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The Vision Awards, A showcase of the diversity and quality in Canada’s Hispanic community

The Vision Awards, A showcase of the diversity and quality in Canada’s Hispanic community

Posted by Juan Gavasa on October 16, 2014

Today the third edition of the Vision Showcase Awards will be celebrated at the Glen Gould Studio at the CBC in Toronto. As part of the gala, the Toronto Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (THCC), will present awards to members of  Canada’s Hispanic community who have made an impact in various areas  of culture, economy and society (Art and Culture, Professional Accomplishments, Emerging Businessman, Businessman, and Small Business). The event has become the greatest annual event in the Hispanic community, and as Manuel Rodríguez, president of the THCC said, it is a magnificent showcase that allows “all Latin-Americans in Canada to see great examples of those who are shining in their professions”.

The Gala was made possible by the joint efforts of the Chamber of Commerce’s board members. Jennifer Zavala,  director of events,  is just one of the members in charged of the logistics of the organization, a challenge that includes planning every single minute of the evening and ensuring that it runs smoothly. More than 200 guests will be present at the event and guests can expect some interesting surprises in store. One of the most exciting surprises was revealed just last week; former Toronto Blue Jays player, Roberto Alomar, will be the guest of honor and will receive the Visionary Award as recognition of his exceptional career.

In this interview, Manuel Rodríguez and Jennifer Zavala tell us about the preparations leading up to the event that has more than one goal. It is a social event, but also, as Zavala says, it’s an opportunity for “professional networking”.


Can you tell us about the nominees for the third edition of the Vision Awards?

It is a very interesting group because we are realizing that the candidates, in general, are people that you wouldn’t have thought had been in Canada for so long. A perfect example of this is chef Steve González; the owner of the prestigious restaurant “Valdez”. He is actually more famous among Canadians than in the Latin community after winning the famous TV show contest “Top Chef”. He is barely known in the Hispanic community but he says that he hopes to become more familiar within his own community. He hopes to become an inspiration for others like him, who have faced many challenges as an immigrant in Canada.

Do you view the nominees as role models in the Spanish-speaking community?

Without a doubt. Canada is a multicultural society and we’d like for these awards to become an inspiration so that Latin Americans can see their significance in the community and hopefully expand their presence in Canada and take on bigger roles in the country. That being said, the evolution of Spanish-speakers in Canada has been amazing in the last years. As a resident of Toronto for the past 25 years, I can say that the Hispanic presence and influence is reaching higher levels and the nominees are an example of that richness and that diversity. A few years ago, it would have been unthought-of to find a Salvadoran designer like Fidel Peña, who leads Underline studio and works for the University of Toronto. He is also the president of a Canadian association of designers. This means that he is a professional that has managed to achieve beyond the Latin-American community, and become important in the country as a whole. This is possibly the most important phenomenon in the Spanish-speaking community in the last years; that most of its members have broken barriers and reached out for all of Canada.

It’s obvious that the last generations of Hispanic people who have come to this country have a different profile…

That’s right. It is a different profile compared to most of the people that came here 30 or 40 years ago. New professionals are making huge changes because they come to Canada and adapt to the market very quickly and at a very high level. We are living in a very important time for our community that we haven’t yet experienced in the past 3 decades. This new professional and social boom is being recognized by big Canadian corporations and also by public institutions.

Roberto Alomar will be one of the most important persons at this edition of the Vision Awards. What does his presence represent for Spanish-speaking people in Canada?

He is probably the best example of what we’ve talked about this far; Hispanic people that have transcended beyond their home communities and become national symbols because of their success. Roberto Alomar played in the World Series that the Blue Jays won in ‘92 and ‘93. Like Maradona in Mexico’s world cup of 1986, he was the sole architect behind the  historic win that made Canadians immensely happy. We are also talking about a player of Hispanic origin, who is proud of his roots but, as the same time, was able to integrate perfectly into Canadian society. Roberto Alomar is a source of pride for us and an example of the enormous potential we have as a community.


What are the days leading up to the Gala like?

We are working on the last details that are sometimes the most tedious. We are making sure that the winner’s videos are being edited according to what we agreed, that the logistics are in order, and that the presenters are on the same page as we are… It is a very big challenge to host an event for more than 200 guests and make them all feel comfortable.

What will the Gala be like?

There will be a networking cocktail hour from 5:30pm to 6:30pm. Then the doors will open and the evening will begin with jazz singer , Laura Fernández, who is also one of the nominees. After that, some brief speeches will be made by Manuel Rodríguez as the president of the THCC, political representatives and representatives from our main sponsors ScotiaBank and CUSO International. Then comes the screening of 6 videos from this year’s winners.

What is the most exciting moment of the entire gala?

Personally, I think it’s when we show the videos of the winners and also the moment when Roberto Alomar is presented with this year’s Visionary Award. It is a unique opportunity to share with a legend in Canadian sports.

THCC - Vision Showcase Awards 2013 from Unikron Video Production Toronto on Vimeo.

What are the biggest challenges that an event of this nature creates?

The process of choosing the nominees is always tough. We have to make sure that the whole process runs smoothly and that all the nominees are in the correct corresponding categories. After that, we have to create a profile for each candidate so that the jury has enough information to make informed decisions. We have to be very rigorous and objective throughout  the whole process.

You’ve said more than once that the Vision Awards are not just a social event…

It’s because I think they are much more than that. Of course our main goal is for people to come out and enjoy themselves. We want guests to have a good time. In fact, after the gala the party continues with an after party at the Lula Lounge. But we can’t forget that we are a chamber of commerce and that this is a good opportunity for guests to connect and make contacts that will open doors to future business relationships. This is of great value for us.

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