San Benito County LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) held its 22nd annual Women’s Reception and dinner Friday, Aug. 26, honoring Marry Anne Barragan of Barragan Insurance Agency, San Benito County Superintendent of Schools Krystal Lomanto, and three young college graduates who were involved with LULAC during their years at San Benito High School.
The music of Lupe Castañeda and Linda Solano set a festive mood at the sold-out event held at Paine’s Restaurant in Hollister. Liliana Pérez, who runs the Southern California Speaker’s Office for Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, was the program emcee.
Barragan was thanked by Verónica Lezama for her “leadership, vision and advice.” Lezama emphasized Barragan's dedication to the community in such areas as church, community youth sports and community focused health issues.
Barragan recently contributed to the establishment of a Diabetes Health Center in the Sunnyslope Medical Complex in Hollister. LULAC recognized her efforts noting that she “will leave a legacy of touching other people’s lives in very special ways, that will long be remembered and appreciated by all.”
Lomanto, who previously was SBHS principal and worked 24 years for the high school district, was also honored at the dinner. A bouquet was presented to her by previous students who stated that “Krystal is devoted to ensuring ALL students across the county receive the education and support they need to be successful once they graduate.”
“This is what it is all about,” Lomanto said to the applause-filled room. Holding back tears, she thanked the LULAC organization and Hollister City Councilwoman Mickie Solorio Luna in particular for working with her to help students achieve more.
Three San Benito High School and recent college graduates, Alexa Salazar, (a 2016 graduate of CSU East Bay with a bachelor's degree in psychology and a minor in Spanish), Ana de Castro (a 2016 graduate of Sacramento State University) and Elizabeth Zepeda (a 2016 graduate of CSU Monterey Bay with a bachelor's degree in social and behavioral sciences with a sociology concentration), were then introduced to dinner guests.
As the first graduate to speak, Salazar described going to LULAC meetings with her father and developing an interest in helping others. De Castro spoke of her extraordinary shyness as a high school student and how she appreciated the mentorship from both Luna and her husband, Vince. Zepeda, the last to speak, said that as a high school student, it was hearing that the county library would be closed — leaving her without Internet access — inspired her join LULAC. “Having LULAC was like having family that keeps you moving forward,” Zepeda said.
In their speeches, the graduates voiced appreciation for Lomanto’s open-door approach as a principal and interest in their success. Luna was also thanked for setting high expectations through LULAC and for encouraging students to set personal goals.
The guest speaker, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, shared her experience on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Homeland Security Committee. Sanchez reminded dinner guests that Latino women are under-represented in influential positions of the government.
Sanchez, who is running for the vacant California seat in the U.S. Senate against California Attorney General Kamala Harris, described her approach over 20 years in the U.S. House: “I am very serious when I go to work. And I do my homework,” she said, reminding the group that the majority of the money in the budget goes for national defense. Sanchez said the focus right now is avoiding or mitigating future conflicts. She hit hard on the topic of water, saying that there will be conflicts over “clean, fresh water” and the” rise of the sea.”
State Assembly candidate for District 30, Anna Caballero, was also in attendance.
The evening closed with emcee Liliana Pérez inviting Luna to the podium and describing her as “our heart and soul of Hollister.” Luna thanked both Barragan and Lomanto. Referring to LULAC’s relationship with Lomanto at San Benito High School, she said, “If we had a problem, I would call Krystal and it would get resolved.”
Luna spoke about her dedication to the students who have gone through LULAC’s high school program. “They weren’t my children, but through LULAC, I’ve had over 400 kids there,” she said.
Luna reminded listeners that she came from a family of 12 children and her husband, Vince is from a family of 15. “I was raised in labor camps around here,” she said. Reflecting on LULAC’s 30 years and both her and her husband’s commitment to it, she said, “We’ve had a really good time, Vince and I.”
The evening ended in song with the satisfaction and recognition that come with hard-won accomplishments. Proceeds from the event and silent auction support annual LULAC scholarships.