Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center Stars at Night Ballroom
Wednesday, July 5 2017, 12:00-2:00 pm.
San Antonio attorney Luis Roberto Vera, Jr. will be honored by the Mexican government for contributions to the well-being, prosperity and empowerment of Mexican communities in the U.S. According to the Embassy of Mexico, Vera will receive the Ohtli Award, one of the Government of Mexico high honors on Wednesday, July 5, 2017 in San Antonio.
Ohtli is a náhuatl word that means “pathway”, or camino in Spanish. The Institute for Mexicans Abroad, part of the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, annually grants the Ohtli Award, which consists of a medal, a silver rosette, and a diploma. This acknowledgment honors people who have dedicated most of their lives and career to “blazing a trail” abroad for younger generations of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans as they strive to achieve their dreams.
Vera is a 1974 graduate of McCollum High School. His mother, Basilia Guzman-Garza Vera was 14 when she crossed the Rio Grande River into the United States in 1949 after traveling to the Texas border from her hometown of Poncitlan. His father, Luis Roberto Vera, Sr. was born in 1927 in the Rio Grande Valley along the Texas-Mexico border in Weslaco and was raised two miles away near Mercedes. Like his neighbors, he was subject to racial segregation in the public school system and forced to attend “Mexican schools.” They were forbidden in white schools.
“Every morning we had to get in line before school began and wait to be paddled by the man because they wanted to put us in our place and teach us a lesson that we were only Mexicans,” Luis Sr. recalled. “I knew I was going to get hit by that paddle every single day. I would wait for it.”
In the 1930s, less than half of all Mexican-American children between five and seventeen were enrolled in Texas public schools. By the time Luis Sr. was ending elementary school, over 122 districts in fifty-nine Texas counties had segregated schools for Mexican-American children. In many districts there were no established segregated facilities for upper grades because the Mexican-American dropout rate in elementary schools was so high. Eventually school administrators began to establish segregated schools for upper grades.
Inspired by his parents, after high school graduation, Vera was mentored separately by two strong public figures in San Antonio: Juan Vidaurri, was known as ‘El Viejito’ and ‘Don Juanito’ or the ‘King Maker’ and controlled west side politics. Later, he worked directly under Raul Jimenez, the founder of the traditional Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner that serves 25,000 senior citizens and the needy with an army of 4,000 volunteers. Vera knew him as the “great man who brought communities together.”
Vera grew up having high expectations for himself. He attended San Antonio College, St. Mary’s University and the University of Texas at San Antonio simultaneously to finish his last two years of college in one year. He met his wife Rosie in 1988.
“Church has always been very important to me,” explained Rosie. “Meeting Luis was a ‘God thing.’ I would ask people to go to church and they wouldn’t. He did. When I asked him about it, there was no hesitation. I found that his faith is very strong, but like everything, it’s in his own way. He started going with me every Saturday and Sunday to Living Way Christian Church in northeast San Antonio.”
Luis and Rosie became Mr. and Mrs. Vera within 11 months. Two weeks after their wedding they moved to Massachusetts where he began law school. The Vera’s have four children: Jerry, Michael, Anthony and Melanie. Rosie is a 6th grade teacher at Leal Middle School in south San Antonio, and Luis continues to practice law. Their grandchildren included Girbrian, Olive, Vita, Maseo, and Anthony. Yaza, their first great-grandchild, was born in 2016.
“God uses Luis to help people out,” Rosie said. “People just see him at the trial, but his faith is what they don’t see. It is so strong. I’ve seen people come to him with nothing and no hope. He finds a way.”
“He’s like a walking encyclopedia, with his background as General Counsel and Legal Advisor for LULAC…”
Students at St. Mary’s University look to Luis Roberto Vera, Jr. as an expert lecturer on civil rights law.
“He’s like a walking encyclopedia, with his background as General Counsel and Legal Advisor for LULAC and personal knowledge of the subject, we never walked out of the classroom uninformed,” one student acknowledged.
Vera has tried many national and international landmark cases, with many supportive of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. A milestone trial receiving global media attention, regarded Dominique Ramirez, Miss San Antonio 2011. After a new executive committee of Miss San Antonio revoked the crown from Ramirez mid-way through her reign, Vera successfully did what many experts thought was impossible: sue a Miss America pageant organization and win.
The Ohtli Award is one of the highest and very limited distinctions given by the Government of Mexico to distinguished individuals of Mexican or Latino origin. Vera will receive the award on Wednesday, July 5 2017 at the San Antonio Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center Stars at Night Ballroom, 12:00-2:00 pm.