Texas without a Hispanic influence would not really be Texas. Fortunately, the Lone Star State has evolved alongside a culture that dates back hundreds of years. After all, among the historical six flags of Texas are Mexico and Spain.
Our Hispanic heritage has been wonderfully fluid through the years, growing in size and influence and adapting alongside the rest of Texas to a more international culture. Consider rodeo, chili, barbecue, Cinco de Mayo, macho, fiesta, tacos—words, foods, and events that now belong to all Texans.
Today, we honor some of those making lasting impacts on the community right here in Georgetown.
Lieutenant Rene Alvarez , a first generation Mexican-American and oldest of three children, joined the Georgetown Police Department (GPD) in February 1998. Following in the footsteps of his hardworking parents, who came to the United States in the 1970s to work in the oil fields, and his grandfather, who was a police officer in Mexico, Lieutenant Alvarez currently ensures the training and readiness of the Georgetown Police Department as head of the training division.
He has had countless opportunities to serve the community, but some of his most rewarding days were facilitating communication and understanding between officers and Spanish speaking members of the community. We can thank Lt. Alvarez for the translation of many of Georgetown’s official documents and informational pamphlets. For many years he also led language immersion and customs training to help other officers communicate with and identify norms within the Hispanic community.
These days Lieutenant Alvarez spends most of his time training and supporting patrol officers, but he recalls being a young patrol officer himself and the work he was able to do as a part of a program called “Neighborhood Interaction,” a predecessor to CommUNITY, which seeks to place police officers in leadership roles to engage the community. Lt. Alvarez recalls his favorite story, “I met with the San Jose neighborhood…with the community leaders and Councilman Llorente Navarrette. We got some money authorized by the City Council to renovate San Jose Park… I was able to focus specifically on a Hispanic neighborhood.”
District 7 Councilman Tommy Gonzalez is a first-generation American of Cuban descent. Originally from Florida, he has been serving the Georgetown community for 14 years in an effort to live out his mantra, Not to point out problems unless I want to be part of solutions. His leadership journey began on the Historic and Architectural Review Commission (HARC) before he decided to run [for City Council]. He says, “I ran not to just point out what potential problems are, but try to be part of the solution.”
Recently, he had the opportunity to engage the people of the San Jose area on the plan to bring historic designation to the neighborhood in an effort to preserve the culture and history. Research is underway and he looks forward to supporting the process and ensuring the outcome is what the majority of the community wants. He wants to ensure the voices in the Hispanic community are heard, and that the City at large understands the true issues and challenges they are facing.
Mr. Gonzalez acknowledges and appreciates the diversity of Georgetown and says, “If you look at most people without a lens of race, culture, or ethnicity, at the end of the day, we all want the same things. How we get there is different, and some of our customs and traditions may be different, but we’re all seeking the same American Dream.” In service to the community, we think Councilman Gonzalez is doing his part to support the people of Georgetown in their American Dream.
Business & Community Ambassadors
Elena Lewis’ family history dates back to the days of “Mexican Texas,” before the annexation of Texas, and Carlos Hernandez is a first-generation American from El Salvador. Together, they serve the Georgetown community in a number of ways and embody an important aspect of Texas and Hispanic culture—the diversity within the Hispanic community itself. So many celebrations, foods, and dialects illustrate this diversity and Central Texans clearly enjoy the enrichment they bring.
Best known for teaching Georgetown how to dance as owners of Arthur Murray Dance Center of Georgetown, this couple also volunteers their time and leadership across the community at the Chamber of Commerce, Boys & Girls Club of Georgetown, and Georgetown Beard Club.
Elena and Carlos moved to Georgetown five years ago to open their dance studio and it wasn’t long before they felt the call to serve the community. Carlos is on the board of directors for the Chamber of Commerce and the Boys & Girls Club of Georgetown. Their work in the community provides visible support to many demographics across Georgetown. Also, as an extension to their role in the Chamber, Carlos and Elena run the Hispanic Business Owners Chamber Circle. “We want to really help,” Elena says, “And be a part of anything dealing with Hispanics to make things easier and better for them.” It is a lesson she says they learned from their parents who were also heavily involved in helping others.
While it might seem like this duo has their hands full, they are still finding new ways to contribute. Right now, in collaboration with other residents, they are planning a 2022 multicultural day. The event will be a city-wide celebration of Hispanic culture in Central Georgetown.