LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles City Council Wednesday kicked off Latino Heritage Month 2023 by honoring four "amazing individuals" during ceremonies at City Hall.
Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez -- who will be this year's Latino Heritage Month "madrina," or godmother, for L.A. festivities -- led Wednesday's recognitions, as the council honored Maria Lou Calanche, executive director of Expand L.A.; Ruben Rodriguez, executive director of Pueblo y Salud; Teresa Romero, president of the United Farm Workers; and Guillermo Rodriguez of the "Jimmy Kimmel Live."
"It gives me tremendous pride as the daughter of Mexican immigrants to celebrate this wonderful annual tradition that really uplifts and showcases some of the best of what our Latino community has to offer," the councilwoman said.
Latino Heritage Month actually straddles two months, running from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, during which there will be numerous events around the city.
Monica Rodriguez called Wednesday's honorees the "most amazing individuals," but said they are just "scratching the surface of individuals that contribute to what this country, what the city, represents for so many immigrants in the United States."
Councilwoman Imelda Padilla said she, too, was excited to be part of the celebrations -- and noted that upcoming events will recognize and celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of the Latino community.
Councilwoman Rodriguez introduced Calanche, who also serves as a commissioner on the city's Police Commission, and expressed her gratitude for Calanche's dedication to youth development.
"It's a privilege to grow up as a Latina in a city that is majority Latino, and to have the opportunity to fight to ensure that young people have the resources and the opportunities that they need to succeed," Calanche said.
"For me, it wasn't easy. I didn't have any opportunities or resources in my community, and that's why I started Expand L.A.," added Calanche, whose nonprofit works to create and expand learning opportunities for L.A.'s youth.
Ruben Rodriguez has a long history advocating for the Latino community, particularly in Northeast San Fernando Valley, which is part of the councilwoman's 7th District. He serves as executive director of Pueblo y Salud, an organization that aims to improve social conditions within L.A. County by creating opportunities for self-empowerment.
"We have to keep pushing back to those businesses that profit from our communities, whether it's the drugs or the alcohol, and other things that go on, like sex trade, and we have to counter, especially during Latino Heritage Month, that vilification of the Latino community in the news media," Ruben said.
He also stressed the importance of undocumented workers for their contributions to society and the economy.
Romero, president of United Farm Workers, echoed Ruben's sentiments on the importance of uplifting immigrant workers.
She said many farm workers decide to come to the U.S. not knowing the language and experience a new culture -- all for a better life.
"During the pandemic, when we went to the markets, we were able to find the foods that we needed. They were there, the men, women and children, working to ensure that we all could have food on our table," Romero said.
She asked listeners to stop by and talk to a farm worker the next time they see one because "they're important to our community."
Councilwoman Rodriguez said, "I want to take a moment to acknowledge and recognize here in the city of Los Angeles, the presence of one of our most favorite adored national figures," and introduced Guillermo Rodriguez .
"I want to say thank you to my wife and my son," Guillermo said. "And listen, I tell all the kids, all the Latino kids, follow your dream, work hard, never give up and always believe in yourself."
On Friday's official start of Latino Heritage Month, the city will host the 81st annual El Grito on the steps of City Hall and Gloria Molina Grand Park, starting at 5 p.m.
The annual tradition includes L.A leaders joining the Consul General of Mexico to reenact the historic Cry of Dolores and ringing of the bell, commemorating the call to arms pronounced by Miguel Hidalgo in 1810, launching the Mexican War for Independence.
El Grito will also feature a concert with live performances by Banda Machos, Las Colibrí, Las Cafeteras, and Banda Las Angelinas. Participants can also enjoy a variety of food trucks, vendors curated by the Goddess Mercado, and connect with resources.
A complete list of Latino Heritage Month events in Los Angeles is available at https://culturela.org/programs-and-initiatives/city-of-los-angeles- heritage-month-celebrations/.