The Diocese of Knoxville was well represented in Centro Hispano de East Tennessee’s first Latino Awards, with Hispanic Ministry Director Lourdes Garza, Holy Ghost Church member and volunteer Jose Luis Santiago, and Knoxville businessman and St. John Neumann parishioner Santiago Cuccarese receiving honors for their work in the Hispanic community.Ms. Garza received the Spirit of Inspiration award, given in recognition of an individual that inspires and influences others. The judges described her as “tenacious, empathetic and inspiring.”
“She is a great leader, a fighter, a winner of many battles and an unstoppable woman that is always thinking of creating opportunities for the Hispanics in our region. She has demonstrated that she cares for the unprivileged and gives unconditional love to all, going the extra mile even while highly sick, on bed rest. She is a woman that lives a simple life in order to give more of herself to others,” the judges said.
In addition to her position with the Diocese of Knoxville, she is a board member of CEDnet, a member of the Latino Task Force, and a participant in Allies for Knoxville Immigrant Neighbors (AKIN). She also was part of the founding board for Centro Hispano de East Tennessee.
For the second consecutive year, Ms. Garza also has been honored by the national organization Catholic Extension as a finalist for its Lumen Christi Award, which recognizes faithful servants who make a difference in their communities.
“There are many wonderful things I could say about my mom and what she has taught me over the years, but those things come second when compared to the example she provided. Many Hispanic women can be described as passionate, dedicated, loving, (and great dancers!) but regarding Lourdes Garza, I would add tenacious, focused, empathetic, and truly a force to be reckoned with. Lourdes Garza is a woman who knows the value of working hard and the pride of remaining steadfast in her principles. She never turns down a teaching moment — especially when she has a chance to be the student — and the work she does helps others realize the potential they hold and that they have something of value to offer the world. We could all use a little push like that and my mom has answered that call for many. I consider myself blessed to call her mom, and I think we all consider ourselves lucky to have Lourdes Garza striving to empower the Hispanic community of Knoxville,” said Lupe Shear about her mother.Jose Luis Santiago was given the Spirit of Transformation Award, recognizing a “transformative spirit, a catalyst for meaningful change for the better in his life, the ones around him and the community.”
Mr. Santiago is a member of Holy Ghost Church, a volunteer of Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIIRC) and an active member of Comité Popular, a group of grassroots immigrant leaders.
“He has come from very humble beginnings to be one of the greatest leaders in the Hispanic Community; he fights to bring the voices of those most directly affected by the broken immigration system into community dialogue. He completed his studies at the School of Ministries; he lives his life not only to help, but to serve the community and is now transformed into an inspiration for the people around him,” the judges said.
Mr. Cuccarese received the Spirit of Innovation Award, recognizing an individual who is resourceful and creative. “This person hasseen opportunities where others did not and in the process has developed new ways to bring improvements to the community,” the judges said.
Mr. Cuccarese was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and graduated with a double major in advertising and mass media and then completed a master’s degree in administration and strategic marketing. He joined Clayton Bank and Trust and later accepted the position of marketing director at the Bank of Camden. During this time, he focused on the creation and operation of MIBANCO, which was the first full service Hispanic bank in Tennessee, operating two branches in Knoxville and Nashville. MIBANCO reaches more than 6,000 customers. Mr. Cuccarese serves as Bank of Camden’s vice president.
Dr. De Ann Pendry, a senior lecturer at the University of Tennessee, received the Espiritu Latino Award, given in recognition ofan individual of non-Latino origin “that has gone the extra mile to reach out and give a hand to the Latino community and provide leadership to causes that impact the Latino community.”
Dr. Pendry is an activist and a founding member of Allies of Knoxville’s Immigrant Neighbors (AKIN) and works closely with the Comité Popular.
“Building on a childhood that exposed her to many cultures and gave her a foundation for her fluent Spanish, she has been both a cross-cultural ambassador and a fearless advocate for justice throughout her life. She is deeply involved in the Hispanic community and the lives of its people. She has personally “walked beside” innumerable people who have encountered different kinds of trouble, advocating for their rights, providing concrete assistance, and simply being a warm and dependable friend,” the judges said.
Centro Hispano de East Tennessee’s inaugural Latino Awards ceremony was held July 13 at The Emporium in downtown Knoxville.