Matilda Garcia, a third-generation Tampa native who has worked for the Social Security Administration for more than 40 years, was named the 1992 Hispanic Woman of the Year on Friday.
Garcia, who received her award to a standing ovation, was one of many women honored Friday at the seventh annual awards luncheon sponsored by Publix and Anheuser-Busch.
"I've had my heart at the top of my throat all week," said Garcia, who knew she was a finalist for the award. "You don't know how much this means to me."
While working as Hispanic program officer in the area director's office for Social Security, Garcia has served on several Hispanic advisory councils, was appointed the first national commissioner of the elderly in 1991 and was named outstanding member in the state in 1988 and 1992 by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).
"There is a great need to recognize the contributions and outstanding achievements of Hispanic women in this community," said Joe Gonzalez, co-chairman of the Hispanic Women's Awards Committee.
Nominations were accepted between June 1 and Sept. 17. A committee narrowed the list from 47 nominees to three finalists in six categories. Other winners were:
Arts: Haydee Gutierrez, a professor in the University of South Florida Dance Department.
Business: May Nohra, an account executive for Univision.
Media: Cloe Cabrera, Tampa Tribune reporter and former Miss Florida/USA.
Education: Celina Ponte Jozsi, lecturer for the USF School of Accountancy.
Government: Lorraine Salgado Parrino, a county employee in the Social Services Department who has led the effort to make bilingual services available to Hispanics.
Civic Involvement: Angeles Ferlita, for her volunteer work in numerous Hispanic organizations over the years.
More than 200 people, mostly women, gathered at the Holiday Inn Ashley Plaza to watch the awards presentation and listen to guest speaker Maria Celeste Arraras, an anchorwoman for Univision.
"One of the most exciting events for me is the celebration of Hispanic women," said Raquel Carrodeguas, president of Tampa Hispanic Heritage Inc.
Award presenters included: Gonzalez, Carrodeguas, City Council Chairman Joe Greco, Public Defender-elect Julianne Holt, County Commissioner Phyllis Busansky, State Rep. Elvin Martinez, D-Tampa, and Mercy DiMaio and Melba Massaro, who tied for Hispanic Woman of the Year in 1991.