By JACOB LOPEZ
The four recipients of the Freddy Fender Humanitarian Awards were announced Wednesday, Sept. 24.
San Benito Mayor Celeste Sanchez fittingly made the announcement inside the Freddy Fender Museum at 210 E. Heywood St. The 2014 recipients are as follows: José Luis Ayala, Pedro R. Garza, Rogelio T. Nuñez and Blanca Sanchez Vela.
Ayala of Brownsville was recognized for his advocacy for youth sports and education, as well as his popular Harlingen restaurant, “Pepe’s.”
Garza of Austin is being recognized for his contributions to economic development and job creation.
Nuñez will receive the honor for his humanitarian work through Casa de Proyecto Libertad, an organization devoted to the protection of immigrants fleeing oppressive conditions.
Vela, who died Feb. 19 of this year, will be awarded posthumously for her efforts in Brownsville, which included building a second library in a lower-income area of the city.
Ron Rogers, co-founder of the Freddy Fender Museum, said, “This year, we had some tough decisions.”
“We gave four away; we could have given 10 away, but we try to make the award … special,” Rogers added, further noting, “We have a review process where we engage a lot of people.”
According to Rogers, there is a planning committee that provides input in the selection process after receiving applications, “and then our board of directors ends up making a final decision as to how many,” he said.
It’s a task he says can be very difficult, because there are so many people deserving of recognition for their efforts. “He [Fender] was a great humanitarian himself,” said Sanchez.
“Freddy Fender never forgot that he was from San Benito,” noted Sanchez, remembering a time she’d seen Fender on the Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson. Despite being a resident of Corpus Christi at the time, Sanchez recalled, when asked where he was from, the musician said, “‘I’m from San Benito.’ He never forgot his roots.”
The awards ceremony is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 9, at the Texas State Technical College Cultural Arts Center on 1902 North Loop 499 in Harlingen.