Earlier this month The Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley (HFSV) announced that this year’s La Familia Award will be presented to the Cervantez family of San Jose for their continued commitment to advocating for the rights of immigrants on a local, state and national level. The award will be presented to the Cervantez family at the 2016 Hispanic Foundation Ball which will be held on Saturday, October 22 at the Fairmont San Jose.
The Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley is a philanthropic organization, focused on cultivating philanthropy to address community needs and invest in the success of the local Hispanic community. Its signature event, the Hispanic Foundation Ball (HFB), was conceived as a way to increase awareness about the issues affecting the Latino community and to celebrate giving and volunteering within it.
The Cervantez Family first came to the United States in 1997 from Mexico on a visit. During the vacation the family decided that they wanted to attempt to base their home in the United States because the town that they were from was too dangerous. Family patriarch Martin Cervantez is a landscaper by trade and matriarch Mayela Razo-Cervantez works at a day care center. Together they have two sons, Leonardo who is 17 years old and 15 year old Gerardo,
Their Story and Their Work
The family’s story is one shared by many immigrants to the United States now and centuries before them. They arrived with the hopes and dreams of establishing their roots and creating a better life for their family. Along the way though, they became impassioned community leaders in the immigrant’s right movement not just locally, but on a national level. The mother, Mayela has been an active SIREN (Service Immigrants’ Rights and Education Services) leader for the last 5 years, where she has recruited and led community education, and advocated for the rights of immigrants on the national, state, and local level.
SIREN began as an ad-hoc coalition of immigrant rights activists and advocates in 1987 as a way to develop a Santa Clara County response to the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act. Since that time, SIREN has grown to include policy analysis and advocacy, community education, citizenship application assistance, and community and service provider trainings.
Mayela has led dozens of community forums in San Jose to prepare immigrants for the AB60 driver’s license law, has been to Sacramento numerous times to advocate for immigrant friendly bills, and has organized her own community to advocate for issues that include public safety, health care, housing, and transportation.
Her powerful story made it into the amicus brief for Supreme Court hearing on President Obama’s Executive Action on Immigration. Each Supreme Court justice read her story prior to the oral arguments on the executive action this past spring.
Mayela also led efforts to launch a new SIREN organizing program in Mountain View. She has volunteered her own personal time in the community recruiting new members, and spearheading leadership development trainings for fellow immigrants that include organizing, media skills, public speaking, and policy.
Martin also volunteers with SIREN under its Leaders team. He and his wife are part of the immigrant community who participate in a yearlong immigration training which includes leadership development, curriculum training and advocacy around policy and immigrant rights.
Together Martin and Mayela underwent a 12-month training commitment that centered on political training, understanding how a bill becomes a law, public speaking, and media training.
The two sons Leonardo and Gerardo both serve as SIREN Youth Leaders, where they organize other youth to advocate for youth issues on the local level that include education, housing, and public safety. Both participate in a rigorous summer institute hosted by SIREN and must also participate in the same training as their parents in order to serve as SIREN Youth Leaders throughout the year.
Leonardo, a high school Senior, plans to be the first in his family to be a college graduate. He and his brother Gerardo are both involved members of the Luis Valdez Leadership Academy, the local charter high school which they both attend.
Martin and Mayela also work with other parents at the Academy to focus on parent engagement to ensure that the parents are involved in their children’s education.
The family is involved at St. Maria Goretti church, where Martin and Mayela are active community service leaders and are members of a prayer group.
“The Cervantez family is a shining example of when community passion, a calling for service and family roots come together,” said Ron Gonzales, President and CEO of the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley. “Their story is shared by many in the Hispanic community; we are proud to have them as the recipients of the 2016 La Familia award