Los Angeles, CA–(HISPANIC PR WIRE – BUSINESS WIRE)–July 26, 2005–As a recovering alcoholic gay male, Richard Zaldivar made a personal commitment to give back to his community to show his appreciation to life for his newfound persona. In 1993, he realized a lifelong dream and founded The Wall Las Memorias Project with the mission to provide culturally sensitive HIV/AIDS education and prevention to the Latino community and to offer a memorial to people who have died from the disease. Today, The Wall Las Memorias Project is the first publicly funded AIDS monument in the nation and Zaldivar is a leading activist in HIV/AIDS prevention in the Latino community.
For his work as an HIV/AIDS activist, Zaldivar and 14 other Latino men and women from Los Angeles, San Diego and Fresno were recently named this year’s Local Heroes of the Year by Union Bank of California, N.A., in partnership with three Public Broadcasting Station affiliates in the same cities. The awards will be presented at a series of awards receptions in the respective cities in early to mid September in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.
“This year’s honorees reflect those elements that strengthen our culture, community and nation. They set a good example individually and collectively for everyone to follow. Their work and dedication is truly inspirational and admirable,” said George Ramirez, market president for Union Bank.
As an advocate, Zaldivar has worked to raise awareness about how cultural denial and silence contribute to the rising rates of HIV/AIDS.
Joining Zaldivar as local heroes from Los Angeles are:
— Dino T. Barajas, a partner in the corporate practice group of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky and Walker LLP. Barajas will be recognized for his achievements as an attorney and experience representing lenders, investors and developers in domestic and international projects.
— Doreen Garcia, executive director at Casa de las Amigas, a non-profit organization that provides alcohol and drug-recovery services to women. For more than 20 years, she has raised millions of dollars to help women find a productive, responsible and sober life.
— J. Michael Ortiz, Ph.D., president of the California State Polytechnic University in Pomona. Dr. Ortiz is committed to increasing awareness about the importance of higher education among Latinos and other minorities. He is also an advocate for the education of handicapped children.
— Isela Sotelo, executive director for the Los Angeles Music and Art School. Prior to becoming executive director, Sotelo participated in the school as a teacher, artist, parent and board member. Through her efforts, the school helps thousands of children explore their creative talents in the arts.
Local heroes from the San Diego area are:
— Macedonio Arteaga Jr., founder of Izcalli, a school program for Chicano/Native American youth which promotes self-esteem and determination through the arts. Arteaga also created Circulo de Hombres (men’s circle), a cultural/arts mentoring program for adolescent and adult males.
— Guadalupe R. Corona, president of the Latina Latino & Indigenous Peoples Unity Coalition, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating unity among all people. Corona has a long history of activism in the Latino community by organizing, volunteering and developing programs to empower the community.
— Alberto R. Cortés, executive director of Mama’s Kitchen, a non-profit organization dedicated to preparing and delivering food to men, women and children who are affected with AIDS. Cortés has been educating communities of color in San Diego about HIV/AIDS for nearly 18 years.
— Fuensanta “Fuen” Lopez, secondary school advisory with the San Diego County Office of Education, Migrant Education Region IX. Lopez has nearly 10 years of experience working as a counselor, supporter and advisor to migrant youth. She fights against injustice and inequalities in the educational system.
— Lilia S. Velásquez, attorney/owner of the Law Office of Lilia S. Velasquez. As a certified specialist in immigration and nationality law, she donates countless hours educating the San Diego community about immigration laws and the rights of immigrants and those most at need.
Local Heroes from Fresno are:
— Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the department of psychology at California State University, Fresno. He has been a leading force in raising awareness about mental health issues and lack of culturally appropriate services for Latinos in the Central Valley and worldwide.
— Richard Arenas, an independent artist and social and economic rights activist. He has taught sculpting classes and lectured throughout the San Joaquin Valley. Additionally, he has been an active member, committee member and cofounder of various art and civic organizations.
— Lisa Cazares, CEO/administrator of Angels of Grace, a foster care agency dedicated to helping children who have been abused and placing them in loving homes. Additionally, she donates countless hours as a volunteer in various causes.
— Dan Cheney, owner of Century 21 Dan Cheney and Associates. With 25 years of experience in the real estate industry, his company employs six full-time agents and six handymen. He is an advocate of higher education and is known for helping anyone in need.
— Venancio Garcia Gaona, a retired educator and community activist. He has been a dedicated activist within the Latino community for decades giving countless hours to improve education access for students, advocated for farm workers, the disadvantaged and the immigrant communities.
The Local Hero of the Year Awards program was launched to recognize the contributions of many ethnic unsung heroes in California during the respective heritage months.
Based in San Francisco, UnionBanCal Corporation (UB:NYSE) is a bank holding company with assets of $51.2 billion at June 30, 2005. Its primary subsidiary, Union Bank of California, N.A., had 318 banking offices in California, Oregon and Washington, and 21 international facilities, at June 30, 2005. The company’s Web site is located at http://www.uboc.com.
Union Bank of California
Alicia Romero, 213-236-5329
Sharon Woodson-Bryant, 213-236-4145