(Los Angeles, CA) – California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, former Attorney General of New Mexico Patricia Madrid, and artist and muralist Barbara Carrasco were honored Thursday at the 2017 MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) Los Angeles Gala. The annual event brings together individuals, corporation and law firms dedicated to advancing Latino causes and civil rights in the United States.
Michelle Valles, news anchor and reporter for NBC4 Southern California, served as Master of Ceremonies. MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas A. Saenz delivered remarks highlighting the civil rights challenges and opportunities Latinos face in the coming year.
“In challenging times like these, the opportunity to convene with partners and supporters and to celebrate special honorees is priceless,” Saenz said. “We also have the opportunity to reflect on the long view; our organizational longevity and success convinces us that we will prevail over the many ongoing obstructions to Latino civil rights and advancement.”
Barbara Carrasco received the Leadership in the Arts Award. Her murals, paintings and other works have illustrated the depth and breadth of the Latino experience. Internationally renowned as a powerful commentator, she has been fearless in confronting and challenging stereotypes surrounding race, class, gender and sexuality. Her iconic mural, “L.A. History – a Mexican Perspective,” which faced censorship from local government for being too critical of society, was recently displayed at Union Station after sitting in storage for 27 years.
Secretary Padilla received the Excellence in Government Service Award. A graduate of M.I.T, he is the first Latino to be elected California Secretary of State. He was elected to the Los Angeles City Council at the age of 26, and he went on to become the first Latino – and youngest council member ever – to be named council president. He later served two terms in the State Senate. In his current role, Secretary Padilla has been a champion of voting rights. His initiatives have helped register more than a million new California voters, resulting in new records for voter registration and voter turnout for the 2016 general election.
Patricia Madrid was the recipient of the Valerie Kantor Award for Extraordinary Achievement. A former board chair of MALDEF, she gained national recognition when she became the first woman to be elected Attorney General of her native New Mexico, serving from 1999 to 2007. In that role she established the state’s first unit dedicated to investigating violence against women, the first task force charged with investigating internet crimes against children, and the first crime victim’s service unit. Earlier in her career, she was the first woman to win election as a district court judge in New Mexico, an accomplishment achieved only five years after her graduation from the University of New Mexico Law School.
The annual gala attracted notable elected officials and community leaders who gathered to celebrate the honorees and MALDEF’s long-standing civil rights leadership.