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Mexican American Opportunity Foundation honors actor Edward James Olmos

MONTEBELLO — Actor Edward James Olmos was moved to tears Sept. 5 when he was inducted into the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation’s Hall of Fame.

“It brings me to tears,” Olmos said during Friday’s ceremony. “To be among all these heroes of our community.”

Olmos joined the ranks of journalist Ruben Salazar, United Farm Workers leaders Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, actor Ricardo Montalban, tennis pro Pancho Gonzales and numerous others in the Dionicio Morales Mexican American Opportunity Foundation Hall of Fame.

Sporting a beard and long hair for a movie role, Olmos pulled back a curtain to reveal his portrait photograph alongside those of the many Latino luminaries decorating the hall in the headquarters of the foundation on Garfield Avenue in Montebello.

“Olmos represents the best that our community has to offer and share with our society,” said Carlos Viramontes, chair of the foundation. “This hall is a kind of hallowed place where we remember and honor the names of those Mexican American and Latino heroes, both well-known and not so well known.”

Longtime Olmos friend and foundation board member Jerry Velasco of El Monte said, “he has inspired our community. He has made us proud. And he shares our values and our vision. Not only are we adding him to our Hall of Fame, but we also will present Eddie with the MAOF Lifetime Achievement Aztec Award at our Annual Aztec Gala on Oct. 3 at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel inLos Angeles.”

Olmos grew up in East Los Angeles and graduated fromMontebello High School. He played in bands while going to college, but once out of college he pursued an acting career, which took off after his portrayal of the street-wise El Pachuco in the stage version of “Zoot Suit.”

He portrayed the same character in the film version of “Zoot Suit.” He later starred as Garfield High School teacher Jaime Escalante in “Stand and Deliver.”

He played Lt. Martin Castillo in television’s “Miami Vice” and William Adama in “Battlestar Gallactica.”

Olmos also has channeled his passion for social action in areas such as community activism and the environment, a foundation spokesperson said. He has long been an icon and a staunch advocate of the Latino community. He has supported numerous causes throughout his career, including Latino culture, the environment and has organized many film festivals and other special projects and events.

The Mexican American Opportunity Foundation was founded in 1963 by Dionicio Morales.

“Its vision and mission is to work to preserve the pride, the values and the heritage of the Mexican American culture,” Martin Castro, president and CEO, told the audience Friday.

“From its small beginnings more than 50 years ago, MAOF has grown to become one of the nation’s top 10 Latino nonprofit agencies as ranked by Hispanic Business Magazine,” he added.

MAOF serves the socio-economic needs of communities throughout Southern California, Monterey and Kern County. The foundation offers preschools, senior centers, immigration services, food banks and tax assistance. MAOF headquarters are at 401 N. Garfield Ave., in Montebello.

For information on the Oct. 3 Aztec Gala, call Tatiana Villanueva at (323) 278-3603.

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