Day of the Americas Special Awards Program 2003


Video of the 2003 Latino Hall of Fame inductees includes: Dr. Tomas Arciniega; Cesar Chavez, Ventura Cuen, Dr. Ray Gonzales, and Dolores Huerta.  Please view both parts, A and B.

Group honors community leaders

By JASON GUTIERREZ, Special to The Californian

Posted: Wednesday November 19th, 2003 , 10:20 PM
Last Updated: Wednesday November 19th, 2003 , 10:20 PM

It was just like a Hollywood awards show. The only thing missing was Joan Rivers standing on a red carpet.

Several Kern community leaders and public officials gathered at the Holiday Inn Select on Sunday night to celebrate the second Day of Americas Special Awards ceremony.

The awards were presented by the nonprofit Heritage of America Educational and Cultural Foundation in Bakersfield . There were 13 areas of recognition from education to politics. Each area had two subcategories, Latino and non-Latino.

In addition, there was a special recognition award and the Latino Hall of Fame.

Foundation executive director Jess Nieto said the awards ceremony was designed to recognize the diversity of Kern County .

"The Day of Americas is about celebrating the diversity that all cultures bring to unite our community," Nieto said. "It takes a lot of work both mentally and physically from people in our community for politics, education and the arts to flourish. So this awards ceremony honors those who have contributed to society."

In addition, event organizers inducted five prominent figures into its first-ever Latino Hall of Fame.

The inductees were: Cal State Bakersfield President Tomás Arciniega; UFW co-founders Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta; Kern Latino pioneer Ventura Cuen; and CSU Monterey Bay educator Raymond Gonzalez.

Arciniega felt honored.    "I can't express enough what a wonderful honor this is for me," he said. "Education has always been an important part of life while being president of Cal State Bakersfield , and I am proud to see so many Latinos further their education."

UFW President Arturo Rodriguez also received special recognition.   State Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, presented Rodriguez with a resolution for his dedication to bettering the lives of minority farmworkers.   "The holiday season is here, and it is a good time for everyone to think about the farmworkers who have worked hard so there can be food on the table," Rodriguez said.

As the evening ended, an eclectic group of community leaders shook hands and said their goodbyes. Whether they received awards or not, everyone was honored to be able to be part of the event.

"I am happy that so many deserving people were honored here tonight," said Charlie Rodriguez, president of the board of directors for the Community Action Partnership of Kern and a longtime Bakersfield business owner. "This event has been a long time coming in honoring the unsung Latino heroes in our community."

Day of the Americas 2003 Special Awards Winners

The following is a list of this year’s (2003)  award winners:

Performing & Fine Arts:

Latino- Maria & Sam Mercado                         Non-Latino- Milt & Betty Younger


Latino- Lou Gomez                              Non-Latino- John Lencione

Community Development:

Latino- Charlie Rodriguez                Non-Latino- Irma Carson


Latino- Joaquin & Eva Patino and Dr. David Rosales   Non-Latino- Ken Chapman and

Dr. Larry Reider


Latino- Louie Cruz Beltran                              Non-Latino- Buck Owens


Latino- Olivia Reyes Garcia              Non-Latino- Tom Randour


Latino- Arturo Rodríguez                 Non-Latino- Kay Madden


Latino- Robert Tafoya         Non-Latino- Milt Younger


Latino- Pete Parra              Non-Latino- Cal Dooley and Harvey Hall

Science & Medicine:

Latino- Dr. Augustine Munoz                           Non-Latino- Dr. W.B. Christiansen


Latino- McFarland Boys Cross Country Teams, Coach Jim White and Steve Ontiveros    

Non-Latino- Bob Covey

Organization of the Year:

Latino- Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and MEChA, Bakersfield College  

Non-Latino- Bakersfield Fire Fighters Burn Foundation and Community Action Partnership

Special Awards:

Dr. Armando Navarro with the Ernesto Galarza Award              Vernon Strong                     Dee Dominguez and Bill Mungary

Latino Hall of Fame 2003:

Dr. Tomas Arciniega                          Cesar Chavez                       Ventura Cuen                     

Dr. Raymond Gonzales                       Dolores Huerta

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