Latino Spirit Awards

The Latino Spirit Awards were established in 2002 at the State Capitol in Sacramento to coincide with our state’s acknowledgement of Cinco de Mayo and to highlight positive role models in our community. 

Every year, the Caucus honors Latinos/as in a variety of categories that range from athletics/sports, to public service and human rights.  Many of our honorees are pioneers in their respective fields and have overcome tremendous obstacles, rising to become role models and community leaders.  They serve as a reminder of the talent we have within our diverse Latino community and are a source of inspiration to all Californians. 

The Latino Caucus is happy to announce the 2017 Latino Spirit Award honorees.  The 16th Annual Latino Spirit Award ceremony took place Monday, May 1, 2017 at the California State Capitol during Assembly Floor Session. 


Achievement in
Technology & Media

Beatriz is the President and founding partner of mitú, the leading digital media company bringing a Latino perspective to mainstream media. As the voice of Latino youth, mitú’s unapologetic storytelling drives more than 400 million monthly views, with over 96 million people a month engaging with its cross-cultural content. Acevedo is a digital pioneer and network show-runner with more than 20 years of entertainment experience, having created, developed and produced hundreds of television shows and award-winning digital series. Her unique approach to both traditional and digital content creation has earned Beatriz three Emmy Awards, an MTV Award, and two Streamy Awards. She has also developed and produced television and digital branded content for numerous brands. Beatriz lives in Santa Monica and is a proud and passionate Latina who juggles work along with her 11-year old twins Isabela and Diego. "Vida En El Valle" Article



Achievement in
Health & Science

Sylvia Acevedo, interim CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA, is a longtime advocate for underserved communities, including girls’ and women’s causes. On a national platform, she has championed issues such as the Presidential Initiative for Hispanic Educational Excellence, where she serves as a White House Commissioner and as Chair of the Early Childhood Subcommittee. Ms. Acevedo, who began her career as a rocket scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratories in Pasadena, is a talented technology executive who has held positions with some of the world’s most respected companies, including REBA Technologies, Dell Computers, Apple, and IBM. She is also a national advocate for STEM education and is a strategic consultant to national organizations that strive to improve outcomes for America’s rising generation of youth.  Ms. Acevedo earned her Bachelor of Science with honors in Industrial Engineering from New Mexico State University and was one of the first Hispanic students to earn a graduate engineering degree from Stanford University, where she earned her Master of Science degree in Industrial Engineering. "Vida En El Valle" Article



Achievement in

Chilean author Isabel Allende won worldwide acclaim when her bestselling first novel, The House of the Spirits, was published in 1982. The book, which grew out of a farewell letter to her dying grandfather, also established her as a feminist force in Latin America’s male-dominated literary world.  She has since authored 20 more works, including Of Love and Shadows, Eva Luna, Sepia, a trilogy for young readers (City of Beasts, Kingdom of the Golden Dragon and Forest of the Pygmies), Zorro, Ines of My Soul, as well as three memoirs: My Invented Country, Paula, and The Sum of Our Days.  Allende’s books, all written in her native Spanish, have been translated into 35 languages and nearly 70 million copies have been sold worldwide. Her works both entertain and educate readers by weaving intriguing stories with significant historical events.  In addition to her work as a writer, Allende also devotes much of her time to human rights. Following the death of her daughter, Paula, in 1992, she established a charitable foundation dedicated to the protection and empowerment of women and girls worldwide.  "Vida En El Valle" Article



Achievement in

Dr. Joseph I. Castro was appointed the eighth President of California State University, Fresno in 2013.  He is the first Central Valley native to serve in this leadership position. Dr. Castro is also a Professor of Educational Leadership in the Kremen School of Education and Human Development. The grandson of farmworkers from Mexico, Dr. Castro was born and raised in Hanford, CA and is the first person in this family to graduate from a university. He received a B.A. in Political Science and M.P.P. in Public Policy from the University of California, Berkeley and a Ph.D. in Higher Education Policy and Leadership from Stanford University.  Prior to his appointment at Fresno State, Dr. Castro served as Vice Chancellor, Student Academic Affairs, and Professor of Family and Community Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco from 2006-13. Earlier in his career, he held faculty and/or administrative leadership positions at four other University of California campuses – Berkeley, Davis, Merced, and Santa Barbara.  Dr. Castro has received various awards for his leadership including the Ohtli Medal, which is the highest honor granted by the Government of Mexico to leaders in the United States.  "Vida En El Valle" Article



Achievement in
Human Rights

Father Miguel Ceja is the Pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Riverside.  He founded a social justice group, Raíces de Justicia (Roots of Justice), to encourage community members to become active on various local and state issues. Father Ceja was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico and he migrated to California at the age of 14 as an undocumented immigrant.  In search of God’s will in his life, Father Ceja was led to serve as a lay missionary in El Salvador, as a volunteer organizer with UNITE HERE and the United Farm Workers in the Coachella Valley, and as an organizer with the Zapatistas Indigenous Communities in Chiapas, Mexico.  Father Ceja has always understood that the work of social justice is a moral imperative of the Gospels and he believes that the best way to advance the work of justice and peace is to work collaboratively with other faith traditions, agencies, and popular movements. 



Dynamic Youth Award

Jonas Corona, a 13 year old from Long Beach, began volunteering at the age of four and was inspired to do more after meeting a homeless kid his own age on Los Angeles’ Skid Row. At the age of 6, Jonas started his own charitable organization, Love in the Mirror, which provides disadvantaged youth and their families with basic necessities such as food, clothing and learning materials. Over 45,000 homeless people have been impacted by the organization’s fundraising and donation efforts. When not attending school or running the non-profit organization, Jonas spends his free time playing tennis. He believes everyone can make a difference no matter how old they are.  "Vida En El Valle" Video



Achievement in

Michael Lizárraga is the President and CEO of The East Los Angeles Community Union (TELACU), the largest Community Development Corporation in the United States. He has managed the successful growth of TELACU for more than 25 years and has ensured its mission statement of creating jobs, affordable housing, access to capital and educational opportunities within California’s neediest and most underserved communities are fulfilled by the organization.  Mr. Lizárraga also serves as President of the TELACU Education Foundation, which provides scholarships and educational programs to thousands of low-income, first generation Latino scholars each year.  He is a Trustee of Azusa Pacific University, Treasurer of the California State University Foundation Board of Governors, and is a Board Member of the USC Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab, the California Chamber of Commerce (CalChamber), the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, and Faith Community Church.  "Vida En El Valle" Article



Achievement in
Arts & Entertainment

Adrian Molina began at Pixar Animation Studios as a story intern in the summer of 2006. Since joining the studio full-time that fall, Molina has worked on the Academy Award®-winning feature films “Ratatouille” and “Toy Story 3,” and was a story artist for Disney•Pixar’s “Monsters University.” Recently, Molina was tapped to serve as the co-director and writer on the studio’s upcoming original film, “Coco,” set to release in November 2017. As a story artist, Molina worked with a story team to sketch sequences of a film. This process often involves working through alternative options until the best story is developed. Raised in Grass Valley, Molina found inspiration in making home movies with his three siblings when he was growing up. He credits his parents for encouraging him to embrace his artistic and creative instincts, and his high school Literature program for teaching him how to be critical and aware of storytelling and structure. Prior to Pixar, Molina attended the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Character Animation. "Vida En El Valle" Article



Achievement in
Journalism & Media

Peabody Award-winning anchor, Maria Elena Salinas, who is described as the “Voice of Hispanic America” by the New York Times, is one of the most recognized Hispanic female journalists in the United States. She is the co-anchor of “Noticiero Univision” the nightly network newscast and co-host of the news magazine “Aquí y Ahora” (Here and Now). Salinas has informed and empowered millions of viewers for more than three decades in the U.S., as well as in 18 Latin American countries. Her reputation as a serious and objective journalist has garnered her universal respect and allowed her to secure high profile interviews including Latin American heads of state, rebel leaders, dictators, and every U.S. President since Jimmy Carter. She has also traveled through Latin America to report on impactful world events, always with the clear purpose of giving a voice to the voiceless.



Achievement in
Arts & Advocacy

Josephine S. Talamantez (Chicana/Yaqui) is an organizational management and public policy consultant with a specialization in arts, history, historic preservation, cultural resources/programming and public history. She is the Founder and Board Chair of the Chicano Park Museum and Cultural Center in San Diego and authored Chicano Park’s successful national register nomination and co-authored its national landmark nomination.  Ms. Talamantez also serves on various other boards including Board Chair of the Capitol Area Indian Resources, and Executive Director of La Raza/Galeria Posada in Sacramento and Centro Cultural de la Raza in San Diego.  She is also a founding member of Latinos in Heritage Conservation, a national organization, and a member of the Royal Chicano Air Force. Ms. Talamantez also served as an advisor to the California Office of Historic Preservation for the development of the California Latino American Theme Study, is a past executive board member of the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture, and is a former Chief of Programs/Legislative Liaison for the California State Arts Council. "Vida En El Valle" Article


Links to photo galleries of previous Latino Spirit Award celebrations:
Photo Gallery: 2017 Latino Spirit Awards (May 1, 2017)
Photo Gallery: 2016 Latino Spirit Awards (May 1-2, 2016)
Photo Gallery: 2015 Latino Spirit Awards (May 3-4, 2015)
Photo Gallery: 2014 Latino Spirit Awards (May 4-5, 2014)
Photo Gallery: 2013 Latino Spirit Awards (May 5-6, 2013)
Photo Gallery: 2001-2012 Latino Spirit Award Honorees