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Aurora celebrates its  Hispanic sports pioneers

'VivlMexico' yells Eduardo Arnal Consul General Mexican Consulate Chicago during Hispanic Pioneers Breakfast Thursday September 13 2012 LSierrBanquets Aurora. |

"Viva la Mexico," yells Eduardo Arnal, Consul General of the Mexican Consulate in Chicago during the Hispanic Pioneers Breakfast on Thursday, September 13, 2012 at La Sierra Banquets in Aurora. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media

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Fiestas Patrias Aurora

Aurora will celebrate the contributions of its Hispanic community this weekend with Fiestas Patrias Aurora. The three-day festival will feature a variety of food, music and family entertainment.

Where: North River Street Park, New York and River streets in downtown Aurora

Admission: Free entry, $2 per day wristband to purchase alcohol

Hours: Friday, 6-10 p.m.; Saturday, noon-10 p.m.; Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m.

Parade: 10:30-11:30 a.m. Sunday downtown

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Updated: September 13, 2012 6:08PM

AURORA — Six Aurora Hispanics who served as leaders in the community’s sports programs were honored Thursday at the eighth annual Aurora Hispanic Pioneers Breakfast.

In front of about 250 attendees at La Sierra Banquets, Alderman Juany Garza said the Hispanic pioneers of the Aurora sports community helped shape future generations.

“We have so many people working in boxing, baseball, soccer,” she said. “They paved the way a lot for the teams.”

The six Hispanic sports leaders honored were:

Juan Avendano, a Golden Gloves championship boxer who opened up the Avendano Boxing Club in Aurora in the 1970s. Jesse “The Law” Torres, an Aurora police officer who went on to establish his own boxing club, once trained at Avendano’s gym.

Frank Navarro, who instilled soccer as an extra curricular activity for Aurora school and park programs. Navarro had a hand in developing the first soccer team at West Aurora High School, brought youth soccer to the Fox Valley Park District, started the Aurora Soccer League in the 1980s (now Fox Valley Suburban League), and the Aurora Youth Soccer Academy, a summer program for at-risk youth.

Guillermo “Gil” Pacheco, who won second place in Mexico’s national Golden Gloves championship in 1973 and coached at the Avendano Boxing Club. In 1974, Pacheco won a Golden Gloves title in Chicago. He ran the Pan American Boxing Club and Aurora Boxing Club and served as a soccer and boxing coach.

Raul Rivera Sr., who coached 18 years of little league baseball and started the Spanish American Baseball League in Aurora, since renamed the Raul Rivera Sr. Baseball League.

Rafael Valencia, trainer for the Tecalitlan soccer team in Aurora. Valencia opened a restaurant in the team’s name in 1995 called Tecalitlan at Broadway and Downer Place. The team won its last Chicago championship in 2004.

Pedro “Pinky” Zepeda, known as “Mr. Sports Booster” in the East Aurora School District. Zepeda joined East High’s booster organization more than three decades ago and served as president since 1989. Over the years he has coached many baseball teams and serves as vice president of the Aurora Legion Baseball League.

The Hispanic Pioneers breakfast program began in 2005, first honoring the migration of the first Hispanics to Aurora and detailing the historical significance of the Eola Boxcar Camp. Military leaders, police and fire, business leaders, educators, leaders in the arts and Latino health care providers have also been honored.

Garza said community leaders spearheaded the breakfast after the city’s Fiestas Patrias celebrations were canceled.

“I said, ‘we have to do something to keep up the tradition,’” Garza said.

Thursday’s ceremony ended with Eduardo Arnal, of the Mexican Consulate in Chicago, leading the “El Grito” Ceremony — “The Cry,” to commemorate the anniversary of Mexico’s independence movement.

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