Meet some of this year’s winners

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Just south of Mexico City in Cuernavaca, Mexico, Sergio Garcia Sr. was trying to start his business, settle down and raise a family in America – closer to his wife’s family. Garcia Sr. packed up his life and moved to Memphis to start his party supplies business, Sergio’s Jumpers. In this way, he raised his son to look for passion in his career choices.

Thanks to his parents, Sergio Garcia Jr., 17, found his inspiration in film and video, which led to his feature film about WMC Action News 5 sports director Jarvis Greer winning the competition for aspiring filmmakers in June.

Sergio Garcia Jr. interviews Jarvis Greer, Sports Director of WMC Action News 5, at their broadcast station.  Garcia won the Emerging Film Competition for his feature film about Greer in June 2022.

“…My father was a huge influence on who I am and my love for film and video,” said Garcia, who majors in film and video at the University of Memphis. “But I also want to say a big thank you to my mom for being there for me and supporting me when my dad was here and isn’t here anymore.”

The film, along with his contributions to his family business with his mother, allowed Garcia to gain recognition in the Latinx community in Memphis.

As a result, he won a Latin Soul Award from 840 votes.

Garcia was among five community members honored at the 2022 Latin Soul Awards, a celebration recognizing members of the Latinx community and their allies for their accomplishments, leadership and support.

Sergio Garcia, 17, won the Future Latinx Leader Award during the Latin Soul Awards ceremony on Saturday September 10, 2022. The awards were presented by the Cazateatro Bilingual Theater Group in association with The Grove at GPAC.

On Saturday, Garcia won a Future Latinx Leader Award. María Oceja also received a Future Latinx Leader Award. Other honorees included: Angel Estevez, Latinx Business Owner Award; dr Scott Morris, Friend of the Latinx Community Award; and Ivan Rivera, Latinx Community Leader Award.

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“I think being Latino, being Hispanic is something to be proud of,” Garcia said. “It’s like pride on your chest. It’s like you feel great to be up there and represent your community.”

The awards ceremony, presented by the Cazateatro Bilingual Theater Group in association with The Grove at GPAC, was the third of its kind in Memphis but the first in-person celebration. The first Latin Soul Awards were presented during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year, attendees were able to greet, hug, take photos, and dance with one another—to build stronger connections and embrace their Latino roots together.

Singer Marianna Figueredo Livingston performs at the 2022 Latin Soul Awards at Germantown Performing Arts Center on September 10, 2022.

Before the awards ceremonies, attendees drank, ate, visited vendors such as Mili’s Flowers and Gifts, shopped for art, and shopped for clothes and accessories at the boutiques’ tables. While we were among the vendors or enjoying drinks and food, we entertained with singer Marianna Figueredo Livingston singing a variety of Latin music including Selena’s hit “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom.”

All the conversation led to the awards ceremonies where the five were honored.

“That’s the mission of the Soul Awards during (Hispanic) Heritage Month to recognize and celebrate us as Latinos,” said Dorimar Ferrer, CEO of Cazateatro. “Celebrate our allies, our community leaders and the students — we’ve decided our community in Memphis (needed) an award.”

Ferrer wants the awards to be an opportunity for others to see the work being done for the Latinx community in Memphis.

Bomberx's D'Cora by La Escuelita Bombera de Corazon attends the 2022 Latin Soul Awards on September 10, 2022 at Germantown Performing Arts Center.

“We know Latinos are everywhere, but sometimes we don’t know who’s doing what… They’re doing amazing things in our community. So everyone needs to know,” Ferrer said.

Like Garcia’s father, Latinx Business Award nominee Greg Diaz started his own business, which went on to become a well-known Mexican taco spot in the Memphis area.

His business, TacoNGanas, started over two years ago and now has 14 food trucks with two more on the way. Diaz also owns Uncle Goyo’s Mexican restaurant in Germantown.

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Diaz said the nomination means a lot to him and attending the awards is a way for him to support Cazateatro and their mission of bringing cultures together.

“I’m very proud of (Cazateatro). They’re about coaching and teaching our cultural values ​​from our Mexican and Latin American traditions,” Diaz said. “They will take the time to try to educate people about what we are about.”

Although Diaz didn’t win the Latinx Business Award, he cheered all the nominees, including Garcia, as he took to the stage to accept his award.

Garcia said that with all the recognition he’s received over the year, he believes it will connect him with more people and help him in his career. He also plans to follow in his family’s entrepreneurial footsteps and start his own videography and photography business in the next few months.

“I’m blessed to have had so many opportunities in such a short amount of time,” Garcia said. “I’ll keep working to get even better, but this definitely won’t be the last time you see me.”

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The awards are just the beginning of Cazateatro’s celebrations of Hispanic Heritage Month and the fall as they prepare for Latin Fest in Overton Square later this month and celebrate Día De Los Muertos with a parade and festival in October.

“We have to be proud to be Latinos and to live here. We have to be proud of our own community…We’re making Memphis a better place,” Ferrer said. “We’re a part of this community and this is to celebrate us — to celebrate every Latino in Memphis and Shelby County who’s doing great things.”

Ray Padilla is the digital producer of Commercial Appeal. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @Ray_Padilla_.

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