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Iowa's Latino Hall of Fame induction will be virtual for the first time

Five people hold trophy awards and two hosts stand on each side of the winners.
Kassidy Arena
(From left to right) Commissioner Louis Moreno, Director Sonia Reyes, award winners Michael R. Reyes, Crystal Ambriz, Henny Orr, Buffy Jamison, Elizabeth Balcarcel, Commissioner Caleb Knutson and Commissioner Marlú Abarca pose for a picture at the Latino Hall of Fame award ceremony at the Des Moines Art Center on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. They all wore masks as a precaution during the COVID-19 pandemic and chose to stand in a line instead of close together for the annual award-winner photo.

The Iowa Commission of Latino Affairs established the Latino Hall of Fame in 2017. And for the first time, the commissioners voted to move the 2021 induction ceremony online. They said it’s because the community reached out with concerns about new variants of COVID-19.

“I think that when you move something to virtual, you don't have that camaraderie of you know, having to meet people in person and give, you know, the Latino community, we are so affectionate, so to give the hug, the kiss on the cheek, so we lose a lot of that," said Sonia Reyes, the executive officer for the Office of Latino Affairs.

On the bright side, she added, more people can come. Last year's ceremony was smaller, due to social distancing guidelines. Each inductee and award winner was allowed only one guest. This year's ceremony will be broadcast on the Iowa Department of Human Rights Facebook page and Twitter account on Saturday, Oct. 16 at 6 p.m.

“Everyone is going to be able to have access to the link, and anyone will be able to attend, regardless of where they are in the world, because we have inductees that have relatives all over the world. So I think that that is something that we are gaining," Reyes said.

She said she hopes the easy access to the event will attract more viewers. And they can see how Latinos are making a positive impact in Iowa communities.

The inductees are:
Elizabeth Bernal-Iowa City
Marcela Hurtado-Iowa City
Lorenzo Jasso-Des Moines (posthumous)

Iowa Latinx Youth Leadership Award winner: Nixson Benítez
Iowa LGBTQIA Leadership Award: Itzel Padrón Zuñiga
Robert D. Ray Award for Equity and Justice: Juan Manuel Gálvez Ibarra

Reyes noted it was extremely hard to determine who the winners would be out of all of the nominations.

The three inductees and three award winners will be invited back to next year’s ceremony, which is expected to be in-person. They are a diverse group of honorees. Some are English-language learners, some are immigrants and some are first-generation Iowans.

"Regardless of anyone's identity, we all have the ability to create change and be part of that. So I hope that viewers are able to feel inspired and that they feel empowered to also go do things for their communities," Reyes said.

Nominations are currently being accepted for the 2022 Latino Hall of Fame and will be accepted until July 1, 2022.

English instructions here.
English form here.

Formulario en español aquí.
Instrucciones en español aquí.

Kassidy was a reporter based in Des Moines