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LONGVIEW, Texas — As we continue our coverage of Hispanic Heritage Month, CBS19 focused on the Longview community. A city full of Latinos with different backgrounds who continue to make a difference.
CBS19 reached out on the Facebook group “All Thing Longview” to ask who are the Hispanic leaders within the city. Members of the community gave many responses.
Among them were three individuals who are also nominated for ETX View Magazine’s 40 Under Forty Hispanic Community Figure award.
Luis Enrique Castanon has moved to the southside of Longview from Mexico, 27 years ago. He now owns his business Castanon Enterprises.
But Castanon recalls what it was like growing up surrounded by illegal activities. It was only down the street at a local church where he got involved in an illegal lifestyle.
“This is where we would come to do illegal activities,” Castanon said. “Fighting was one of them.”
Soon Castanon decided to quit and start looking towards faith for a lifestyle his parents came to America for him to have.
“My parents brought me here, me and my sister just so we can have a better life,” Castanon said.
Castanon started his business 12 years ago, but it wasn’t until last October when he became a legal American citizen.
“I’m covered in tattoos and skinny jeans,” Castanon said. “I’m not your typical home builder or contractor.”
Showing no matter the struggles a migrant may face, there is always a possible success story like Castonon’s.
Another Hispanic Leader is Longview Independent School District spokesperson Francisco Rojas.
Rojas’ family migrated to Miami, where Francisco was born, to pursue the American dream. As he grew up, Rojas’ mother moved him back to Ecuador where he encountered a culture shock.
“I experienced what true poverty is because true poverty is very different here in the United States compared to Latin American countries,” Rojas said.
That sparked Rojas to start making a difference in Ecuador.
“I had the opportunity to start a nonprofit in Ecuador at an early age,” Rojas said. “We did food drives in very poor neighborhoods surrounding the capital of Ecuador.”
Today, with the help of his wife, New Beginnings Christian Center in Marshall, and a team of leaders in Ecuador they plan to open a church like Longview’s Casa De Oracion in Ecuador.
“I’m trying to help as many people as we can in our country of origin, and also trying to help as many people as we can here in the U.S. in my position with Longview ISD,” Rojas said.
In a different area of community representation, Francely Lopez who was born in Emory and moved to Longview six years ago. She became the second woman to represent the city in the Miss Texas Latina pageant.
“It’s allowed me to grow just in so many different ways,” Lopez said. “I’ve developed friendships and connections, and I’m just so grateful for that opportunity.”
Lopez said working as a recruiter for Christus Good Shepherd allows her to put her values to good use.
“Not only do I get to work for Christus, but I get to practice my faith along with it and that’s something very important to me,” Lopez said. “I grew up as a Catholic and for me it just makes me feel that much closer to the organization.”
So why is Hispanic Heritage Month important to these Latinos?
“My daughter, my nine-year-old gave me a Father’s Day book and it said that when she grows up she wants to be famous like me,” Castanon said.
“It’s important to me because it gives us the opportunity to show our values,” Rojas said.
“It means a lot to me because it’s allows me to embrace who I am and just celebrate,” Lopez said.
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