio. Congratulations. The world is yours, my friend, and everything in it. Why dream when you can live it? And I know you're about to knock it out of the park, man. So proud of you, papito. Keep it up. Dale.
Pitbull, whose given name is Armando Christian Pérez, is a Cuban-American award-winning artist, activist and entrepreneur. The Grammy Award-winning rapper has released countless No. 1 singles, including hits like "Give Me Everything" and "Timber," and also prides himself on his education advocacy. He is a co-founder of Sports Leadership and Management (SLAM!), a public charter school in Miami, Florida.
Mónica Ramírez nominates Adriana Alejandre
We are facing a mental health crisis in our country. We have been reminded of this during the COVID-19 pandemic as we have heard stories of increased anxiety, depression and isolation. This is a problem that is impacting adults, children and people of all races and backgrounds. This is not a new problem in our country, but it is one that has been taboo for too long.
Adriana Alejandre is a Hispanic [person] making history by tackling this issue head-on. She is normalizing conversations about this problem through her social media platforms and the creation of her podcast, "Latinx Therapy." Adriana is also helping create solutions to address this problem. She launched the Latinx Therapy Network to connect Latinx therapists to develop a community of practice and by developing a directory of Latinx therapists for community members who need support.
Our mental health is just as important as our physical health. Adriana is actively working to de-stigmatize the way that people think and talk about mental health. She is helping people and communities heal in the process.
Mónica Ramírez is an activist, attorney and the founder of Justice for Migrant Women, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing the rights and opportunities of migrant women and their families. Her work specifically addresses promoting gender equality, protecting the rights of immigrants and farmworker women in the workplace and fighting sexual violence.
Pati Jinich nominates Fany Gerson
I am delighted to nominate Fany Gerson for the "GMA" Inspiration List, because I believe she has made a mark on the food industry through her relentless work: cooking and sharing so many of the sweet treats that help define much of Mexico's baking and dessert universe with enthusiasm, hard work, focus on community-building and being so incredibly entrepreneurial.
She is making a difference in the world through her work; she starts businesses from the ground up that employ Latinos, give back to the Hispanic community, and help shine a light on so much of how our culinary heritage enriches America.
Pati Jinich is a chef best known for her Emmy-nominated series "Pati's Mexican Table," which has won a James Beard Award.
John Leguizamo nominates Judge Marilyn Zayas and Ben DeJesus
Judge Marilyn Zayas
How inspiring that a little girl from Spanish Harlem fought her way to becoming a twice-elected court of appeals judge in Ohio. Refusing to become a statistic, Judge Marilyn Zayas overcame a traumatic childhood, tough, crime-ridden New York City neighborhoods, and numerous educational obstacles. She is now one of 69 appellate judges in the state of Ohio, the first and only Latinx judge elected to an Ohio Court of Appeals, and the highest ranking Latinx judge in Ohio and its surrounding states.
She was even hand-selected to sit as a visiting judge on the Ohio's Supreme Court. Never forgetting her own struggles, Judge Zayas prioritizes mentoring and inspiring our youth to dream big and never give up. Through her partnerships with schools and universities, she educates students about the judiciary, shares her personal story, and reassures them that no dream is too big. While blazing the trail for others, Judge Zayas personifies a unique face and voice of the judiciary in a region where Latinos are severely underrepresented.
What I love most about Ben as a storyteller is the passion, purpose and hustle he brings to every piece of content he directs and produces, whether it's inspiring documentaries about unsung Latinx heroes, digital and television content that enlightens and entertains, or theater productions that he helps bring to life. When I first started out, there weren't many other people out there telling our Latinx stories, with our flavor and our authenticity. Ben is part of a new wave of Latinx storytellers who are taking the torch and running with it, to make sure that our diverse voices are lifted up and heard.
Visual media is such a powerful medium. It has the power to change the way we look at the world around us. Ben is on a 24/7 mission to get more of our stories out there, because if people are able to see the incredible contributions that Latinx people make and have made to our society, imagine how they would look at our community. And more importantly, imagine how we would look at ourselves.
Many people talk the talk about representation, but Ben is on the front lines every day making sure the door is also open for other Latinx creators and talent to come through too. Any project I've ever seen Ben be a part of is full of diverse people from across the spectrum of Latinx, multicultural, LGBTQ, both in front of and behind the scenes. Through both his art and business sense, Ben is one of the people who's moving the needle in the right direction. Already, Ben has made an impact and has gotten some well-deserved recognition for his work. But I'm even more excited for what's coming next on his journey.
Emmy-winning actor John Leguizamo has appeared in series including "Freak" and "ER" as well as films including "Super Mario Bros.," "To Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar," "Spawn" and the "Ice Age" franchise.
John Quiñones nominates Jesús "Cimi" Alvarez
My nomination is a young man I met just last week while shooting our "Hispanic Heritage Hour" piece in El Paso, Texas. Jesús "Cimi" Alvarez is a former graffiti artist who grew up in Segundo Barrio, one of the poorest areas of El Paso. He's now a muralist whose art is truly public ... on display throughout Texas, California and even in Mexico and Argentina. But, he initially become known for honoring the everyday Chicano population that strengthens the border culture in his hometown. He has painted nearly two dozen murals in El Paso. All of his works are "art with a message" which pay tribute to his Mexican ancestors. He makes me and all of Texas "Chicanos" proud.
John Quiñones is the host of "What Would You Do?" and a correspondent for ABC News.
Sebastián Yatra nominates Elena Rose
Elena Rose is an insane singer and songwriter, and an incredibly talented human. She has an enormous present and future. I remember the first day I met her in the studio. I was so in awe of her talent as a songwriter. I knew I had to write with her, so I asked her to come back tomorrow so we could collaborate. We wrote a song together the next day, which I cannot wait for the world to hear. Elena is one of the most impressive artists I have worked with and I'm excited to showcase her on a forthcoming single.
Sebastián Yatra is a Colombian singer-songwriter known for hits including “Pareja Del Año,” “Delincuente,” “Chica Ideal” and more. He released his latest single, “Tarde” on Sept. 16 and is set to appear on Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin’s North America tour later this year.
Jimmy Smits nominates Rashaad Ernesto Green and Reinaldo Marcus Green
I first met the Green brothers, Rashaad and Reinaldo, in 2002. They were graduate students working on their MFA in film at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Both brothers received scholarships while they were in school from the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts (NHFA), of which I am a co-founder. From the get-go, it was clear that Rashaad and Reinaldo were going to have an impact as film directors. Their storytelling abilities were inspiring.
I remember when Rashaad was making his groundbreaking 2011 film "Gun Hill Road," he asked if NHFA could present his script -- about a coming-of-age trans youth -- to another NHFA co-founder, Esai Morales. Rashaad had him pegged to play the father role. Esai loved the script and virtually did it for free. "Gun Hill Road" premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011. The film was a touching subject ahead of its time featuring a transgender character played by a transgender actor (Harmony Santana, the first openly transgender actor to be nominated for the Independent Spirit Award).
He was also awarded the "Someone to Watch" award from the Film Independent Spirit Awards in 2020 for his feature "Premature."
In 2018, Reinaldo, the younger brother, wrote and directed, "Monsters and Men." The film won the Special Jury Award for Outstanding First Feature at Sundance Film Festival. Reinaldo's newest 2021 film "King Richard," stars Will Smith as Richard Williams, father of the legendary tennis champions Venus and Serena. Reinaldo is also the director for the six-part documentary series "Amend: The Fight for America" featuring Will Smith, Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, and Larry Whitmore from Comedy Central.
Both brothers are making their mark, while also supporting the next generation of Latino creators, and both are living out their dream to develop contemporary television and film content that features people of color.
Actor Jimmy Smits has appeared in series including "L.A. Law" and "NYPD Blue" as well as "The West Wing" and "Sons of Anarchy." He has also appeared in three "Star Wars" films and this year starred in "In the Heights."
Joan Smalls nominates Pedro Julio Serrano and Ivana Fred Millán
I am in awe of these two amazing people. Pedro Julio Serrano and Ivana Fred Millán put themselves on the line every day in Puerto Rico to stand up and fight for what they believe in, and I couldn't be more honored to share their stories with others. Ivana and Pedro Julio have been human rights activists for over 20 years in the struggle for LGBTQ+ liberation, as well as HIV prevention and the rights of people living with HIV. They are both spokespeople for Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, an LGBTQ+ social justice organization that has been at the forefront of the human rights struggle in Puerto Rico, including two cases that achieved marriage and gender identity rights for LGBTQ+ people.
Ivana and Pedro Julio are true leaders that are actually looking to help those around them. Their efforts have aided in the approval of three pro-LGBTQ+ laws in Puerto Rico and they have worked with their government on trans initiatives around driver's licenses, electoral cards, and health care. They have even given training to media outlets on how to improve the representation of LGBTQ+ people, as well as to the Police Academy of Puerto Rico to make sure that trans people are treated correctly and justly under the law, as well as how to correctly implement the hate crime laws and protocols. Ivana and Pedro Julio have raised their voices to demand justice and have supported many families of victims and survivors of hate crime violence. They continue to advocate for pro-LGBTQ+ laws and stand up for their people.
I work in an industry that allows me to interact and engage with all different kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds and it opens me up to worlds I may never have known otherwise, and I am so incredibly grateful for that. But Puerto Rico is my home, it is where my heart is rooted, and I want to see joy, happiness, and equality for all there and everywhere. Today's world can be a dark, lonely and unforgiving place, but it's people like Pedro Julio and Ivana that help shine light in the darkness. We need more people in this world who will stand up for the disenfranchised and their rights -- human rights. We cannot and will not leave our people to fight alone.
Model Joan Smalls is known for becoming the first Latina model to represent Estée Lauder cosmetics in a worldwide campaign in 2011 and has broken barriers for those in the fashion world.
Gio Benitez nominates Yoani Sánchez
You may not have heard of Yoani Sánchez, but she happens to be one of the bravest people of our time. Just 90 miles south of Florida, Sánchez has been hard at work documenting the stories of Cuban protesters who were arrested or are still missing following the July 11 protests that sparked an international movement with the hashtag #SOSCuba. She founded Cuba's only independent digital newspaper, 14ymedio. With little to no internet access on the island right now, Cubans can't read the articles, but these journalists are still finding ways to publish their stories -- often investigating and criticizing the communist regime.
Gio Benitez is ABC News' transportation correspondent.
Angie Cruz nominates Saraciea J. Fennell
Saraciea J. Fennell is making history in the Latinx community by creating spaces to share Latinx literature and to spread literacy, both in her own community in the Bronx and beyond. The founder of The Bronx is Reading, Saraciea has hosted The Bronx Book Festival for four years and counting, where she brings together Latinx writers (like me!) and introduces them to her home borough, which has historically been a bookstore desert. And this fall she's coming out with another platform for Latinx writers, an anthology called "WILD TONGUES CAN'T BE TAMED: 15 Voices From the Latinx Diaspora," out Nov. 2. The book showcases the richness of the community, exploring everything from Afrolatinidad to her own Garifuna (indigenous Honduran) heritage. I can't wait to see how she continues to foster and grow the Latinx literary community.
Author Angie Cruz has penned three novels, including "Soledad" and "Dominicana," a "GMA" Book Club Pick, and currently teaches writing at the University of Pittsburgh.
Daddy Yankee nominates Jasmine Camacho-Quinn
In these uncertain global times, with countless events occurring on my island of Puerto Rico and around the world, the Puerto Rican athlete Jasmine Camacho-Quinn has brought us a sliver of hope, not just for those living in Puerto Rico but [also for] those who have emigrated away. Jasmine Camacho-Quinn participated in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and won Puerto Rico's second-ever gold Olympic medal. Many obstacles pushed her back from winning at the 2016 Rio Olympics, but in 2021 nothing stood in her way. Her determination, discipline, and love for her homeland took her not just to accomplish a personal goal, but also froze an entire country that ran alongside her at every race. She wasn't born or raised in Puerto Rico, but Caribbean blood flows through her veins. To her, being Latino represents joy, festivity, hospitality, and feeling unconditional love and support from your close ones, and that's why she proudly carries our flag that has rooted into her since childhood. Without doubts, Jasmine Camacho-Quinn's achievements have generated a positive impact on all women, the youth, and new generations that aim to fulfill their dreams.
Daddy Yankee, whose given name is Ramón Luis Ayala Rodríguez, is a Puerto Rican reggaeton singer-songwriter and rapper, who has sold around 30 million records throughout his career. His hit "Despacito," released in 2017 with singer Luis Fonsi, was a top-selling single of the decade and received the Latin song of the decade award at the 2020 Billboard Latin Music Awards.
Natti Natasha nominates Marileidy Paulino
I nominate Marileidy Paulino from my birth country, the Dominican Republic, because she is the perfect example of perseverance, faith and discipline. She did not count with all the resources she needed when she decided she wanted to be a track and field athlete, so she practiced barefoot. She's represented the Dominican Republic in the Olympics, where she's won multiple medals. She's not only an athlete, but she is also a corporal in the Dominican Air Force. There too, Marileidy has won various medals, while participating in Dominican Republic's Military Games. Congratulations Marileidy Paulino: You are the perfect role model for all the girls out there -- a true example of what you can become when you make things happen.
Natti Natasha is an award-winning singer-songwriter from the Dominican Republic. She's released chart-topping hits with artists like Ozuna, Becky G, Pitbull and Daddy Yankee, and her debut album, "ilumiNATTIi," released in 2019, went platinum. Her next album, "NattiVidad" will be released on Sept. 24.
Stephanie Ramos nominates Cait Bonet
Cait is one of the few certified holistic nutritionists and health coaches in the Latinx community. She originally planned on going into the architecture and design field, like her father (a Latino who started his own interior architecture firm in the '90s), but when he passed away in 2017 from ALS, Cait discovered that the health and the wellness of the people she loved most became the priority. As a Cuban American, Cait grew up on cafe con leche, Cuban toast, croquetas, a lot of white rice, black beans and picadillo. She says she was never educated on the nutritional importance of consuming a variety of foods every day. As a holistic nutritionist, Cait brings awareness to our Latin community every day and helps them understand their health plans through her Instagram profile, @cait.bonet. She teaches that overall wellbeing may require some lifestyle changes, but it doesn't mean you need to lose yourself or who you are in the process. Pa 'lante!
Stephanie Ramos is a news correspondent for ABC News.
Maria Cornejo nominates Firelei Báez
I think Firelei's work is beautiful both in technique and color. I love the way she expresses the stories and importance of migration and the Caribbean from a different perspective -- not from victimhood, but what the people gave instead, the joy and the soul and color.
Maria Cornejo is a Chilean-born designer and the founder of Zero + Maria Cornejo, a brand that focuses on responsible design and is mainly locally produced in New York City. She is a founding member of The Council of Fashion Designers of America's Sustainability Committee.
Christina Milian nominates Zulay Henao
I first met Zulay Henao when we filmed the show "The Oath" in Puerto Rico back in 2018. We instantly clicked, and she's definitely a girl's girl. She's a mom just like me, and she really appreciates female energy. When I got home from filming, she sent me a box with some essential self-care items -- from crystals to soaps and candles, and she even included a handwritten letter. I really appreciated the personal touch and the positive energy; it was like instant relaxation. The box turned out to be more than just an incredible gift -- it was a taste of her new business venture and a sign of what was to come.
I think a lot of women get so caught up in work that we sometimes forget to take care of ourselves, so I love that her brand, Modern Muze, is a minority and female-owned company focused on taking care of women. The mental health aspect also drew me in. It's very special, very feminine. Almost a sense of restoration. There's a blog and so much more -- it's really a lifestyle hub for women to feel a sense of community. I nominated Zulay because I believe what she's doing is important, and it's important for our community to have these conversations and to check in on each other and lift each other up. I would love to see more of this, and of course, more of Modern Muze. It's growing and I'm really proud of her!
Singer and actress Christina Milian, known for the song "Dip it Low," also appeared in the movie "Love Don't Cost a Thing" and season 17 of "Dancing With the Stars."
José Garces nominates Steven Larson
Steven is a fantastic person who does a lot of important work. His organization, Puentes de Salud, was one of the inspirations for the Garces Foundation, a non-profit organization committed to ensuring that Philadelphia's under-served immigrant community has access to health and educational services.
It was through Steven's assistance that the Garces Foundation was able to get treatment for Felipe, one of my former employees who fell terminally ill and became the first beneficiary of the Garces Foundation.
Steven has been doing amazing work in the community for years and is one of my personal heroes.
A James Beard Award winner and restauranteur, José Garces is also an Iron Chef.
Wilmer Valderrama nominates Bamby Salcedo
Bamby Salcedo is the president and CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition, a national organization that focuses on addressing the issues of transgender Latinas in the U.S. She is someone I've had the pleasure of calling a friend for a while now and I was so honored to have her join me recently for an episode of my podcast "Essential Voices with Wilmer Valderrama" discussing how we can ensure the voices of trans Latinas are listened to and that they are supported as we continue to ride out the pandemic and beyond. Every time I have the pleasure of being in Bamby's company, I am amazed by her strength and intelligence as well as taking notes on how I can be a better ally. She is a true force in our community and I'm so happy that we get to shine a light on her work that is so essential to our world.
Actor Wilmer Valderrama has appeared in series including "That 70s Show" and "NCIS" and, most recently, he launched the "Essential Voices" podcast. He also lent his voice to a main character in the upcoming Disney film, "Encanto."
Alex Perez nominates Sol Flores
Sol is currently the deputy governor of Illinois, but before that she spent most of her career at the organization she helped create, La Casa Norte. It is a nonprofit that has grown to help thousands of homeless youth, homeless adults, and homeless families get back on their feet and find their way. The organization helps all who are in need, but has particularly been a beacon of light to the homeless minority and LGBTQ youth. Sol now continues her work on an even bigger scale, overseeing a wide swath of the State of Illinois' Health and Human Services agencies. Sol is a proud Puerto Rican and takes a particular interest in helping other women and Latinos excel.
Alex Perez is a national correspondent for ABC News.
Juan Pablo Di Pace nominates Marta Maineri
As an artist, nothing speaks louder to me than being given the tools early on in life to understand the value of freedom in creativity. Marta Maineri, born in Argentina in 1950, is a painter, sculptor and teacher. She was my first art teacher. She has taught art to kids in Buenos Aires for years, painted the "peace" murals for the city, and is known for being the "painter of hands," focusing on the working hands, the spiritual hands and the loving hands of the world. She walks the line of sacred and profane. She painted the "Virgin Mary Untier of Knots" for the inmates at the San Vittore prison in Milan, gifted Pope Francis with the "Universal Mary" for the Vatican in Rome, and also captures the rawness of the human body, with its trials and its pain, throughout her work and vivid portraits. An incredible enabler, a survivor, a woman and an artist. I nominate my mother, Marta Maineri.
A competitor on season 27 of "Dancing With the Stars," Juan Pablo Di Pace is also known for his roles in "Dallas" and "Fuller House."
Elwyn Lopez nominates all Hispanic journalists
I nominate all Hispanic journalists, many working tirelessly in their local and national newsrooms to highlight the importance of diversity, shouldering efforts to amplify underrepresented voices as a second full time job. It wasn’t until 2021 that a Latina was named chief White House correspondent. Our Cecilia Vega paving the way for the next generation of storytellers. Representation truly matters.
Elwyn Lopez is a correspondent for ABC News.
Maria Mazon nominates Marisol Vindiola
I'm excited to nominate Marisol Vindiola because of the way she continues to bring together chefs and food artisans from across the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Through her work with culinary festivals, craft beer collaborations, bilingual media and more, she manages to not just promote those of us in the Hispanic community, but do it with a hell of a lot of soul. Marisol was the driving force behind the first-ever partnership between all-female brewers from Arizona and Mexico. With a shared passion for craft beer and the empowerment of women, the beer (named Las Hermanas) was a way for two nations to brew a new beer together. Diplomacy through craft beer is something I can definitely get behind.
Marisol co-coordinated, co-planned, and co-hosted the Délice Network Gathering in Tucson, an international food tourism event that brought together participants from 15 international cities to learn, share and connect over food and culture in the Tucson borderlands.
With even more achievements I don't have space to mention here, she continues to find ways to bring Mexicans and Arizonans together which makes me so proud to call the Arizona/Mexico borderlands home. Thank you, Marisol, for all the ways you champion Hispanics in our region. I can't wait to see what you have planned next.
A contestant on season 18 of "Top Chef" and a James Beard Award semifinalist, Maria Mazon is the owner and executive chef of BOCA Tacos y Tequila in Tucson, Arizona.
Victor Oquendo nominates Ron Magill
I’ve looked up to Ron Magill for years, both literally and figuratively. Magill is the communications director for Zoo Miami, a wildlife expert, and award-winning photographer. He’s also a towering six feet, six inches tall. A big man with an even bigger heart for animals.
Magill’s dad left Cuba much like my family did, in hopes of a better life in America. After attending school in Florida, Magill began working as a zookeeper. His love and passion for animals led him to establish the Ron Magill Conservation Endowment. Over the years, the endowment has provided tens of thousands of dollars annually to conservation projects. It is his way of helping to protect animals in the wild.
Magill is a regular guest on a variety of shows, including “Good Morning America.” I’ve probably interviewed Ron a dozen times and I always walk away impressed with his knowledge and respect of the animal kingdom.
What keeps him going is seeing the faces of kids, investing in the next generations to understand the value of protecting wildlife. One of my favorite quotes from Magill is, “In the end, it doesn’t matter how much money you have in your bank account or what kind of car you drive or how big your house is. What matters is you made a difference in the life of a child." Man, that’s huge.
Victor Oquendo is an ABC News correspondent.
The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of ABC News.
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