Local Hero: Carlos Vaqueráno

Carlos Vaqueráno

"My passion for social justice started when I was a kid. My brothers, my mother and family give the strength to continue. There is nothing more rewarding than helping other people."

Carlos Antonio H. Vaqueráno is a crusader of human, legal and social justice, and political representation among Central Americans and Latinos.

In 1980, Mr. Vaqueráno fled from his native county of El Salvador to the United States during the country's bloody civil war that left three of his brothers brutally murdered by a death squad.

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He witnessed with his eyes and felt with his heart the pain and suffering caused by El Salvador's civil war. He could not forget his brother's admonishment: "Never forget that you have to fight so that justice exists in our country." Moved by his experience, Mr. Vaqueráno's fervor to help Salvadorans and the Latino community led to the founding of the Los Angeles based nonprofit organization, Salvadoran-American Leadership and Educational Fund, in 1995.

Mr. Vaqueráno has served as SALEF's executive director since its inception. Under his leadership, SALEF has become one of the nation's leading Central American organizations. It tenaciously informs Salvadoran Americans and Latinos about the importance of civic participation, such as attaining U.S. citizenship and registering to vote. SALEF educates Latinos about the significance of representation in the federal government. In 2000, SALEF launched a massive community outreach campaign that educated Central Americans in Southern California about the U.S. Census. It's success led to its revival for the 2010 U.S. Census. SALEF also advocates and provides educational opportunities for Salvadorans and Latino students. Through SALEF's Fulfilling Our Dreams Scholarship Fund, more than 950 students and counting have been awarded with scholarships. In addition, SALEF played a key role in the adoption of A-G curriculum as a graduation requirement for LAUSD.

Mr. Vaqueráno's expertise in Central American and Latino issues has also gained the attention from the media. He has served as a commentator on Univisión's "El Show de Christina," Telemundo's "Cara a Cara," KMEX-TV's "Los Angeles Al Dia," KVEA-TV's (ABC) "Vista L.A." and "CNN News." He has been attributed in newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, San Diego Union-Tribune and La Opinión. His work and experiences were documented in the book, "Flight to Freedom: The Story of Central American Refugees in California."

Previously, Mr. Vaqueráno was a voter registration campaign coordinator of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, served as Central American Resource Center's (CARECEN) public relations director and was the Central American Refugee Committee's (CRECE) public relations director.

Aside from his work with SALEF, Mr. Vaqueráno is also involved with several boards and committees. He is board president of Clínica Monseñor Oscar A. Romero and board secretary of the California Hospital Medical Center. Mr. Vaqueráno is a board member of Monseñor Oscar Romero Charter School, Bert Corona Charter School, Levitt Pavilion MacArthur Park Foundation, Time Warner Cable Latino Advisory Board, and California Hospital Medical Center's Community Board. He also participates on the Dean's Community Leadership Council for University of Southern California's KECK School of Medicine, among others. Committees include Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's Education Advisory Council, Rebuild L.A., Habitat for Humanity and the Community Advisory Council for the President of USC, to name a few.

In 2010, Mr. Vaqueráno received a Congressional Certificate of Recognition from California Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (34th District). Together, he and his wife Ana have one son, Diego Valentino.

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