Mexican Hall of Fame prepares to welcome five new enshrinees

The Record

STOCKTON -- Just three years ago, the Mexican Heritage Center was a group of artists, passionate about their culture and their work, but without a home to display either. Today, the organization is operating a gallery in Stockton's Midtown Magnolia District and organizing several carefully curated shows a year.

Among those who helped lead that revival is Gene Acevedo, the Mexican Heritage Center's current president and a new inductee to San Joaquín County's Mexican-American Hall of Fame.

Every year, the Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who -- sometimes very quietly -- make significant contributions to the region's growing Latino community.

This year's inductees represent educators and volunteers, health advocates and public servants. They were recognized during a ceremony Aug. 27 at the University Plaza Hotel in Stockton.

Gene Acevedo

Community service. Acevedo graduated from Franklin High School before traveling to México to earn a bachelor's degree. Upon his return to Stockton, Acevedo helped launch a local effort to improve health care for Latino children and continues to lead a wide range of other community projects. He served as an aide to Assemblywoman Barbara Matthews, D-Tracy, and then to Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani, D-Livingston. His leadership of the Coalition of Mexican American Organizations and the Mexican Heritage Center is credited with growth and success within both organizations. More recently, Acevedo has worked with Stockton Symphony to broaden its audience and to develop a program with University of the Pacific that supports music education for at-risk children. He is community outreach director for Hospice of San Joaquín, and is co-publisher of the Bilingual Weekly newspaper.

Amelia Rea Moreno

Religion. A native of Guanajuato, México, Moreno moved to Tracy in 1952 where she married, started a family and became an active volunteer at St. Bernard Catholic Church. Over more than 40 years of service at the church, she has counseled youths and married couples, visited the terminally sick and assisted at Spanish-language masses. For nearly 30 years, she has worked with the Stockton Diocese to bring clothes, toiletries and food to San Joaquín County's migrant labor camps, and helps men at the camps prepare for baptism and other religious rites. When new Spanish-speaking priests come to the parish, Moreno assists them with errands. She has taught some to drive.

Rosalva Violeta Garduño

Education. After moving to Stockton from Durango, México, Garduño pursued training in early childhood education while raising her children and earning a living as an agricultural worker. After more than a decade of work for the Head Start Child Development Council, she became a project coordinator for the San Joaquín Delta College program that trains aspiring preschool teachers. She now helps oversee nursing and psychiatric technician programs for Delta College.

Rubén Garza

Education. Soon after moving from Texas to Stockton in 1977, Garza became an administrator for the migrant-education program, helping coordinate educational and housing services for farm workers and their families and training teachers to work with migrant students. Garza went on to serve as an administrator for the Stockton Unified School District, working at Fremont Middle School, and Monroe and Hong Kingston elementary schools. He retired in 2009.

Yolanda Herrera Tejada

Health. As a child in 1936, Tejada moved with her family from Texas to Stockton where she had a difficult time at school until a teacher, Lois Harrington, helped her learn English. She went on to Edison High School, but rheumatic fever kept her from graduating.

She started working at her parents' store, La Casa Blanca, and at 17 years old, she married Alfred Tejada. After the birth of the couple's third child, Tejada returned to school to earn her GED. By 1970, she had become a nurse and began a long career at San Joaquín General Hospital. Before retiring in 2003, she served on medical and cultural exchanges to China and Japan.