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Aurorans honored for service to Hispanic community

Community volunteer photographer Jose Torres returns his seafter addressing crowd for accepting The AurorHispanic Heritage Advisory Board's Pete Perez award

Community volunteer and photographer Jose Torres returns to his seat after addressing the crowd for accepting the The Aurora Hispanic Heritage Advisory Board's Pete Perez award at its 11th annual community breakfast at on Friday, January 25, 2013 at Gaslite Manor in Aurora. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 28, 2013 6:26AM



AURORA — Two Aurora leaders were honored for their work in the Hispanic community Friday at the Aurora Hispanic Heritage Advisory Board’s annual awards ceremony.

Jose Torres received the Peter J. Perez award and Diana Torres-Hawken was honored with the Delia Nila Basile award at the breakfast at Gaslite Manor.

Torres serves as a volunteer photographer for many Aurora non-profits, including St. Nicholas Church, Family Focus, Partners in Health and others. Torres also directs and produces the Day of Dead celebration in the city.

Torres joins the ranks of State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, the Rev. David Engbarth and retired Aurora police officer Jesse Torres who have been honored with the Perez award.

After asking the audience for a moment of silence in honor of Perez, a former Aurora police officer and Kane County undersheriff, 36-year-old Torres said it is an honor to serve Aurora.

“Every time I take a picture I express my passion for this amazing community,” he said.

Torres-Hawken was the first to be honored with the new Delia Nila Basile award for her four years on the heritage advisory board, serving the last two years as president.

The board created the award to commemorate its 10th anniversary. The award is named in honor of Basile, Aurora’s special events coordinator and former heritage advisory board member.

With her 2-year-old daughter Melanie on her hip, Torres-Hawken said she has stepped back from her role in the community to parent her two children.

“You know that because my notes are written in crayon,” the 31-year-old mother joked.

“I just want to thank the board for the work that has been happening the past several years...,” she said. “I have to say thank you to Dee Basile — those are such big shoes to fill.”

Torres-Hawken said she is most proud of the efficiency and collaboration she worked toward while on the board, including her work with the Hispanic Pioneers exhibit at the Aurora Historical Society.

Keynote speaker Judge Rene Cruz said as past president of the Aurora Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, he experienced the collaboration of the Hispanic community firsthand with the revival of Fiestas Patrias. Cruz, born in Panama, and Torres-Hawken, born in Columbia, worked together to revive the Mexican Independence Day festivities.

In December, Cruz was appointed as the first Latino judge in Kane County.

“I knew I was going to be labeled — I knew that title would stick with me forever,” Cruz said. But others paved the way for him, he said — including Aurora Alderman Juany Garza and Chapa LaVia.

And because other Aurora Latinos broke barriers before them, Cruz said that Friday’s scholarship winners should be working toward their dreams every day.

“You should not be wondering if you can accomplish these things. You should be planning for it,” he said.

Recipients of the board’s 2013 scholarships were:

East Aurora High School — Brenda Acosta, Daniel Corral, Karina Garcia, Lorena Garcia, Jazmin Nicacio, Erica Padilla

West Aurora High School — Yazmin Celaya, West Aurora; Bridget Chaidez, Raul Chaidez, Omar Gomez, Andrea Sanchez, Sonia Sanchez

Rosary High School — Laritza Aleman, Breanna Sanchez, Fabiola Villalpando

Aurora University — David Aquino, Alejandra Saldana



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