Los Barrios de Amarillo, in partnership with the Barrio Neighborhood Planning Committee and the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce, held Thursday its ninth annual Hispanic Heritage Luncheon and Awards Celebration honoring members of the community for their impact in the city.
Mary Bralley, event chair for Los Barrios de Amarillo, spoke about the importance of the event.“This is a chance to invite the community of Amarillo to come together to celebrate the culture and traditions of Hispanics in the area, but also to recognize all the contributions being made to the economy with new businesses,” Bralley said. “We are not only growing as a population, but we are growing the economy as well."
She applauded the work of the Barrio Neighborhood Planning Committee for working to put in ADA sidewalks, necessary lights in the neighborhood and a pocket park for the whole community to share.
“We just want everybody to know that there are people that you don’t know doing great things like Jeff Renteria,” Bralley said. “I am just so proud that there are so many unsung heroes like him that many do not know about.”
Bralley said this event is a learning experience for many with stories like Rodrigo Zapata’s.
“The road to success Is not easy for everyone, but it’s tough when you are a minority trying to break through,” Bralley said. “You have heard the cliché, you have to work harder than everybody else, but it is really true. When you have somebody that originated from Mexico coming here not knowing the language, not knowing everybody as they leave everything behind, we need to know those stories. We need to know what makes up our community; it is not just people born here.”
The keynote speaker at the luncheon was Rodrigo "Rigo” Zapata, originally from Aguascalientes, Mexico, who came to the United States when he was 8 years old. He is the assistant vice president of business loans at Amarillo National Bank and has been with the company for 10 years.
Zapata said that he was honored to speak at the event and be able to tell his story.
“We are here to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, and it’s a great honor to let people know through my story that anything is possible,” Zapata said. “It is important to let everybody know that everyone has a role to play in shaping the way America is today. We are here to have a better future for us and our families and everyone around us.”
Awards given at the event were:
Best Community Business: Power Church
Rising Star: Jennifer Steele
Heart of the Barrio: Jeff Renteria
Man of the year: Quintin Marquez Woman of the Year: Teresa Kennedy
Kennedy, named Woman of the Year, is the president of the Barrio Neighborhood Planning Committee, and spoke about receiving recognition for efforts in the community.
“It was a shock, and I am very humbled to receive this award. I am a very boots-on-the-ground person, so I am usually behind the scenes rather than out in front,” Kennedy said.
She emphasized the importance of sharing what Hispanic community members are doing in the city, the country, and the world.
“The purpose of this luncheon is to celebrate the people that are involved, many of which are behind the scenes,” Kennedy said. “It is great to come together as a whole group and come together as one and celebrate our heritage with the rest of the city. I think anytime you give back to another person, that is immensely helpful and makes our community work better together. We want to see this continue to grow to make it better for everyone.”
She said that her organization has worked diligently to help members of the community start their own businesses and have better financial literacy.
Renteria spoke about receiving the Heart of the Barrio Award for his work with the Barrio Bash, which helps provide children with backpacks and school supplies, as well as his work with the less fortunate in the area.
“It feels so good to be recognized for my hard work in the community,” Renteria said. “It shows that people are paying attention to what I am trying to do to improve the community and puts me on the map for those efforts."
He said that he hopes with this recognition, more people get involved in these community efforts.“The Barrio Bash gets bigger and bigger with more people attending, so I know I just must put more effort into it," Renteria said. “It has been tough the last few years, but I know a lot more people are going to be willing to help now that they see the impact on the community. It's good for people not in the Barrio to get to see what we do, and I strive to make a good impact on the city.”
Marquez, the Man of the Year award winner, is the marketing manager for the City Federal Credit Union and a board member with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
“It was a great honor. It’s not about us as individuals; it’s about what we all are doing for the community,” Marquez said. “We have a lot of people that deserve this type of recognition.”
Marquez said that it is important to recognize the various communities that make up this country. He said that city members need to get out and visit all the city's cultures.
“I always return to the quote, 'I don’t see color.' I do not like that quote. I think people should see and embrace color,” Marquez said. “The color comes along with cultures and traditions that were here long before birth and long after we are gone. It is important to embrace Hispanic, Black, Asian and all other cultures. It's great to see and engage in what other cultures have to offer to the community as a whole."