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HOUSTON, Texas  (KIAH) –  On Wednesday, Houston Mayor, Sylvester Turner and the Mayor’s Hispanic Advisory Board will honor five exemplary Houstonians in the Hispanic community.  The Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Awards (MHHA) Committee selected the individuals, after they were nominated by community members for their contributions toward improving the quality of life within the Houston Hispanic community. 

Here’s a look at the 2021 Hispanic Heritage Awards Winners:

Ana Maria Martinez is the 2021 Mayor’s Hispanic Arts in the Community Award winner.  The Grammy Award-winning soprano was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Martinez has 24 albums and an international career that spans the world’s most prestigious opera houses and concert halls.  Ana Maria is also the first ever Artistic Advisor for the Houston Grand Opera and was recently designated Artist in Residence at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music.

Brownsville native, Dr. Cecilia Ballí is the recipient of the 2021 Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Education in the Community Award.  In 2000, Dr. Cecilia Ballí became the first Hispanic writer-at-large for Texas Monthly Magazine and in 2008, she became an assistant professor for the anthropology department at the University of Texas at Austin.  During this time she traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border to conduct extensive ethnographic research on the Secure Fence.  Dr. Ballí founded the communications strategy firm Culture Concepts LLC in 2018, where she works to provide ethnographic research, storytelling and strategic analysis on projects related to U.S. Latinos and the U.S.-Mexican border.

Dr. Sergio Lira is the recipient of the 2021 Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Lifetime Achievement Award.  While attending college at the University of St. Thomas, Dr. Sergio Lira was the founder and first president of the Mexican American Student Organization of St. Thomas.  Dr. Lira provided support for parents from over 30 schools and continues to present to over 150 new teachers at the University of Houston School of Education twice a year, at no cost.

Luis Angel Garcia-Alvarez is the recipient of the 2021 Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Community Activist Award.  Luis Angel Garcia-Alvarez was born and raised in Mexico and came to the United States 16 years ago.  He is now the president of the organization named System for Education Empowerment and Success (SEDES), which provides college and career readiness programs, awareness interventions for adolescents, educational and job skills training courses and more.  Luis Angel has received numerous awards, including the 2018 Mayor’s Leadership Literacy Award. He also serves on the Harris County Health System board, the Gulfgate Health Center Advisory Board and the Harris County Juvenile Advisory Board.

David Dzul is the recipient of the 2021 Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Youth Activist Award.  He currently attends Michael E. DeBakey High School for Health Professionals. There, he serves as the co-president and co-founder of DeBakey Civics, an organization focused on providing its members with the tools and real-world experience to become leaders in their communities.  David led the charge as head researcher for educational senate and house bills in Texas’ 87th Legislative Session during his fellowship as a Youth Organizer with Mi Familia Vota. He also participates in the Rice University Youth Civic Engagement Research and Advocacy Internship, Harvard International Socioeconomic Laboratory Fellowship, and is a member of the Mayor’s Youth Council. 

The Mayor’s annual Hispanic Heritage Awards Reception will be a virtual celebration again this year. The Houston Municipal Channel (HTV) will broadcast the ceremony on Thursday, October 14 at 6:30 p.m. To read more about the 2021 Hispanic Heritage Awards Winners click this link.