A large crowd came together at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in downtown Madison on Monday afternoon as La Movida 1480AM/94.5FM and Mid-West Family Madison celebrated the achievements and contributions of the Madison-area Latinx community at the 13th annual Hispanic Heritage Luncheon Celebration.
Every autumn, La Movida celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with a luncheon that includes food, keynote speeches, entertainment and awards. The event is hosted by Luis and Lupita Montoto, the founders and owners of La Movida Radio, the 24/7 Spanish-language radio station they started 21 years ago. The emcee for this year’s luncheon, like it is every year, was attorney Mario Mendoza of Murphy Desmond, S.C.
Mendoza presented a special tribute to the late Madison Latino leader Juan Jose Lopez, who passed away on June 6 at the age of 64. On the giant screen, people could watch parts of the speech of Lopez, the keynote of last year’s Hispanic Heritage Luncheon Celebration.
“Last year, our keynote speaker was someone who sadly left this earth. He left it a better place than he found it. Many of us owe a huge and sincere debt of gratitude to him. I’m talking about our friend, Juan Jose Lopez,” Mendoza said. “We would like to take a moment to remember him and to acknowledge him.
“He mentored countless people. And he challenged us individually and he challenged our institutions, he challenged politics, challenged our entire community and we are richer for it,” he added.
The Hispanic Heritage Luncheon Celebration’s keynote speaker was U.S. Congressman Mark Pocan, who represents the Madison area in the 2nd Congressional District. Pocan spoke of the long struggle in Congress, and in American politics in general, for immigration reform. Despite listing a series of negative factors that currently made up the political landscape that was hindering change, he told the crowd that he was optimistic and a “glass half full type of guy.”
“You have your voice, and you have your votes. We have the ability to change things. If not right now, hopefully in the more immediate future,” Pocan said. “And we do this by doing what you’re doing today … by recognizing some of the most outstanding community leaders that we have … by using your voices and speaking out, being seen, and getting involved in every way possible in the community that you can. That means contacting your elected officials, sharing your stories, getting involved with local public committees, and running for office. All of those things help lift the visibility so that we can be heard and make sure that the right policy is happening whether it’s at the local level, state level, or federal.
“By being heard and being seen and sharing our stories, we will help convince more people to see the reality as opposed to the political rhetoric so that we truly can live up to our nation’s promise of equality for everyone,” Pocan added. “So as we celebrate your Hispanic heritage, it’s a great way to share those stories. And it’s a great way to get the word out. By doing so, I truly believe we will have a more inclusive country for every single person.”
The Hispanic Heritage Proclamation was made by Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, and Fitchburg Mayor Julia Arata-Fratta.
After lunch, Madison-area leaders and companies were recognized by La Movida 1480AM/94.5FM and Mid-West Family Madison for their contributions to the greater Madison area in the awards section of the program.
Originally from El Salvador, Antonio Quintanilla, the food pantry & services coordinator at the Catholic Multicultural Center on Madison’s South Side, has been working for the center since 1999. He was presented with the “Making a Difference” award.
“Antonio manages the twice-weekly pantry, which distributes 150,000 pounds of food each year to 600 households,” Mendoza said, introducing Quintanilla. “He is not a nine-to-five sort of person. He stays late and works because he doesn’t want to see a homeless person get soaked in the rain. Multiple times he has housed people in his modest two-bedroom home and all those homeless people have successfully found permanent housing. There are so many amazing things that Antonio Quintanilla has brought to our community and those are some of the reasons why he’s receiving the ‘Making a Difference” award.”
“Thank you for this award, Luis and Lupita [Montoto],” Quintanilla said. “This award will be a reminder to me to continue to make a difference one person at a time.”
The Hispanic Heritage Luncheon was also an opportunity to award the “Community Institution of the Year” award to the Latino Children and Families Council; the “Community Leader of the Year” award to Alfonso Morales, Chief of Police for the City of Fitchburg; and the “Hispanic Achievement of the Year” award to Mathias Lemos Castillo, the Latino Professional Association board chair.
Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes Conway was presented with the “Amigo” award.
“I’m honored and I’m humbled. I’m a little overwhelmed. I just want to say thank you to Luis and Lupita for being so welcoming and for letting me come on the radio and practice my incredibly non-great Spanish and thank you to everybody who made this event possible,” Rhodes-Conway said. “I believe that one of the important things about our community is recognizing strength in diversity.
“The Latino community is a critical and integral part of Madison. We at the City are really committed to supporting the Latino community whether that’s through economic development or through community services or through housing or transportation or all of the things that the City does … we’re committed to recognizing the diversity of our population and supporting that.”
Other event winners include the “Hispanic Entrepreneur of the Year” award to Francisco and Lid Tejeda, owners of La Hispana Grocery, and the “Believe and Succeed” award was presented to Margarita Avila, director of workforce development for the Latino Academy of Workforce Development.
“This recognition is not just a testament to my efforts, but a celebration of the collective belief that we all share in the power of determination, resilience, and spirit to succeed. I am deeply aware that this achievement is not mine alone,” Avila said. “It is a result of the support, encouragement, and faith of my family, friends, mentors, and my colleagues that are here today. Every gesture of kindness, and every moment and guidance has been a stepping stone on this incredible journey. It inspires me.
“My journey to success has not been a straight path. It has been filled with detours of failures as I learned to reinvent myself to be ready for new opportunities. Learning to embrace failures has allowed me to grow in ways that I could not have imagined. Success is not easy. It is staying focused on goals, taking risks, building relationships, and continuously moving forward leaving little room for failure. But what I have learned is that success is not an overnight process many times … but it’s is journey that requires dedication and perseverance.”