Tacos de la calle, margaritas, música, y mucha gente – it felt like the market streets of Mexico.
“I call upon the Lord so that He can bless abundantly every member of the Cortez family,” said Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, who kicked off the evening with a prayer. “May the Holy Spirit be in them, the spirit of love, as they continue their mission of hospitality and service.”
About 2,000 people came to experience the occasion with the Cortez family, whose patriarch, the late Pedro Cortez, opened the iconic San Antonio restaurant Mi Tierra in 1951 and helped preserve Market Square as a place representative of Mexican cultura. In the face of urban renewal, Pedro helped El Mercado – which reminded him of his home in Guadalajara, Mexico – survive.
His spirit of service and humility has contributed to the family’s image in San Antonio.
“Como dijo Cristo, ‘yo vine a servir, no a que me sirvan. Ese es el paisaje que llevamos nosotros. Por eso nos ponemos el delantal. Para servir a todos, juntos,” said Jorge Cortez, one of Pedro’s five children who remains deeply involved with the family business, in front of more than 15 members of his family on stage. “Just as Christ said, ‘I came to serve, not to be served. That’s the landscape that we carry. That’s why we wear the apron everyday, to serve everyone, together.”
Thursday’s celebration, which coincided with the city’s Mexican Independence Day festivities, was a who’s who of San Antonio movers and shakers and prominent members of local government, including Mayor Ivy Taylor and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who expressed his admiration of the Cortez family entirely in Spanish.
“La familia Cortez ha servido a la ciudad de San Antonio con todo amor y corazón,” Wolff said.
Other City and State leaders such as City Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5), State Sen. José Menéndez (D26), and Bexar County Commissioner Paul Elizondo (Pct. 2) congratulated the Cortez family on its legacy in San Antonio.
“It is so exciting to be here with the Cortez family to celebrate their extraordinary legacy and contribution to San Antonio,” Taylor said. “Felicidades a la familia Cortez – they are an iconic San Antonio family that has contributed so much (to the city).”
Elizondo asked the audience to honor the great impact the Cortez family has had in preserving the vibrant Mexican culture in the city.
“Viva Mi Tierra, viva El Mercado, y que viva México,” Elizondo said. “I grew up in this neighborhood. This was a great street called Produce Row … la familia Cortez kept this particular place from deteriorating and disappearing and turned it into a great, successful, beautiful icon in our community.”
Consul General of Mexico in San Antonio Héctor Velasco Monroy, who had the honor of giving El Grito de Dolores to both the Cortez gathering and the public gathering que estaba al frente del museo Centro de Artes, said the Cortez family exemplifies the Mexican-American dream.
“La familia Cortez honra a Mexico con su presencia en San Antonio. Cortez in Spanish means ‘courtesy’ and they, la familia Cortez, honra el apellido porque ellos son no solo Corteces, son formales, educados y trabajadores. Son la mejor muestra de que el sueño México-Americano se puede cumplir con decencia,” Velasco said.
“The Cortez family honors Mexico through their presence in San Antonio. Cortez in Spanish means ‘courtesy’ and they, the Cortez family, honors their last name because they are not only courteous, but are formal, educated, and hardworking. They are the best example that the Mexican-American dream can be achieved with decency.”
Top image: Local artist Jesse Trevino, briefly speaks as Jorge Cortez gestures to the audience. Photo by Anthony Francis.