Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hooper: Tampa gala to honor Hispanic leader Matilda Garcia's many achievements

Jennifer Whelihan can't forget the first time she met Matilda Garcia.

She walked into a Hispanic Professional Women's Association luncheon and just the sight of Garcia, decked out in a purple head-to-toe outfit and sipping a martini, left an indelible impression.

"I thought, 'Wow, that lady is impressive,' " Whelihan said of Garcia, who turned 94 on Thursday. "She has something about her that you want to know, an aura. You want to be around her. She's what we're all trying to become.

"When she shows up, everybody's excited. They say, 'Matilda!' "

Garcia will show up when the Hispanic Professional Women's Association holds its annual scholarship banquet tonight at the DoubleTree Westshore. Organizers have themed the event "The Golden Latina Awards," and more than 15 leaders will be feted with red carpet treatment. Visit hpwatampa.org for information.

Of the leaders, perhaps none has been more influential than Garcia. A Hispanic representative with the Social Security Administration for more than 40 years, Garcia became an activist in her personal life by advocating for the underprivileged, especially immigrants.

The FBI honored her with its Director's Community Leadership award in 2009, noting that she has been recognized for her efforts involving human rights, housing, schools, civic groups, government and the elderly.

"It makes me feel good to help people," Garcia said. "I belong to about 20 associations, and they all have 'Hispanic' in the name except for the United Way and the Salvation Army. Of all of them, HPWA is one of my favorites."

Whelihan, the association president, describes Garcia as a mentor and an icon. She will receive the association's Lifetime Achievement Award and the event also will feature the Matilda Martini, a mix of raspberry vodka (or gin), triple sec and a splash of cranberry.

The association also will sell special martini glasses as a fundraiser for its scholarship program.

"I'm known for my love of martinis," Garcia explained Tuesday. "I even have shoes and pocketbooks with martinis on them. After World War II, we were celebrating the troops coming home and I didn't know what to drink to salute them. I chose a martini because my maiden name is Martini. Since then I've been leaning toward martinis."

Shortly after that, this community started leaning on Garcia. It's great to see her honored and it's also great to see this association striving to nurture the next generation.

Whelihan, owner of J.Whela Productions, a marketing and business communications firm, and an adjunct professor at the University of Tampa, said her association focuses on professional development and giving its members the tools they need to not only succeed in the workplace but to become leaders.

"We see more and more women attaining higher education degrees," Whelihan said. "But when it comes to seeing more women in leadership roles, it's a work in progress — especially when it comes to minority women. We know what we have to offer, but we have to communicate that, stand up and be recognized."

The association also wants to keep its Hispanic culture intact — members like to say they do business with a hug — but Whelihan promises a diverse audience at its gala tonight.

"To build the community, you need people from different backgrounds to help you."

That's a sentiment everyone should salute. And in this case, with a martini.

That's all I'm saying.

Hooper: Tampa gala to honor Hispanic leader Matilda Garcia's many achievements 05/30/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 29, 2013 2:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Photo gallery: First images of the total solar eclipse

    Space

    Americans gazed in wonder through telescopes, cameras and disposable protective glasses Monday as the moon blotted out the midday sun in the first full-blown solar eclipse to sweep the U.S. from coast to coast in nearly a century.

    The moon covers the sun during a total eclipse Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, near Redmond, Ore.  [Ted S. Warren | Associated Press]
  2. FBI warns of spreading W-2 email theft scheme

    Personal Finance

    The IRS is warning businesses about a sharp increase in email phishing scams involving employees' W-2 forms — scams that can put staffers' Social Security numbers and other critical information in the hands of thieves.

    The IRS is warning businesses about a sharp increase in email phishing scams involving employees' W-2 forms.
[McClatchy DC/TNS file photo]
  3. Barcelona fugitive shot dead outside city wearing bomb belt

    World

    SUBIRATS, Spain — A man thought to be the driver in the Barcelona van attack was shot dead by Spanish police Monday after authorities announced he also was suspected of killing the owner of a hijacked getaway car. The fugitive was wearing a bomb belt, authorities said.

    Police bomb squad officers work by a road near Subirats, Spain, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. A police operation was underway Monday in an area west of Barcelona, and a Spanish newspaper reports that the fugitive in the city's van attack has been captured. Regional police said officers shot a man wearing a possible explosives belt in Subirats, a small town 45 kilometers (28 miles) west of Barcelona. [Associated Press]
  4. Man accused in slaying of two Kissimmee officers was well-regarded during time at MacDill

    Macdill

    A man accused of shooting to death two Kissimmee police officers was well-known at MacDill Air Force Base as a Marine who served key roles at two major commands.

    Everett Glenn Miller, a suspect in the fatal shooting of two Kissimmee police officers, was well-regarded by colleagues with whom he worked at MacDill Air Force Base. But his Facebook posts, friends say, show he was becoming increasingly angry. [Kissimmee Police Department]
  5. Recipe for Chicken Wings with Coconut Sweet Potato Puree

    Cooking

    This dish is an homage to one of my favorite Epcot International Food and Wine Festival dishes: Grilled Beef Skewer With Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Puree from the Patagonia kiosk. A boniato is a sweet potato with whiter flesh and a typically sweeter flavor. I use standard sweet potatoes in this recipe, plus a little …

    Chicken Wings with Sweet Potato Puree. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times Food Editor.