Latino Heritage: Gratitude Achievement Purpose

Latino heritage and leadership, an ongoing dedication to higher causes


Last Saturday afternoon I sat in my garden, in Northern California.  I was enjoying the gorgeous bright blue sky and the fresh air coming from the Pacific Ocean, just west of my home.  A sense of purpose was running through me.  A moment can pack so much joy.

My mind then turned to recent activities.  Week after week, I have been attending events in the San Francisco Bay Area to celebrate the achievements of Latino leaders.  The Latinos recognized at these events are remarkable visionaries and effective leaders.  The thousands of Latino trailblazers present at these gatherings are equally impressive and inspiring.

Latino Heritage Celebrations

Here are some of the events I attended:  The Commonwealth Club held a Latinas in Business forum; the Latino Community Foundation also had a forum, focusing on  Latino policy, and it hosted a gala in San Francisco; Latina Style Magazine held a conference in San Jose; Latino Leaders Magazine presented the Maestro Awards Celebration in San Francisco; the California Hispanic Chamber had its convention in Oakland; Union Bank and KQED (the PBS local station) held the Local Heroes Awards Ceremony; the Mexican Museum of San Francisco had a ribbon cutting ceremony on Mexican Independence Day at the site where its new home will be, and just a few days later the Chicana Latina Foundation’s Gala attracted over 800 guests.

Event Insights and Latino Leaders

Here are some insights on what these events represent:  Speakers and awardees were recognized for achievements that have had major impact at the local, state and national levels.  These accomplished leaders have paved the way for past, present and future generations of Latinos in education, healthcare, the arts, science, politics, entrepreneurship, and more.  Over and over, they all addressed the importance of education for the Latino community.

Jerry Porras, Professor Emeritus at Stanford University, and co-author of Built to Last, spoke about his Latino heritage and was honored for his visionary leadership at the Maestro Awards event.

Mexican born Andrew Kluger, Chairman of the Board of The Mexican Museum of San Francisco, celebrated the richness and vitality of Mexican, Chicano, Latin American and Latino arts, and The Mexican Museum’s contributions to the artistic and educational communities in and beyond San Francisco.  Mr. Kluger highlighted the importance of having a museum solely dedicated to these art forms in the Yerba Buena District, right in the heart of San Francisco’s cultural and arts hub, along with other world-renowned museums and art galleries.

At the Commonwealth Club, Aida Alvarez, a former Clinton cabinet member, spoke about her experiences growing up Puerto Rican in New York, surmounting educational barriers in high school and holding on to a vision she had for herself.  That vision led to her graduation from Harvard University, and a distinguished career in journalism, business and government.  Currently, she serves on the Board of the Latino Community Foundation.  Ms. Alvarez works tirelessly to improve quality of life for Latinos, and understands the importance of a thriving Latino community for the U.S., given the rapidly changing demographics in the nation.

Stephanie Bravo, Founder and President of was one of the awardees at the Local Heroes Latino Heritage Month celebration.  Ms. Bravo, a first generation college graduate, is indefatigable when it comes to education.  In 2012, she partnered with the Obama administration to jointly address the importance of education, and expanding college retention and graduation among Latino students.


Mara Perez
Mara Perez
Mara Perez, Ph.D. As Founder and Principal of Mara Perez, Fund Development and Planning Services, Mara provides fundraising and strategic planning services to non-profits. Mara has helped over seventy organizations obtain funding, design innovative work strategies, and execute growth plans. Mara holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Chicago. Community service includes: 2010-present Board Member of Marin General Hospital; 2002-2012 Board Member Canal Alliance, twice Board President; 2005 Spirit of Marin Award, Business Person of the Year; Coro Leadership Community Fellow. She has published articles about immigration, social change, and fundraising. Born in Argentina, Mara resides in California.