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2004 Hispanic Heritage Award Honorees Announced

Washington, D.C.-The Hispanic Heritage Awards Foundation (HHAF) today announced the 2004 Hispanic Heritage Awards Honorees-individuals who have broken ground for other Hispanics and served as an inspiration for all Americans.  The recipients of these prestigious awards will be celebrated at a star-studded ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., on September 10, 2004.  The ceremony will be taped for broadcast on NBC Stations on September 18, 2004 and later on Telemundo Stations.  Emilio Estefan of Estefan Productions will be producing the Kennedy Center event and television specials for the first time.

"This year's honorees embody all the qualities that characterize great leaders and visionaries-creativity, commitment, and compassion," said Dr. Pedro (Joe) Greer, Jr., Chairman of HHAF.  "The Hispanic Heritage Awards Foundation is honored and humbeld to celebrate the amazing accomplishments of these individuals, people who remind us on a daily basis what it means to believe in a dream.  The 2004 Honorees will proudly carry on the rich tradition of past Honorees."

The Hispanic Heritage Awards, which for 18 years have been considered a pinnacle of achievement for  Hispanics in America, will be serve as a lead-in to  Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15-October 15.  The 2004 Hispanic Heritage Awards recipients are:

  • John Leguizamo, Arts Award
  • Narciso Rodriguez, Vision Award
  • Andres Cantor, Sports Award
  • Sandra Ben?tez, Literature Award
  • Juan D. Gonz?lez, Leadership Award
  • Gloria G Rodr?guez, Ph. D, Education Award

The Hispanic Heritage Awards have grown from a small photo-op at the White House to the most celebrated event in America.  Past Honorees include Emilio and Gloria Estefan, Governor Bill Richardson, Celia Cruz, Andy Garcia, Placido Domingo, Antonia Hern?ndez, Oscar de la Renta, Anthony Quinn, Antonia Novello, Sammy Sosa, Isabel Allende, Cristina Saralegui, Dolores Huerta, Luis Rodriguez, Rita Moreno, Jimmy Smits, Henry Cisneros, Ricky Martin, Astronaut Ellen Ochoa, Tito Puente, Raul Yzaguirre, Juan "Chi Chi" Rodriguez, and Martin Sheen, among many others.

Colombian-born John Leguizamo's cross genre performances in film, television, and theater have been widely praised by audiences everywhere.  Most notable recent film work includes the lead role in Empire, his energetic performance as painter Henri Toulouse-Lautrec in Moulin Rouge, the lead in Spike Lee's Summer of Sam, and his convincing transformation into Romeo's arch nemesis, Tybalt, in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo & Juliet.  Leguizamo's fiery intensity gives him an uncanny ability to portray often unconventional and controversial characters, such as drag queen Chi Chi Rodriguez in To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar, which earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor.  Always extending himself as an artist, Leguizamo played a boxer in HBO's Infamous, which marked his directorial debut, and kept up with legendary actor Al Pacino in Carlito's Way and Robert De Niro in The Fan.  Then, Leguizamo became an off-Broadway sensation.  As the writer and performer of the one-man show Mambo Mouth, in which he portrayed seven different Latino characters, he received an OBIE, an Outer Critics Award and a Vanguardia Award.  In addition, for one-man shows, Freak and Sexaholic: A Love Story, Leguizamo recieved critical acclaim and an Emmy.  He has also worked on several Latino films, including the recent Cr?nicas and for years has demostrated a passion about the importance of a greater Hispanic presence in the entertainment industry.

Cuban designer Narciso Rodriguez has garnered world-wide fame and reverence for his work as a fashion designer.  Upon graduation from the prestigious Parsons School of Design in New York City, Rodriguez worked for design powerhouses such as Anne Klein, TSE, Calvin Klein and Cerruti.  Rodriguez's American experience and Latin roots, combined with his flair for European tradition of fine design, have been integral to his success.  He won "Best New Designer" from the VH1 Fashion Awards in 1997 and a CFDA Perry Ellis Award in 1998 and was awarded Hispanic Designer of the Year 1997, an honor that has also gone to such designers as Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera.  His unique style is "American with a European influence and a Latin Heart."  Hollywood's leading actresses are dedicated to his every move, with fashion trend-setting programs such as Sex in the City serving as his canvas.  More importantly, Rodriguez has dedicated himself to helping those in need by participating in or leading numerous charity events in the United States or Latin America, quietly lending his time and celebrity.  At the heart of his altruism and design is his Latin Heritage. 

Sandra Ben?tez's work gives voice to the stories of humble, hopeful people: Salvadorian servants, coffee pickers, ranchito owners working thier small plots of land, Mexican paper-flower makers, hotel chambermaids, mid-wives, salad-makers and such.  Though Ben?tez was born in Washington, D.C. and makes her home in Minnesota, her life has been enhanced by the Latin American culture of her Puerto Rican mother and the Anglo-American culture of her Missourian father.  She is the critically acclaimed author of four novels, A Place Where the Sea Remembers, which won the first Barnes and Noble Discover Award and a Minnesota Book Award, Bitter Grounds, which won an American Book award, The Weight of All Things, and Night of the Radishes.  Her work has been translated into six languages and is frequently included on high school and university reading curriculums.  In addition, Ben?tez is a creative writing teacher and lecturer.  She is a past Keller-Edelstein Distinguished Writerin Residence at the University of Minnesota, and was a recipient of the Knapp Chair in Humanities at the University of San Diego.  Ben?tez recently completed her first non-fiction book, Bag Lady: How One Woman Turned the Sow's Ear of a Chronic Disease into the Silk Purse of a Fulfilling Life, which documents her 30-year struggle with Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Argentine Andres Cantor, whose "Gooooaaal" call punctuates his fast-paced work when calling soccer matches, made his English  language debut as the play-by-play announcer for NBC Sport during the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.  His hiring was the catalyst for NBC's commitment to carry every Olympic soccer game over their various networks.  Cantor has been described as a key figure in the growing awareness of soccer in the United States.  He was recently named the 9th most influential person in the game of soccer by Soccer America magazine.  Cantor has been featured on LIVE with Regis and Kathie Lee and The Late Show with David Letterman and has received international recognition for his work, including being named "Sports Personality of the Year" in 1994 by the American Sportscaster Association.  The same year he also won an EMMY for individual achievement for his play-by-play of the World Cup.  Cantor can be heard daily on his syndicated radio program, F?tbol de Primera, which is broadcast in over 40 markets in the U.S.  Later this year, he will also break new ground for Hispanic talent with the prime-time reality series for Telemundo, which he will executive produce as well as host.  In addition, he will be part of the team reporting from the Athens Olympics next month.  Cantor also graciously spends hours of his free time to charitable causes including the Hispanic Heritage Youth Awards.

Juan D. Gonz?lez has served America as a leader, in labor, civil rights and journalism.  As a journalist, he covered a wide range of national and international events, including the U.S. Invation of Panama, political troubles in Mexico and the Caribbean, the 1992 Los Angeles riots and the 1999 Seattle protests against the World Trade Organization.   His columns on inner-city problems, race relations and the labor movement have won him numerous awards and honors, including the 1998 George Polk Award for commentary.  His articles have appeared in publications, such as Mademoiselle, The Nation, The Source and Hispanic Magazine.  Gonz?lez, of Puerto Rican descent, is also a co-host of Pacifica Radio's daily morning news magazine, Democracy Now, and a visiting professor in public policy at  Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.  He has been twice named to Hispanic Business magazine's annual list of the nation's 100 Most Influential Hispanics.  Gonz?lez is also a founding member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and UNITY, Journalist of Color.  He has been an active member of the Newspaper Guild, having chaired the strike committees of the 1985 strike at the Philadelphia inquirer and Daily News, and the 1990-1991 strike at the New York Daily News.

Of Mexican descent, Dr. Gloria Rodr?guez earned her PhD in Early Childhood Education from the University of Texas in Austin, and is the author of Raising Nuestos Ni?os:  Bringing Up Latino Children in a Bicultural World.  Most notably, she is the founder, national president and CEO of AVANCE, Inc., a not-for profit organization whose mission is to build the self esteem, confidence and competence of predominately poor Latinos, parents and children, within a family and community.  Dr. Rodr?guez has been recognized by the New York Times, ABC World news Tonight, Good Morning America, Education Week, MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour, and The White House (twice), and included in books by notables such as First Ladies Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, and Rosalyn Carter, as well as several philanthropic magazines.  She has served on The President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, and has been a consultant for PBS (Mr. Rogers, Sesame Street and Dragon Tales).  Dr. Rodr?guez received the Social Action Award from Parents Magazine and the National Association of Elementary School Principals' Professional Achievement Award, has been named one of the 25 Influential Working Women by Working Mothers Magazine, twice named one of the 100 most Influential Hispanics in the United States by Hispanic Business, and was inducted into the San Antonio Hall of Fame and the Texas Women Hall of Fame.

Seven National Hispanic Heritage Award Winners will share the stage with the stars on September 10.  The young leaders, who are entering their freshman year in college,  received the honor as high school seniors for excelling in the categories of journalism, healthcare, community service, sports, engineering and mathematics, arts & entertainment, and academic excellence.  They represent communities all over the country and are set forth as role models for their peers. 

"As the largest minority, it is more important than ever that we highlight and celebrate the achievements of inspirational Hispanics, who show us that, with determination  and vision, anything is possible," said HHAF President and CEO Antonio Tijerino.  "When we listen to the stories of these extraordinary individuals, including those of our Youth Award winners, we set forth an example for all Americans.  We are grateful to our dedicated corporate sponsors for doing their part in celebrating our pride, culture and accomplishment."

Corporate Partners 

The Hispanic Heritage Awards Foundation is backed by a prestigious list of corporate sponsors, including 18-Annual Hispanic Heritage Awards), Chase and MasterCard International., Warner Bros. Studios, Coors Brewing Company, Exxon Mobil Corporation, General Motors, GlaxoSmithKline, NBC and Telemundo, Southwest Airlines (the official airline of the Hispanic Heritage Youth Awards), and Subway.

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Special note to reporters, editors and producers: Please contact Devin Parr at Park and Associates, 310-659-5579 or, for press credentials to the Kennedy Center and opportunities for interviews with the honorees, presenters, and talent.  PHOTOGRAPHS OF ALL THE HONOREES ARE ALSO AVAILABLE.