UNM Distinguished Professor of American Studies, A. Gabriel Meléndez, was presented with the Casimiro Legacy Award. The presentation was part of the Colorado Latino Hall of Fame gala event sponsored by the Latino Leadership Institute at the University of Denver recently.

The gala, held at the East Club Level inside Sports Authority Field at Mile High, recognized Latino leaders who have achieved extraordinary success in contributing to the economic, civic, and political history of Colorado.

During the event, Las Animas County Senator Casimiro Barela was inducted posthumously into the Colorado Latino Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural signature event for LLI.

Meléndez has written a wide-ranging and scholarly introduction about Barela and recovering Hispanic biographical narratives.

“Moreover, I am pleased to know that this work assisted LLI in creating a lasting tribute to Casimiro Barela by inducting him into the Colorado Latino Hall of Fall,” Meléndez said.

In presenting the award, board member, Sibito Morley (DaVita Corp.) noted: “What an honor it is for DaVita to hand the Casimiro Barela award to Dr. Meléndez whose scholarship and research has made sure that narrative and legacy of Colorado’s earliest Latino leaders is never forgotten.”

While other Latino halls of fame exist across the country, there are few that honor Latinos from across all sectors. The event will become the LLI’s annual fundraiser to support its fellowship program, positioning the Institute as a leader in honoring the legacy of Latinos who have made significant contributions to the state’s history.

The inaugural inductees included: Barela (Legacy); Federico Peña (Public Service); Rod Tafoya (Business, Innovation, Science, and Technology); Dr. Joe Vigil (Arts, Entertainment, Media, and Sports); Salazar Family Foundation (Philanthropy and Community Service); Susana Cordova (Unsung Hero).

Established in 2013, the LLI’s mission is to develop the nation’s premier professional development program that advances an elite network of Latino leaders. The profile of the LLI Fellows and alumni is polished and professional -- more than 70 percent hold an advanced degree while averaging 15 years of professional experience. Thirty-four percent come from the private sector, 29 percent from the public sector, 19 percent represent the non-profit sector, and 18 percent work in education.

Once at capacity, the Institute will graduate 50 Fellows annually who are trained and ready to elevate into positions of influence and power across the state.