Recipients honored at second annual César E. Chavez Community Recognition Awards

04-01-16 CHAC Cesar Chavez Celebration-01
Award recipients, dignitaries and CHAC members gather for a group photo. Photo by Star Hunter.

Click on photo above to see a slideshow from the event

FLAGSTAFF — With a guest speaker and attendees remembering their personal connection to César E. Chávez, guests applauding the sacrifices of local World War II-era Latino veterans, the accomplishments of a local educational leader and the promising start of tomorrow’s leaders — the second annual “César E. Chávez Community Recognition Awards” provided a fitting tribute to community members past, present and future.

The celebration was presented by the Coconino Hispanic Advisory Council (CHAC).

Nearly 50 area residents, dignitaries and elected officials took part in the early morning celebration held Friday, April 1 at Tacos Los Altos Westside in the Woodlands Village Shopping Center, Flagstaff.

The event honored Flagstaff residents in several categories. For the Hispanic Pioneers and World War II Veterans Award, Benjamin Aginiga, Tomas Vega and Tom Urias were honored. Flagstaff educator Frank Garcia, principal at Thomas Elementary School, received the Community Leadership Award. Finally, Michael Adame, a junior at Northern Arizona University majoring in communications, received the Future Leader Award.

Supervisor Elizabeth “Liz” Archuleta, who launched the diversity councils that include CHAC, the Intertribal Advisory Council and the African American Advisory Council, presented welcoming remarks. The event was attended by representatives of all the councils.

Archuleta thanked CHAC members for their dedication to presenting this and other community events and for recognizing individuals who have dedicated their time and effort to benefit the local community.

Guest speaker Jose Cortez shared his personal experiences with United Farm Workers of America founder César Chávez with an audience that included such officials and dignitaries as Supervisor Art Babbott; Deputy Coconino County Manager Neal Young; Flagstaff City Councilmember Coral Evans; Coconino County Treasurer Sarah Benatar; Coconino County Recorder Patty Hanson, Coconino County Chief Deputy Sheriff Jim Driscoll and Armando Ruiz, Chief Deputy Assessor.

Cortez worked with Chávez from 1975 to 1978, both as an organizer with the United Farm Workers of America and as one of Chávez’s bodyguards. Later, with help from Chávez to obtain grant funding, Cortez was able to attend the Ron Bailie School of Broadcasting. Upon graduation, he became one of the Phoenix area’s pioneers in bilingual radio broadcasting.

In the 1990s, he went to work for Chicanos Por La Causa as a full-time community media specialist doing community outreach, as well as radio and television programming.

During his presentation, Cortez announced that Chicanos Por La Causa’s Santa Rita Center in Phoenix, has received designation as a national historic park from the National Park Service. The Santa Rita Center is reported to be the place where Chávez first said “Si se puede” during his 24-day hunger strike in 1972.

Cortez is now retired from Chicanos Por La Causa but continues his work in the community. He recently worked with journalist Maggie Freleng to do a radio documentary called “The Making of a Chavista” for Phoenix radio station KJZZ.

Cortez is currently training for “The Peace and Dignity Run,” a trek from Alaska to Panama that will take about seven months to complete. Cortez is running in honor of his friend and mentor, Gustavo Gutierrez, a founding member of Chicanos Por La Causa. Gutierrez died in Northern Arizona on Sept. 1, 2012, while doing the Peace and Dignity Run through Havasupai in the Grand Canyon. Gutierrez, who was 80 at the time of his death, was on the founding council of the event in which runners carry staffs and culturally significant objects from more than 500 indigenous nations in the Americas.

CHAC members include Ruth Eaton, Patricia Garcia, Laura SujoMontes, Miguel Vasquez, Frank X. Moraga, current CHAC chair and master of ceremonies for the awards ceremony, and Theresa Thomas, executive assistance to Supervisor Archuleta, who serves as the liaison to the organization.

CHAC is currently planning to hold its College and Career Fair this fall at Killip Elementary School.

Contact Theresa Thomas at or call (928) 679-7162 for more information.

About CHAC: The Coconino Hispanic Advisory Council was established in 2001 with the purpose of advising the County Board of Supervisors on issues and concerns that affect the Hispanic community in Coconino County. In addition to serving as an advisory group to the County supervisors, the council has identified the following five major areas of focus:

  • To conduct forums on issues and concerns of the Hispanic community.
  • To promote awareness of the need for diversity in employment, training and economic development.
  • To assist Coconino County in recruiting and retaining Hispanic employees.
  • To promote Hispanic culture, arts, historic activities and events.
  • To examine and make policy recommendations in the areas of education, housing, land use, health, social services, recreation and criminal justice.