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2008 Latino Heritage Unsung Heroes

Fernando Castillo

Fernando Castillo
El Grupo

Fernando Castillo was born in Mexico and arrived to the USA in 1972. After attending culinary institute, and upon graduation, he worked as a chef for two very prestigious restaurants under the direction of top chefs. He became involved as a community leader and activist to help people that were suffering from the AIDS epidemic.

In 1986 Castillo started caring for seven of his roommates who all were diagnosed with AIDS. He transformed his home into an AIDS hospice. Subsisting on savings, he looked after his housemates, accompanying them to doctor's appointments, doing their laundry, and even preparing individualized meals. Castillo tenderly nursed every one of those men until, one by one, he lost them to AIDS.

Passionately dedicated to his cause, Castillo was instrumental in the founding of El Grupo, a branch of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation focused on providing services and support to people suffering from HIV and AIDS within the Latin-American community. For the last twenty years, El Grupo has served as the model for AIDS support groups both in the United States and all over the world.

In the early 1990s, Castillo became involved with Project Open Hand, a San Francisco organization that provides meals to people with HIV and AIDS. It was here that he selflessly volunteered his culinary experience and compassion to support the organizations endeavors, until he himself was diagnosed with HIV.

In his own battle with HIV, Castilllo survived a brain tumor five years ago. He continues to devote himself to his friends and his community, offering support, hope and love to those in need and, in turn, inspires others to serve the needs of those who need it most.


Dario D'Arrigo

Dario D'Arrigo
Novato Public Access Television

Dario D'Arrigo works tirelessly on his television program "Encuentro Latino," the first all-Spanish language television program produced in Marin County, airing on Novato Public Access Channel 26.

Born in Lima, Peru, D'Arrigo came to this country in 2000, He has 8 brothers and sisters. In 1960, his father, Adrian D'Arrigo Nieto, worked with several unions in Peru including the fishermen, miners and others. Upon his arrival in the USA, D'Arrigo went to Dallas, where he saw the way undocumented immigrants were mistreated and he realized that he needed to do something about it.

In 2001, D'Arrigo came to Marin County and he worked as a clerk at a local market. In his free time he volunteered in Radio Canal coordinating the news and acting as host with Felipe Tapia of Radio Maya. In 2003, he worked as a Teen Center Supervisor with Canal Community Alliance until the middle of 2004, and the idea of creating a Spanish language TV program came to life. In October 2003, he participated in a march for immigrant rights that started on the west coast and ended in Washington, DC and New York, where thousands from all over the USA joined forces.

The first Encuentro Latino TV program aired on Novato Public Access Channel 26 on August, 2005. In 2006, Flor Campos-Emert joined Encuentro Latino as host and co-producer working on new programs that covered immigration, education, health, energy savings, and other important topics for the Hispanic community.

That same year, Dario trained a group of 12 and developed a short film entitled "Walking in the Shadows" and a commercial for Subaru that were part of the Latino Film Festival with the Youth in Video program. The short film "Arrested Dreams" based on real life experiences of ICE raids victims was part of the 2007 Latino Film Festival, also directed and produced by Dario D'Arrigo. In December, 2007, Dario received an award from the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Marin in recognition of his contributions to the community. The new Encuentro Latino programs have a bilingual format to expand the audience.


Brigitte Davila, J.D.

Brigitte Davila, J.D.
San Francisco State University

Brigitte Davila has taught as a full-time faculty member in the Raza Studies Department at the College of Ethnic Studies for more than fourteen years at San Francisco State University.

Originally from Los Angeles with roots in Colorado and New Mexico, Davila was deeply influenced by the Chicano Movimiento and was the first in her family to attend college. She received a B.A. from the Rhetoric Department at the University of California, Berkeley and a J.D. degree from Boalt Hall School of Law, also at the University of California, Berkeley.

Davila's devotion to community service and civic engagement are apparent in the names of some of the courses she instructs: U.S. Government & Constitutional Ideals, Community Service Learning and Community Law. Her area of focus is law and public policy, with an emphasis on community activism, service and civic engagement.

As Program Director of Raza Studies Community Service Learning Program, Davila has the opportunity to work closely with many community-based organizations actively supporting the Latino Community. She has received many acknowledgments and awards for her innovative community service learning curriculum, which has given opportunities to thousands of students to participate in their communities.


Arabella Martinez

Arabella Martinez
Latino Community Foundation

For more than forty-five years, Arabella Martinez has devoted her life to improving communities through economic empowerment. Her career has allowed her to lead the Latino community in matters of real estate development, economic development, business development and assistance, homeownership, open space and recreation, work-force development, child and youth development and senior services.

As the Executive Director of the Spanish Speaking Unity Council of Oakland, CA, Martinez has built a small grassroots organization into one of the largest community development centers in the nation. Under Davila's leadership, the Unity Council has contributed to the health and well being of its constituents by creating The Fruitvale Village, an award winning transportation and retail hub; Union Point Park, a 7-acre park on the Oakland Estuary, as well as lending her expertise and support to several housing initiatives including Casa de Las Flores Senior Housing, Masonic Temple Properties, and the Las Bougainvilleas Senior housing project in Fruitvale. The Unity Council also offers Fruitvale residents business development and assistance, child care facilities, home ownership advice and WorkForce Development and Family Self-sufficiency Services.

While Martinez's many accomplishments are too numerous to be listed, other career highlights include the President of the Center for Policy Development in Oakland, as well as Washington D.C.. In 1979, Martinez was appointed by President Jimmy Carter as the Assistant Secretary in the Office of Human Development Services, the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare in Washington, D.C.

Martinez has served on the board of various non-profits and corporations including the State Farm Bank, National Council of La Raza, Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and the Oakland Business Development Corporation. She is a graduate, with both her BA and masters from the University of California, Berkeley.


Marlene Sanchez

Marlene Sanchez
The Center for Young Women's Development

Marlene Sanchez is the Executive Director of The Center for Young Women's Development (CYWD; www.cywd.org), the nation's first employment, leadership and advocacy program run entirely by and for young women who, in the wake of experiencing incarceration and life on the streets, are working to transform their lives and their communities.

Born and raised in the Mission district of San Francisco, Sanchez came to CYWD at the age 15 looking for employment and a way out of the juvenile justice system. She was hired as a community health outreach worker and provided HIV/STD education, harm reduction supplies and love to hundreds of young women who lived and worked in the underground street economies of San Francisco.

Sanchez has a passion for working with young women and girls who are involved in the juvenile justice system because of her personal experiences. In 1999, she was sworn in by the Superior Court of San Francisco as the first "youth" appointed to the San Francisco Juvenile Justice Commission, where she served for five years. She is currently the co-chair of the Community Justice Network for Youth, a national organization of community-based programs that serve youth of color in the juvenile justice system. She also provides training to organizations around the county looking to understand and adopt CYWD's vision, programs, and methodology.

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