25 influential Latinos in San Antonio

Hispanic Heritage Month

25 Influential Latinos in San Antono (KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio, a majority Hispanic city, has the fourth-largest Latino population in the United States.

From chefs and political stars to entertainers, athletes and personalities bigger than the North Star Mall boots, here’s a look at 25 influential Latinos in San Antonio, in no particular order.

Chef Johnny Hernandez: He is one of the premier Mexican chefs in not only San Antonio but across the country. It all started with his first restaurant La Gloria in 2010 and it has flourished to now the owner of multiple La Gloria restaurants, Burgerteca, La Fruteria, a fleet of margarita trucks and a catering company. Hernandez is also big on giving back to his community and young chefs with his Kitchen Campus foundation.

The competition between three San Antonio chefs was organized by Chef Johnny Hernandez and took place at the Old School Bar and Grill in Austin, the headquarters for SATX at SXSW during the SXSW conference.

Cruz Ortiz: His art can be found all around the state and has been featured in galleries around the world. Ortiz’s unique style of paintings, murals and prints sets him a part. When you see a piece of art done by Cruz, you know right away it’s his work.

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INTERVIEW in Eleanora Magazine: “ [Laughs] Yeah! Yeah it’s like thinking about that deeper understanding of colonial damage. A lot of Mexican Americans if not almost all of them don’t realize that we have deep colonial trauma. So I am reflecting on that, on my personal traumas growing up, and what that means. It’s all come to this interesting area of my work where now I am starting to say, you know what, now is the time, just draw yourself dude. Dig in deep. Kind of like the Rothko move of skipping over figuration going straight to emotion, but I can’t do that. I go right through figuration, and right through that asteroid belt.” (excerpt from “In The Studio” Interview and Photography by Wendy Bowman @wendybowman_ for @eleanoramorrison Elenora Magazine) - article link in bio - special thanks to wendy bowman for the pics and interview - cruz ortiz is represented by: @nancylittlejohnfineart in houston @j.c.connelly in santa barbara @lesliemoodycastro in cdmx - to schedule a san antonio studio visit please email studio@cruzortizart.net ////// ////// ////// #cruzortiz #cruzortizart #cruzortizartstudio #tejano #contemporarypainting #contemporaryart #artistinterview #artiststudio #sanantonio #houston #austin #dallas #elchuco #dtla #santabarbara #phoenix #brooklyn #chelseagalleries #miami #cdmx #mexicocity

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Jesse Borrego: Born and raised in San Antonio, Borrego hit it big when he was casted in the cult classic movie “Blood In Blood Out” alongside Benjamin Bratt. Since then, Borrego has been in the movie “Con Air” the television series “24” and “Dexter.” Borrego still calls San Antonio home and gives back to the local theater community.

From San Antonio’s south side to Hollywood to the streets of New York City, actor Jesse Borrego has been a fixture of film and television.

Marina Gonzales: The former CEO of Child Advocates San Antonio is now the new president and CEO of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “As a first-generation college and law school graduate, and daughter of an entrepreneur, I understand the critical role that Hispanic-owned businesses play in the success of our community and our economy,” Gonzales said.

Marina Gonzales has been named the new president and CEO of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. (KSAT)

Jessie Degollado: A pioneer for Latina journalists in San Antonio, we had to include KSAT’s very own Jessie Degollado. An award-winning journalist who’s been at KSAT since 1984, she covers a wide variety of stories and is especially familiar with border and immigration issues.

Jessie Degollado (KSAT)

The Castros: Rosie, Julian and Joaquin have all been inspirational and influential in their own respective ways. Rosie Castro is an educator and a political and community activist, while her twin sons have achieved successful political careers - growing up on the historic West Side, attending Jefferson High School in the Woodlawn Lake neighborhood and going on to represent the city as mayor and congressman.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Cristina Martinez: Born and raised on the South Side, Martinez has created a successful online and pop-up market called “Very That." Her work has resonated with many Hispanics and she has also developed a huge following on social media. Learn more about Martinez in the video below.

Flaco Jiménez: The king of the accordion, Jiménez is a legend in the music industry. A key part of the Texas Tornado, Jiménez has played alongside The Rolling Stones, Willie Nelson, Dwight Yoakam and so many more. In 2015, he won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Manu Ginobili: GINOBILI!!!!! He may be from Argentina but Manu Ginobili is very much a part of San Antonio after playing for the Spurs from 2002 to 2018. He’s the winner of four NBA Championships and an Olympic Gold Medal. Now retired, you can still catch Ginobili around town.

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Elaine Ayala: A San Antonio native, Ayala has been a journalist for almost 40 years and a part of the Express-News since 1996. Ayala is the winner of many prestigious journalism awards as well as being inducted into the Edgewood ISD Hall of Fame, the San Antonio Women’s Hall of Fame and the National Association of Hispanic Journalist’s Hall of Fame.

Judge Rosie Speedlin Gonzalez: The first openly gay judge to be elected in Bexar County and now runs one of two domestic violence courts. Since her first day on the bench in Jan. 2019, Gonzalez hears thousands of cases and established a drug court within her court to provide court-supervised drug treatment.

Making the community a safe place is what drives Bexar County Court 13 Judge Rosie Speedlin Gonzalez. 

Adam Ray Okay: 2020 has been a big year for this San Antonio social media influencer. The 20-year-old has over a million followers on TikTok and Instagram all waiting to see what his character “Rosa” is going to do next.

Cortez Family: This family has been serving up Tex-Mex favorites at Market Square for 75 years. Their footprint has grown to include Mi Tierra, La Magarita, Pico De Gallo, Viva Villa and Mi Familia at the Rim.

Chris Perez: He may have been Selena’s husband but guitarist Perez has truly made a name from himself. The Chris Perez Band is still making music and recently Perez also got into the hot sauce game. Born and raised in San Antonio, Perez recently spoke with KSAT 12 about Selena’s legacy 25 years later.

In the past 25 years, Chris Perez says he has grown a lot.

Larry Garza: Born and raised in San Antonio, Garza has become a well-known comedian throughout the area and state. He’s been performing for over 15 years and is a founding member of the award-winning sketch group Comedia A Go-Go. The past several years Garza has been battling cancer but is still finding way’s to make people laugh.

Dr. Erika Gonzalez: A native of San Antonio, Gonzalez is the CEO and President of both South Texas Allergy & Asthma Medical Professionals (STAAMP) and STAAMP Clinical Research. Her resume also includes serving as the Chief of Allergy, Immunology and Rheumatology Division at the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio and now is the 2020 Chairwoman for the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. And we can also thank Gonzalez for her military service. She served 10 years as a medical officer in the U.S. Air Force.

Dr. Erika Gonzalez (KSAT)

Henry Cisneros: The former mayor of San Antonio has played an important role for Latinos in politics. He was the second Latino mayor of a major American city and served as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in President Bill Clinton’s administration. Today he continues to advocate for the Latino community in San Antonio and beyond.

Michael Quintanilla: An award-winning journalist, Quintanilla is a fashion and style writer. He has worked for the Los Angeles Times, Dallas Times Herald and the San Antonio Express-News. Now retired, Quintanilla can still be seen around town and his famous Fiesta attire has been exhibited at the Institute of Texan Cultures.

Erika Prosper Nirenberg: Currently the first lady of San Antonio, Nirenberg has blazed her own path here in San Antonio and is influential to many. She’s an executive at H-E-B, the 2018 chairwoman of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and has recently created a workbook for children.

Angela Salinas: She served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 39 years and is the first Latina promoted to the general officer ranks. When she retired in 2013, she was the senior ranking woman and Hispanic in the Corps. Currently, Salinas is the Chief Executive Officer for the Girl Scouts and has also been inducted into the San Antonio’s Women’s Hall of Fame, the Hispanic Women in Leadership Hall of Fame and numerous other accolades.

Ricardo Chavira: Raised in San Antonio, Chavira is best known for playing Carlos Solis in “Desperate Housewives.” He has gone on to roles in numerous television shows and was most recently cast as Abraham Quintanilla, the father of late Tejano singer Selena in the upcoming Netflix series, “Selena.”

Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller: The leader of the San Antonio Diocese since 2010 he is one of the highest-ranking Mexican American bishops in the United States. Archbishop García-Siller also currently sits on a number of committees for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Judge Rosie Alvarado: The presiding judge of the 438th District Court in Bexar County, Alvardo manages a therapeutic restorative court for girls in foster care called PEARLS Court. She was most recently appointed to the Texas Children’s Commission by the Texas Supreme Court.

Jeret Peña: He’s a well-known name in the bar industry in San Antonio. Peña is a leader in the cocktail scene and in 2012 was named the Austin-San Antonio Rising Star Mixologist by StarChefs. He is the owner of The Brooklynite, which closed last year but expected to reopen in a new location and also owns Still Golden.

Coronavirus SAQ: Jeret Pena, a local bar owner, shares how the local bar industry has been impacted by COVID-19

Ally Brooke: The singer has made a name for herself across the world. She was first a part of the successful girl group Fifth Harmony and has been a solo artist since 2017. Most recently she competed in Dancing With the Stars and is working on an album to be released next year. Brooke was born in San Antonio and often gives back to the community.

Singer Ally Brooke back home and spreading holiday cheer

About the Author:

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with15 years of experience in the broadcast news business. Erica has covered a wide array of stories all over Central and South Texas. She's currently the court reporter and cohost of the podcast Texas Crime Stories.