San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz to keynote SAAHJ gala

San Juan, Puerto Rico Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto will keynote the San Antonio Association of Hispanic Journalists’ 20th annual Scholarship & Awards Gala, set for Saturday, August 11th at the Grand Hyatt.

The mayor will accept SAAHJ’s Corazon de Oro Award, a honor given to national figures who have made significant achievements in their chosen fields while making a positive impact on the Latino community, or contributing positively on the U.S. Latino experience.

Cruz, who rose to national attention for her role in alleviating the humanitarian crisis created after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico last year, has served as a relentless voice for her people and a fierce critic of the Trump administration’s response to the devastation.

A graduate of the University of Boston, Cruz has devoted her life to leadership, serving as president of her class at University of Puerto Rico High School, from the eighth through 12th grades, and student council president as well as representing her school at the Presidential Classroom for Young Americans in Washington D.C.

She received a full scholarship from the Sloan Foundation to complete her a master’s degree in public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, where she was the first recipient of its Spirit Award, now the Barbara Jenkins Award, for her positive impact on the quality of life of students in and out of the classroom.

She worked for the U.S. Department of the Treasury and in the private sector before serving as adviser to former San Juan Mayor Sila María Calderón and then to the speaker of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives.

In 2008, she was elected representative at-large to the Puerto Rico House of Representatives and won the primary in 2012 for re-election but accepted the nomination to run for mayor that same year. It was an aspiration she had since childhood.

She was elected in November 2012 and re-elected in 2016 by a wider margin.

Cruz has been an advocate for equality, especially for the LGBTQ community, the deaf community, children with disabilities and those who’ve struggled with gender-based violence. She is also a champion for the rights of immigrants.

Her biography states that, “Her vision of public service is one of governing not for the people, but with the people. She believes a better society is built by having strong student organizations, labor unions, and by implementing programs such as participatory b\Budgets, wherein the people in each community decide how to best develop sustainable plans for themselves.”

In her book, “El Poder Está en la Calle (Power is in the Street), she addresses how rewarding it can be for ordinary people to harness their own power to change society.

She has been the recipient of several awards, including the Martin Luther King Centre Justice, Peace and Freedom Award and Humanitarian Leadership Award, the Antonio Villaraigosa Leadership Award, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation Humanitarian Award and the Puerto Rico Arts Alliance Felisa Rincón Legacy Public Service Award. She has made several lists, including People en Español’s 50 most powerful women, Time magazine’s 100 most Influential People in the World and Essence magazine’s Woke 100 Women list.

Cruz will join two other honorees on the Aug. 11 gala.

The American Indians of Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions will receive SAAHJ’s Community Service Award for its work to preserve and protect the culture and traditions of the Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation as well as the other indigenous people of the Spanish colonial missions of South Texas and Northern Mexico.

Elaine Ayala will receive SAAHJ’s Henry Guerra Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Journalism. She is a reporter and columnist for the San Antonio Express-News and a 38-year veteran of daily journalism.