Mayor's Office of Special Events

Mayor's Hispanic Heritage Awards

Mayor Turner Announces the 2018 Hispanic Heritage Award Recipients

September 24, 2018 -- Mayor Sylvester Turner is proud to announce the 2018 Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Award recipients.

They will be honored with proclamations from Mayor Turner at Houston City Hall. Each honoree was selected based on his or her outstanding contributions toward enhancing the quality of life and advancement of Houston’s Hispanic community.

"As we honor and celebrate the contributions of the Hispanic community, I would like to congratulate each of the honorees who were selected as part of the Mayor's Hispanic Heritage Awards," stated Mayor Sylvester Turner. "Each of you has demonstrated a passion for your community and form part of the vast talent network that exists in our city. Thank you for all that you do."

  • PS. Mark your calendar ~ Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Awards Reception, Wednesday, October 10th, 6:30 – 8:30 pm, located at City Hall Legacy Room, 901 Bagby Street, Houston, Tx 77002, Dress is business/business casual.

This year’s Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Award recipients are:

Arts in the Community: Mario Enrique “Gonzo” Figueroa Jr.

Mario Enrique “Gonzo” Figueroa Jr.Mario Enrique “Gonzo” Figueroa Jr. is the recipient of the 2018 Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Art in the Community Award. His passion for art advocacy locally and beyond has promoted the beauty of Latino culture and serving as an artistic voice for the cultivation of Latin American art. A proud native of Houston’s East End, Figueroa Jr.’s love for visual arts was inspired by Leopoldo Tanguma’s well-known mural The Rebirth of Our Nationality, and cultivated his dream to become the well known aerosol artist he is today.

A self taught and knowledgeable artist, Figueroa Jr. began creating masterpieces in 1985 under the name GONZO247. Since then, he has greatly impacted Houston’s vibrant art scene, having opened the Aerosol Warfare Gallery, founded the Graffiti & Street Art Museum of Texas and established the Houston Wall of Fame, the city’s first largest art production of its kind. An artistic creator on a local, national and international level, he has participated in over 50 exhibitions and art projects, worked with major brand campaigns and commercial branding projects, as well as with local organizations such as TEDxYouth Houston, Avenue CDC–Art on the Avenue, The Orange Show Center for Visual Arts and Project Row Houses, among others. His most notable commissioned public artistry includes the large mural in the Houston Public Library’s underground parking garage and the Houston is Inspired mural across from Market Square Park.

An early-on pioneer in the graffiti and street art genres in Houston, Figueroa, Jr. was recently selected to restore the massive The Rebirth of Our Nationality mural in the Second Ward. Through this restoration, the mural will continue to serve as a symbolic story of Mexican-American struggles, triumphs and heritage.

Community Activist: Estella Mireles Walters

Estella Mireles WaltersEstella Mireles Walters is the recipient of the 2018 Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Community Activist Award. She is a model of strength, integrity and honesty, having spent countless hours giving back to the community over the past several decades. A third generation Houstonian, Mireles Walters is a graduate of Houston Community College and the University of Texas MD Anderson School of Allied Health. She retired after 43 years as a professional medical laboratory technologist.

The tragic murder of 11-year-old Josue Flores inspired her to establish Safe Walk Home Northside, a program that ensures safe passage for children as they walk to and from school. Safe Walk Home set up their base of operations at Holy Name Church and repaired the church’s antique bells to ring and alert the community to watch the children. Regularly scheduled program meetings are attended by representatives from the Houston Police Department, Houston Independent School District, METRO, civic leaders and the offices of city, state and federal elected individuals.

Thanks to Mireles Walters’ grassroots activism, Houston City Council unanimously approved a civility ordinance for the Near Northside neighborhood to combat vagrancy, trespassing and drug dealing. She was also influential in the passage of Senate Bill 195, which allows for a school district or county to apply for additional transportation funding in communities that experience high crime rates.

Education in the Community: Rebeca Treviño

Rebeca TreviñoRebeca Treviño is the recipient of the 2018 Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Education in the Community Award. She has dedicated her life to persevering and making contributions for the betterment of the Latino community. Born in Mexico and raised in Brownsville, Texas, Treviño, attained her degree from the University of Texas at Brownsville and later worked for her alma mater for 10 years. In 1995, she worked for the University of Houston’s (UH) Center for Mexican-American Studies, and soon realized the need to educate and instill in youth a sense of awareness for Hispanic culture and the value of a quality education. In 1999, Treviño became Program Coordinator for the SABE Program at Austin High School, an outreach program that encourages students to continue with their high school education and recruits them to the University of Houston. Presently, as the Program Manager of the Academic Achievers Program since 2001, she is committed to retaining and propelling more Hispanic students to become University of Houston graduates. In her role, she provides support services such as mentoring, academic tutoring, leadership skills and scholarships to first generation students.

As a certified university studies division academic advisor, Trevino's has served as UH Staff Council representative, advisor for Kappa Delta Chi Sorority, Delta Gamma Sorority, and currently staff advisor for Sigma Lambda Beta. As an education advocate, she has actively worked with the Coalition for Higher Education to help immigrant students obtain a higher education in Texas. She has served as council member of the Junior Achievement Hispanic Advisory Board, member of the Latin Women’s Initiative since 2003, UNIVISION “Nuestra Vida” Advisory Council member and has served as regional judge for the HEB Excellence in Education Awards. Treviño has truly left a lasting impression on the many students and youth she has encountered over the years, and many of them yet recall her impactful, meaningful and nurturing care and concern for their future.

Youth Activist: Homero Benavides

Homero BenavidesHomero Benavides is the recipient of the 2018 Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Youth Activist Award. He has dedicated his time to cultivating young leaders through his personal, professional and academic experiences. Benavides is a member of the Academic Achievers Program at the University of Houston, where he serves and leads with distinction. He demonstrated his dedication to the program through his outstanding academic performance as a mechanical engineering student and through his participation in a multitude of workshops, meetings and leadership retreats on behalf of the program. Benavides enjoys memberships to a host of campus organizations such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the NACME scholar program.

Since 2011, he has been the president of the Society of Latinos in Science and Engineering (MAES) and has also served as membership coordinator, recruitment chair and as a mentor during the annual MAES Science Extravaganza. He is an extremely active participant in the society’s outreach events. During his summer internship at NASA Johnson Space Center, he readily presented his research in public forums and participated in NASA sponsored colloquia, workshops and technology demonstrations. In 2012, Benavides was selected to participate in the Harvard Latino Leadership Initiative program, an intensive, week long leadership development program at the esteemed Harvard Kennedy School. He was chosen from among the nation’s most promising undergraduates that demonstrated interest in serving the Latino community.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Graciela Saenz

Gracie SaenzGraciela “Gracie” Saenz is the recipient of the 2018 Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Lifetime Achievement Award. She is a woman of many talents, a leader with a formidable heart, Saenz has dedicated her life to preserving and making contributions for the betterment of the Latino community.

Saenz was formerly a law partner with Elizabeth Burkhardt and the founding member of the Saenz & Burkhardt PLLC law firm. She has been in law practice for over 32 years. Her practice currently focuses on government relations, business, commercial and international transactions. She is very involved in leadership positions throughout the community after serving on the Houston City Council from 1992-1997. Her experience as a former council member and Mayor Pro-Tem has assisted in leveraging her knowledge of local city politics and essential political networks to best serve her clients’ goals.

Saenz’s experience as chair of the Houston International Initiatives and the chair of the NAFTA Committee of the Houston City Council have also served her in continuing her close ties to businesses throughout Latin America. Her experience also includes representing a broad range of government and corporate clients in corporate, international, energy and tourism. She has also helped various nonprofit organizations get established and assisted in developing their missions, strategies, organizational structures and governing documents.

Throughout her career, Saenz has received many accolades such as the Hispanic Woman of the Year Award, Hispanic Women in Leadership-Hall of Fame, Professional Women in Fellowship Award, Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce- Women on the Move and La Rosa Family Services Gala Honoree, among several others.