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A joyful chorus of six different mariachi groups came together Tuesday night to serenade this year’s San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (SAHCC) Business Awards honorees.
Isabel “Belle” San Miguel Ortiz, the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award-winner, was the inspiration for the performance that rallied hundreds of businesses leaders to their feet for an energetic rendition of Volver, Volver. Gritos floated up above the crowd at the end of the award ceremony that recognized eight people and one family that represented the breadth of expertise and dedication of San Antonio’s entrepreneurial spirit. Ortiz worked for decades to bring mariachi music to public schools in San Antonio and Texas. Her career with the award-winning Campanas de America was highlighted by Master of Ceremonies Brenda Jiménez, Univision news anchor.
In her acceptance speech, Ortiz spoke of her lifelong passions including her commitment to Spanish-language acquisition, her family, and her love of music.
“Thank you for the great honor you have bestowed on me and my family, because when you do something for a mother, it’s not for the mother, it’s for the family – because she is the one in charge,” Ortiz said to laughter and applause from the audience.
“I am so thrilled to be recognized with a group of amazing people I have respected for all of these years. And here I am, getting an award with them. How amazing is that?”
Campanas de America, San Antonio Mariachi Academy, Mariachi Azteca de América, Mariachi Damas de Jalisco, Mariachi Las Alteñas and Mariachi Los Caporales processed into the ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa and played three songs together for Ortiz and attendees of the annual award ceremony.
Ramiro Cavazos, Hispanic Chamber president and CEO, opened the evening with a call for San Antonio to rise above the hostile political landscape created by the presidential election and acts of terror.
“Despite the rippling dark currents running across our country at this time, we want to thank each of you for being here tonight with us to honor people that bring hope to San Antonio, that bring promise and opportunity, and that is the history of this chamber for 88 years,” Cavazos said. “This chamber was founded by five business owners who felt that San Antonio’s best days were yet ahead. And 88 years later, this chamber is the largest independent business organization in our community.”
The ballroom hosted at least a dozen local and state officials including Bexar County Sheriff Susan Pamerleau, Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), Councilman Alan Warrick (D2), Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4), Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5), and former State Sen. and daughter of Belle Ortiz Leticia Van de Putte. The Consul General of Mexico in San Antonio, Héctor Velasco Monroy also attended the event.
Hispanic Chamber board Chair Rebecca Quintanilla Cedillo gave her opening remarks and Ortiz’s husband, musical director and manager of Mariachi band Campanas de America Juan, sang the national anthem. Fr. David Garcia delivered the invocation and addressed the mixed emotions that crowded the room: While attendees celebrated the inclusive spirit of the city, the recent mass shooting in Orlando hung over the evening and seeped into thoughts, prayers, and speeches.
“Heavenly father, as we gather tonight our hearts weigh heavy because we grieve with our brothers and sisters in Orlando, but our hearts are also uplifted because we honor wonderful people in this city who have dedicated their lives and have seen a vision of a city that can give so much life to others,” Garcia said.
In their acceptance speeches, many of the night’s honorees referenced the tragedy, including Advocate Award winner Manny Diotte, president and CEO of The Ferrari Kid, a charity for children diagnosed with cancer. He asked that the audience replace their applause for him and instead take 20 seconds to remember the lives lost in the early hours on Sunday, June 12.
Laura Mendoza, human resources director at Tesoro Corporation, won the Corporate Executive Award and spoke of her father, a migrant worker, who eventually became an electrician and provided her and her brothers with invaluable educations.
Rosa Santana, Forma Automotive LLC president and CEO, won the Large Business Owner Award. She is the first Hispanic female to be chosen as a Tier-1 automotive parts supplier to Toyota. In her acceptance speech, Santana acknowledged her two daughters, who also work at Forma, as playing vital roles in the company’s success.
Diotte was diagnosed with cancer as a child and credited his success as a inspirational speaker, author and philanthropist to his struggle with the disease. His organization gives children fighting cancer a ride in a Ferrari and a red-carpet “celebrity” experience for a day.
Other award recipients were Rivard Report Director Robert Rivard, Community Voice Award; The Trey Group co-owner J.J. Gorena II, Rising Star Award; Palo Alto College President Mike Flores, Community Service Award; Anne Marie’s Catering General Manager Ruben Luna, Small Business Owner Award; and the filmmaker Robert Rodriguez and his family; Family Business Excellence Award. The Rodriguez family was unable to attend.
Top image: Belle San Miguel Ortiz laughs as the whole room joins in song. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.