Ernesto Nieto receives HABLA award for contributions to Austin’s Latino community
National Hispanic Institute founder and president Ernesto Nieto was honored by an Austin Latino organization on Thursday, Oct. 13 for his lifelong contributions to the community.
“It was indeed our pleasure and honor to recognize Ernesto for his decades of outstanding leadership and impact,” said Paul Saldaña of Hispanic Advocates Business Leaders of Austin (HABLA), which he notes is “a ‘think tank’ group and forum made up of local Hispanic/Latino community and business leaders committed to discussing and developing sustainable solutions on current affairs, public policies, and quality of life issues impacting our local Latino community.
“He has touched the lives of so many in our community, as a mentor and role model,” Saldaña noted. “And has served our community with passion, honor, and distinction.”
Nieto was one of two honorees to receive a lifetime achievement award from HABLA. Nieto was awarded the Latino Legend Legado Award for his more than 40 years of work with NHI — founded in Austin in 1979.
“Through Ernesto’s own lived experience, he recognized a long time ago that the best investment towards our Latino community’s future is to cultivate the next generation of Latino leaders through education, personal development, leadership, mentorship, and empowering young people to recognize the potential in themselves.”
Nieto began his remarks with a little humor, noting, “I can’t accept this without acknowledging Gloria de Leon, my wife. 43 years ago when we started NHI, she joined me because she thought I had some potential — I hope I’ve proven it, honey!”
“When it comes from your own community, it’s very special,” Nieto went on to say in his remarks to the gathering. “When it comes from you, your corazon, your espiritu, when you are wishing us our well-being and you admire the work.”
He then remembered those leaders who worked alongside him once he arrived in Austin.
“I was thinking of guys I ran around with in 1968 that changed the face of Latino politics in Austin. I’m talking about Richard Moya, Marta Cotera, Paul Tovar, Roy Velasquez, Gonzalo Barrientos, Paul Hernandez, Jorge Lara-Braud … if they were here today they would have tears in their eyes because they would see the resultado,” exemplified by the honorees recognized alongside Nieto.
He also passed along wisdom that he reminds NHI students of, even today, about keeping the future of the community in perspective: “Don’t think about Latinos now. Think about Latinos 20 or 30 years from now.”
Here is the complete list of 2022 HABLA con Orgullo Award honorees:
Lupe Morin, Hispanic Women’s Network of Texas, for Latina Legend Legado Award, a Latina who has made a significant impact to our Latino community and exemplifies Legado, Liderazgo y Latinidad improving the overall quality of life for Latinos in Austin.
Ernesto Nieto, National Hispanic Institute, for Latino Legend Legado Award, a Latino who has made a significant impact to our Latino community and exemplifies Legado, Liderazgo y Latinidad improving the overall quality of life for Latinos in Austin.
Monica Maldonado, MAS Cultura, for Latina Community Leader, a Latina that has demonstrated proven leadership, advocacy, and action on behalf of Austin’s Latino community.
Dr. Victor Saenz, Education, Leadership & Policy, University of Texas/Project MALES, for Latino Community Leader, a Latino that has demonstrated proven leadership, advocacy, and action on behalf of Austin’s Latino community.
Perla Cavazos, Deputy Admnistrator, CentralHealth, for Latina Elected or Appointed Official, a Latina that has demonstrated proven leadership, advocacy and representation on behalf of Austin’s Latino community.
Damian Pantoja, Vice President, Del Valle ISD Board of Trustees, for Latino Elected or Appointed Official, a Latino that has demonstrated proven leadership, advocacy and representation on behalf of Austin’s Latino community.
MAS Cultura, for Latino Community Organization, a Latino serving organization, advocating, serving the needs, and/or making a positive impact on our Austin Latino community.
HABLA y VOTA Action Fund Latino Voter Registration Campaign , for Latino Campaign/Cause, Outstanding Latino advocacy initiative or cause during the last year having an impact on our Austin Latino community
Salwa Yordi Echtay, Farandula, Texas, for Latino Media, Outstanding Latino news organization or individual, advocating, serving the needs, and/or making a positive impact on our Austin Latino community