LOS ANGELES – MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) honored three Latino leaders at its annual Los Angeles Awards Gala on Thursday, Nov. 7.

Among the honorees at this year’s gala was Richard Alatorre, one of California’s most influential Latino politicians when he served in the State Assembly from 1973 to 1985. Alatorre was given the Lifetime Achievement –Excellence in Community Service Award. Alatorre was the western regional director for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund before being elected to the California State Assembly in 1972.  While in office Alatorre helped shape a farm labor law that gave migrant workers collective bargaining rights.

“To receive such an award is an honor,” Alatorre said. “In my early years, as I traveled throughout the southwest, it became evident that our community needed an organization to champion our rights, and I channeled my efforts and support for the creation of MALDEF. What MALDEF has stood for and championed from its inception are the causes and issues that are near and dear to me.”

Alex Nogales, President and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC), was awarded a Lifetime Achievement – Excellence in Community Service. Nogales co-founded NHMC, a civil rights, media advocacy organization that works to ensure that Latinos are fairly and consistently represented in traditional and non-traditional media. In 2018, Nogales led a national boycott against Paramount Pictures for having the worst record of having Latinos as writers, producers, actors and directors. The efforts lead to an initiative to promote diversity across storylines, vendors, and crews in film, television, and animated projects.

“This honor MALDEF has bestowed on me has a deep and personal meaning,” Nogales said. “I come from a migrant farmworker family and our father and mother, with a third- and first-grade education, valued education as a way of getting out of the fields, and they pushed and inspired us to graduate from a university so that we, our children, and our community’s children could have a better life. For our parents, my siblings, community and me, MALDEF, we salute and thank you.”

MALDEF also honored actress Justina Machado with the Leadership in the Arts award in recognition of her work in theater, film and on television. Machado, who began with Latino Chicago Theater Company, appeared in Jane the Virgin, Six Feet Under and Queen of the South before starring as a Cuban-American Army Nurse Corps vet and single mother in the groundbreaking, Latino-focused reboot of One Day at a Time on Netflix.

“Thank you so much for this honor,” Machado said. “And thank you for everything you do, and thank you for making me feel appreciated.”

And MALDEF also recognized long-term MALDEF employees retiring this year, Carlito Manasan, and Denise Hulett. Manasan served as the building engineer at the national headquarters in Los Angeles for more than two decades and retired in May 2019. Hulett, national senior counsel, will retire this year after more than 20 years with MALDEF, leading groundbreaking litigation in voting rights and other areas.

Michelle Valles, NBC4 anchor and reporter served serve as master of ceremonies at the event which will be held at the Westin Bonaventure in downtown Los Angeles.

MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas A. Saenz, provided remarks at the event which was held at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel.

“Our event comes one day before the 25th anniversary of the passage of the divisive anti-immigrant California initiative, Proposition 187; this provides an opportunity to remember MALDEF’s hard work and critical role in striking down the bulk of the initiative in court, and to recall the leadership of the Latino community in forging a new path forward for the state of California following the enactment of the racist measure,” said Saenz.  “Both historical occurrences have important lessons and inspiration for the challenges we face nationwide today.”

MALDEF recognizes the significant contributions of these outstanding leaders and their dedication to advancing the Latino community. The event draws notable government and community leaders from Los Angeles and around the nation.