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 2016 Latino Spirit Award honorees.  The 15th Annual Latino Spirit Award ceremony took place on Monday, May 2, 2016 at the California State Capitol during Assembly Floor Session. 


Achievement in
Arts & Entertainment

Winner of 9 Grammy Awards, with sales surpassing 13 million copies worldwide, Pepe Aguilar has pioneered the fusion of musical genres mixing the mariachi tradition with the energy of contemporary music.  In 1998, Pepe’s career exploded when he released his album “Por Mujeres Como Tú,” which was on the Billboard charts for 52 weeks and has sold two and a half million copies worldwide. Apart from his exceptional voice, Pepe is also a very successful composer and producer who has worked with many renowned figures in the music industry, from traditional Mexican folk singers to Spanish-language rock stars.  He is a successful businessman who has founded music labels dedicated to help develop new talents in traditional Mexican music and Spanish-language rock.  At this point in his career Pepe is able to masterfully make use of past, present and future, featuring his family, working style, his passionate love for tradition, the way he actively accepts new challenges posed by digital technology and above all, his wish to “get back to his roots.” He is releasing his 26th album, “No Lo Había Dicho” at the end of May.  Vida En El Valle Article



Achievement in Athletics

Samantha Bricio is a Senior at the University of Southern California who was named the 2015 American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) National Player of the Year. A first-team AVCA All-American and the Pac-12 Player of the Year, Samantha now receives the single highest honor for a volleyball student-athlete to complete her four-year career with the Women of Troy. She is the seventh USC player to receive AVCA All-America honors three times in her career and was a four-time AVCA Pacific South all-region selection. This season, she led the nation in points (803.0), points per set (6.18 pps), service aces (89) and aces per set (0.68 saps).  Samantha was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, and, as a 16-year-old, was the youngest player ever to play for Mexico’s Senior National Team. She will graduate in May with a degree in Psychology from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. Vida En El Valle Article




Achievement in
Performing Arts

Esteban Hernandez is a Mexican ballet dancer born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico who is currently dancing professionally with the San Francisco Ballet, the oldest ballet company in the United States. He began his training in the backyard of his house with his father and teacher Hector Hernandez.   Esteban is renowned for being the first Mexican to graduate with honors from the prestigious Royal Ballet School in London, in addition to his many achievements in some of the most prestigious international ballet competitions.  Esteban has earned nine gold medals in various countries of the world, one silver medal and three international Grand Prix.  Some of the prestigious competitions he has won are the "Youth American Grand Prix" in the United States, the tenth international competition in Havana, Cuba, the International Dance Competition in Berlin and the Youth Ballet Prix of St. Petersburg, Russia.  He was also awarded the National Youth Award in 2007 by the President of México.  Along with his brother Isaac, they founded the production company  'Soul Arts Productions' and the nonprofit organization 'Relevé', promoting and producing cultural and artistic projects that generate a positive impact on society through the arts.  Vida En El Valle Article



Achievement in
Public Service

For Mickey Ibarra, advocacy has always been a way of life. It was in that role he honed the leadership skills that led him to the White House senior staff of President Bill Clinton, the creation of his own business and the development of the Latino Leaders Network. Like his father before him, Mickey served in the U.S. Army and attended college on the G.I. Bill.  He is a graduate of Brigham Young University and the University of Utah, with a Master's in Education and an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.  After teaching at-risk high school students in the Utah public schools, he was hired in 1984 by the National Education Association in Washington, D.C.  Mickey was appointed Assistant to the President and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at the White House by President Bill Clinton in 1997, serving as one of the highest-ranking members of the President's inner circle.  His role was to build support for the President's policy initiatives and respond to the concerns of state and local officials on a broad range of issues.  Following the end of President Clinton's term in 2001, he launched his own government relations and public affairs firm in the nation's capital---now celebrating 15 years of service.  Vida En El Valle Article 



Achievement in
Advocacy & Entertainment

Kamala Lopez is an award-winning actress, screenwriter, director and producer. She has appeared in over thirty feature films, including Born in East LA and The Chico Mendes Story opposite the late Raul Julia, and directed the award-winning film about first US Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin, A Single Woman.  In 2011 she received the Woman of Courage award from the National Women's Political Caucus for her work on social justice and women's rights and in 2012 she was named one of the 21 Leaders for the 21st Century by Women's eNews.  Her work on behalf of women and girls has been recognized by Los Angeles County’s Board of Supervisors and the Women’s Commission, who named her 2015 Woman of the Year (Arts/Media).  Kamala is the President and CEO of Heroica Films and the Founder and Executive Director of The ERA Education Project, a new national media campaign to educate and raise public awareness about the need for the Equal Rights Amendment.  Vida En El Valle Article



Achievement in
Community Empowerment 

Marco Cesar Lizárraga is currently the Director for La Cooperativa Campesina de California where he has worked for the past nineteen years.  La Cooperativa is a non-profit organization representing and providing funding for federally designated Farm Worker Grantees in California who deliver employment and training services to farm workers throughout the State.  Marco has a diverse work experience, including employment and training, and housing consulting.  He has also been involved in several social justice causes including  as a volunteer for the grape boycott, as well as a volunteer organizing strawberry workers in Oxnard to participate on strike with Cesar Chavez’ union.  Marco’s commitment to our Latino community is also exemplified by the many organizations he has been a part of.  He is a Founder of the United Mexican American Students (UMAS) at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, was an active Member of MECHA at UC Santa Barbara, a Planning Commissioner in Woodland, CA and is a Board Member of Farm Worker Justice in Washington, D.C.  Vida En El Valle Article



Achievement in

Professor Mario J. Molina, Ph. D. is a pioneer and one of the leading scientists in the world dedicated to atmospheric chemistry.  He was co-author of the 1974 original article predicting the depletion of the ozone layer as a direct consequence of the emissions of certain industrial gases, chlorofluorocarbons, earning him and Frank Sherwood Rowland the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.  His research and publications on the subject led to the United Nations Montreal Protocol, the first international treaty designed to reduce the production and consumption of ozone depleting substances in order to reduce their abundance in the atmosphere and protect the earth’s fragile ozone Layer.  Molina is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine in the United States since April 2011 and is one of the 21 scientists that serve on President Barack Obama’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology.  He is a distinguished member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the National College of Mexico, Mexican Academy of Science and the Mexican Academy of Engineering, among others, and holds over 40 honorary degrees from all over the world. Currently, he is president of the Mario Molina Center in Mexico City and professor at the University of California, San Diego with a joint appointment in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, one of the leading research institutions on climate change.  Vida En El Valle Article



Achievement in

José “the Future” Ramirez is an undefeated professional boxer (17-0) who is the WBC Continental America Super Lightweight Champion. Originally from Avenal, California Jose learned to box at the age of 8.  As an amateur, Ramirez amassed an impressive record of 145 victories and was the number one rated amateur boxer at Lightweight in the U.S. and a member of the 2012 U.S. Olympics team.  Ramirez won 11 national boxing championships, including the 2010 U.S. National Champion at Lightweight, Jr. Golden Gloves National Champion, two-time Jr. Olympic National Champion, and a two-time Ringside World Champion.  He also won six consecutive U.S. National titles and gold medals.  Outside of the ring, Ramirez has been an advocate for water rights in the San Joaquin Valley.  As a son of an immigrant farmer, he understands the desperate situation the area faces. In 2014, he headlined a benefit fight card called "The Fight for Water" in Lemoore, California in a bid to help raise awareness for the need for water.  He has since been involved in four additional fight cards named ''The Fight for Water,'' the last one of which drew 13,000 fans to the arena in Fresno.



Achievement in
Public Service

Barbara Torres serves as the youngest and first Latina President of SEIU Local 99, becoming President at the age of 33.  As President of one of the strongest unions in the Los Angeles Unified School District, she represents 45,000 education workers in K-12 schools, early education centers and homes, administrative offices, and community colleges throughout Southern California.  Barbara currently works at Los Angeles Academy Middle School in South Los Angeles and has worked for the Los Angeles Unified School District since the age of 14, as a student worker, a teacher’s assistant, and currently as a Special Education Assistant.  Despite her young age, President Torres brings years of experience working to improve the lives of SEIU Local 99 members. She was instrumental in reaching Collective Bargaining Agreements on behalf of 30,000 LAUSD employees, which raised the minimum wage for all her members to $15 an hour by July 1, 2016 as well as securing a 6.5% wage increase for those making over $15 an hour. Barbara’s involvement in her union and community has always been on a volunteer basis. She currently serves as the Chair of SEIU 99’S Latino Caucus and as a Statewide Democratic Delegate for Assembly District 51. She is a strong believer that people must be the change they wish to see in the world.  Vida En El Valle Article



Achievement in
Business & Philanthropy

Tracing its origins to the year 1960 when the Porto family made the tough decision to leave their home in Cuba, Porto’s Bakery & Café has grown into a highly successful business that recently topped Yelp’s list as the best place to eat in the U.S. for 2016.  Upon arriving in California, Rosa Porto, who was always a talented cake maker, entrenched herself in perfecting her recipes and began selling her delicious cakes to friends and neighbors.  As her customer base grew and demand increased, Rosa and her husband Raul Sr. opened a small 300-square foot bakery in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles.  Their children, Beatriz, Raul Jr. and Margarita soon joined the family business and with the entire family’s effort, they expanded to a 20,000-square foot facility in the 1990’s.  Today, Porto’s is known not only for their authentic Cuban cuisine, but also as pillars of their community for their philanthropic and community investment efforts.  Porto’s has a long time partnership with Los Angeles homeless charity, Union Rescue Mission, donating meals to those most in need.  They also provide scholarships to local culinary students and generous donations to health organizations that assist the Latino community.  Porto’s Bakery & Café now serves thousands of customers and employs hundreds of team members in Southern California, with stores in Glendale, Burbank, and Downey and two additional stores being built in Buena Park and West Covina.  What started as a small business to support their family, is now one of the most unique and renowned family-owned businesses in Southern California.  Vida En El Valle Article



Links to photo galleries of previous Latino Spirit Award celebrations:
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