Mayor's Office of Special Events
Mayor's Hispanic Heritage Awards
Mayor Turner Honoring Six Outstanding Houstonians During Hispanic Heritage Month
Septempber 25, 2023 -- In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, Mayor Sylvester Turner and the Mayor’s Hispanic Advisory Board are honoring six exemplary Houstonians in the Houston Hispanic community.
The individuals were nominated by members of the community and selected by the Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Awards (MHHA) Committee for their outstanding contributions toward improving the quality of life within the Houston Hispanic community.
This year, Hispanic Heritage Month is being observed from Friday, September 15 to Sunday, October 15. Starting at the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, Mayor Turner will recognize each of the honorees with proclamations during three weekly Houston city council public sessions beginning Tuesday, September 26.
This year’s Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Award recipients are:
Arts in the Community: Geraldina Interiano Wise
Geraldina Interiano Wise is the recipient of the 2023 Mayor’s Hispanic Arts in the Community Award. A long time Houstonian, Geraldina considers herself an accidental immigrant having been separated from her family in her native El Salvador while a Freshman at Rice University due to the Civil War. A triple major in Architecture/Art/Art History and two degrees later, she has worked on large scale projects with some of the best architects and designers in the nation. After 25 years of operating her own environmental forward design firm, Geraldina sought freedom of expression by returning to her art. She began her art education at the age of 10 on the ravines of the San Salvador Volcano, under the tutelage of Violeta Bonilla, a protégé of the muralist Diego Rivera. She is an environmental artist, using her art to create empathy and understanding of the planet. Geraldina has developed strong ties to Houston’s major universities, with ongoing engagement. She enrolled as a student at Glassell School of the MFAH and printmaking at Rice University, building a community of practice, which included being a founding member of Latin American Women Artists of Houston (LAWAH). An internationally exhibiting artist, Geraldina premiered her Modular Woman for the Environment concept in Paris in 2022 and, since then, represented El Salvador at the UNESCO Latin American week at the UNESCO headquarter in Paris. She was invited to exhibit in Lisbon in 2024 and is planning on taking her Modular Woman concept to COP 29. Geraldina is a cultural ambassador of Houston and is proud to represent the pan-latinidad of our city. Not only does she serve on many non-profit boards in Houston, but she is also founding board member of ALMAAHH (Advocates for a Latino Museum of Cultural & Visual Arts Houston). A Senior Fellow of the American Leadership Forum, her leadership is fully at work in ALMAAHH, where she aims to gain the trust of Latinos in the region, to create a movement to build a national home for the US Latino culture. Geraldina has inspired and nurtured generations of Latino artists and served as an important role model and leader for the entire Latino community.
Education in the Community: Dr. Cruz Casiano
Dr. Cruz Casiano is the recipient of the 2023 Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Education in the Community Award. Dr. Casiano is the Director of the Career and Applied Technology Division at Lone Star College. She oversees all facets from student success support, dual credit, scholarships, grand funding, employer and school district partnerships, and workforce recruitment and enrollment events. Prior to this role, she served as an Executive Director for the Marvy Finger Family Foundation. Her responsibilities there were wide ranging, and it entailed managing a multimillion-dollar scholarship program that provided tuition, textbooks, uniforms, and equipment to under-represented students in need, who were pursuing credit workforce programs at three large community colleges in Houston. A few of Dr. Casiano’s notable accomplishments include starting the first Houston ISD-HCC Teacher Education Dual Credit Program in 2012, establishing monthly food security for college students in partnership with the Houston Food Bank in 2019, and securing a million-dollar endowment with Houston Methodist for students to attend health-science paid internship programs in 2021. She is actively involved in her community by volunteering for several nonprofits. She is a social host and mentor through Kids Lives Matter International, a nonprofit that provides resources for underserved students in Houston and internationally. She also serves on their Advisory Board. Dr. Casiano is dedicated to her student scholars and to enhancing learning opportunities for Houston students.
Community Activist: Rachel Cevallos de Gonzales
Rachel Cevallos de Gonzales is the recipient of the 2023 Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Community Activist Award. Rachel is a leading production and efficiency expert for the decorated apparel and promotional products industry. She is the owner of Identity Plus LLC. Rachel is a proud Houstonian who is passionately involved in her community partnerships. Rachel is only the second woman to ever be elected and serve as president of the Historic LULAC Council 60 in its 90-year history. Since joining Council 60 in 2019, she has been instrumental in growing the membership by 50 new members. Rachel has reshaped the vision and mission of Council 60 and, in the process, has developed an organization determined to make a positive impact in the Hispanic community. Her leadership has positioned the organization to have a larger role in awarding scholarships to college bound high school seniors and enrolled college students. Additionally, she has partnered with Arte Publico Press at the University of Houston to fund research interns to work in cultural and historical preservation and promote online digital archiving. Rachel has also secured direct corporate scholarships with Valero and Calpine Corporations. Rachel volunteers in the community by serving on the Houston Public Library Foundation Board. She is a contributing member of the committee to restore the Historic LULAC Council 60 Clubhouse. She was also a member of the team that built the Leaping Leopard Market at Yolanda Navarro Black Middle School to serve financially challenged students. Rachel is also focused on helping people get access to needed community resources. Rachel produced the successful 2022 Latina Entrepreneur Program at the University of Houston-Downtown. Her effort has enabled many of the program participants to start and successfully operate profitable businesses.
Healthcare: Dr. Marlen Trujillo
Dr. Marlen Trujillo is the recipient of the 2023 Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Healthcare Award. Dr. Trujillo is the Chief Executive Officer of the Spring Branch Community Health Center (SBCHC), a non-profit community health center that provides low-cost healthcare, social, and educational services. Dr. Trujillo was one of the community leaders on the founding Board of the community-based health center in 2002. In May 2004, the community health center was opened in the Spring Branch area to target the Medically Underserved Population and help reduce healthcare disparities by increasing access to affordable, quality health care. The community health center was deemed a Federally Qualified Health Center in 2005. In recent years, the organization has experienced a population explosion, which has increased the need for additional healthcare services in the West Houston area. Currently, the organization has eight locations and two mobile health clinics serving more than 25,000 individuals in need. In 2020, she founded the Spring Branch Leadership Institute to serve high school students interested in careers in healthcare, especially those wanting to become physicians. Dr. Trujillo was born in Houston, Texas and raised in the Spring Branch Community. Her parents are from Colombia and Mexico. She has been the Chief Executive Officer of SBCHC for 15 years. She truly understands the healthcare needs of her community and is an advocate for reducing health disparities across all populations, especially women. Prior to being the CEO of SBCHC, she held the position of Chief Financial Officer for the community health center and previously held positions at the National Hispanic Institute, YMCA of Greater Houston, and the City of Houston. She has a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance and Marketing from the University of Houston and also holds a master’s in business administration in International Business from Our Lady of the Lake University. She recently obtained her PhD in public health from the University of Texas Health Science Center – School of Public Health. She is passionate about healthcare and education.
Youth Activist: Marcos Delgadillo Lope
Marcos Delgadillo Lope is the recipient of the 2023 Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Youth Activist Award. Marcos is a Political Science student at the University of Houston. Marcos’ concern for his mother and blue-collar workers inspired him to volunteer with the Fe y Justicia Worker Center and Workers Defense Project. There he contributed to workshops to inform construction laborers about the many hazards of their profession and how to protect themselves. He also partook in initiatives aimed at making domestic workers aware of their rights and teaching them how to recognize if their employers are exploiting them. In high school, Marcos interned at Baker Ripley. Because Marcos wanted to assist the immigrant, Hispanic community, he also participated in the monthly citizenship forums. His interest in law led him to intern with an immigration firm where he assisted with asylum and residency cases. In 2023, Marcos interned with the City of Houston Boards and Commissions Office. His involvement within the Latino community is a testament to his dedication in uplifting those around him.
Lifetime Achievement: Mary Ramos
Mary Ramos is the recipient of the 2023 Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Lifetime Achievement Award. Mary Ramos is a third-generation Houstonian. From her humble beginnings, she learned and nurtured what would be her lifetime passion: giving back and empowering her community. After encountering LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) in 1980, that passion was ignited by providing Mary with a springboard for all future involvement. Mary has spent her adult life as a staunch supporter of justice and an advocate for human rights, immigration, education, equal rights, and equal pay. In her journey to help give the Hispanic community equal opportunities, she helped forge a relationship with the NAACP that led to the development of a statewide resolution that allows Texas NAACP and Texas LULAC to work together on issues that affect both communities. Her leadership and advocacy garnered her the NAACP Houston Branch’s 2012 Presidential Award. Mary has been a dedicated voice for her community. While a member of the 2004 Super Bowl committee, and with LULAC as the backdrop, Mary helped advocate on behalf of Hispanic-owned business contractors. After a hate crime against David Ritcheson, a 16-year-old Latino student, occurred in 2006, Mary led a LULAC delegation to help escort David to Washington, D.C. to testify about passing more stringent hate crime laws. When cancer struck Mary, it might have been a reason to curtail her work, but it did not. She remained steadfast in the good fight and continues to this day. Whether it is her work to raise funds for LULAC scholarships, which have now surpassed $1 million, distribute more than 500 backpacks to schools for back-to-school, or continue Yolanda Black Navarro’s work with Shoes for Kids, Mary is not slowing down. She remains a force and a wholehearted warrior on behalf of the Latino community.