A group of local Hispanic residents received recognition Wed. for their contributions to the community.
A retired Spanish language teacher, two chefs, and a law enforcement officer took part in the ceremony with State Comptroller Susana Mendoza.
“I have the honor and privilege of recognizing a distinguished group of individuals that embody the spirit of Hispanic Heritage Month,” Mendoza said.
Maria Jacobs, from Cuba, worked as a Spanish language teacher for 42 years – 18 of those in Decatur.
“Well this is a very humbling experience. When they called me, I thought, why me —I haven’t done anything great. But I guess it sounded really good when you (Mendoza) talked about it,” she said.
Jacobs, now retired, volunteers teaching Spanish conversation to English speakers at Central Christian Church in Decatur.
Nicolas Paz is a chef and owner of AZTCA Mexican grill in Springfield. Paz said his business has grown with a food truck he started operating three years ago – despite a rocky start with permits and rules.
“Once we figured it out and we started working with the city, the mayor and everything else—I think we are in a good path. I think they (the city) are more open,” he said.
Paz is from Bolivia and has lived in Springfield for 15 years. He said he encourages young entrepreneurs to focus on things they enjoy doing and to always give back to the community.
Mendoza also recognized small business owner and chef, Gabriela Morin, who is from Caracas, Venezuela.
Morin runs the food delivery service, EatAndEvolve, as well as a dine-in location in Peoria. She said she wants to continue representing Latina businessowners in Central Illinois.
Joe Dominguez, of Springfield, also received a plaque. He currently serves as the Sergeant at arms for the Illinois Senate and as a local law enforcement officer. He is also a former U.S. Marine.
Joe really represents the best of our community—it was such a shining point of pride for any Hispanic legislator to know that Joe is at the highest position that you could be in terms of managing the Senate,” Mendoza said.
The annual Hispanic Heritage Month celebration runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.