Education & Community Engagement

El Zócalo Advisory team

The El Zocalo (EZ) Advisory Team, representing a wide range of diverse organizations, and the Alley Theatre have developed a committed partnership committed to the fair exchange of cultural capital. Our partnership is aimed at strengthening community through best practice collaborative efforts.

Steering Committee

SECRETARY: Rhonda Sepulveda, Catholic Charities
MEMBERSHIP CHAIR: Veronica Sudol, MD Anderson
EVENTS/ACTIVITIES CHAIR: Lollie Ramirez-Bennet, Women of AT&T
EVENTS/ACTIVITIES SUBCOMMITTEE: Anna Garcia (HACEMOS), Ilsa Garcia (NHPO), Ruthie Siska (GBT), , & Veronica Sudol (MD Anderson)
PR/MARKETING CHAIR: Blanca Beltran-Brand (Aeolian Manor)
PR/MRKETING SUBCOMMITTEE: Jose Avalos (Creative Vida), Jackie Gil (METRO), Lorely de Leon (AVANCE Houston), Veronica Olivarez (UH Hispanic Alumni Association), Gisela Treviño (Children's Museum Houston)

General membership

DIANE ARMS, The Council on Recovery

Diane Arms

Director for The Center for Co-occurring Disorders, The Council on Recovery

DIANE ARMS currently serves as the Director for The Center for Co-occurring Disorders at The Council on Recovery.  She has dedicated her career to serving the Latino population in the Health Field, including Mental Health and Substance Use.  She received both her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts Degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of Texas at El Paso.  Diane has served as Director of Health Integration at Avenue 360 Health and Wellness, Director of Prevention and Counseling at the Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans and with the Harris County Health Care Alliance as Program Manager facilitating leadership meetings amongst local FQHCs to proactively identify, address, and resolve systemic issues.

JOSE AVALOS, Creative Vida* 







PR/Marketing Subcommittee

JOSE AVALOS is the Co-Founder & President of Creative Vida. In his career, Jose builds creative experiences for people and brands. Jose has a bicultural background that makes him a versatile leader with a current broad scope on branding, sales and marketing.

BLANCA BELTRAN-BRAND, Real Beauty Real Women*

Blanca Beltran-Brand





Show Host, Real Beauty Real Women Show

PR/Marketing Chair

BLANCA BELTRAN-BRAND is a Show Host for the Real Beauty Real Women show.  Before joining HTV as a Correspondent,  Blanca worked at ABC13 for 18 years.  She began as a news writer, and then transitioned into a producer for the Debra Duncan show eventually forming part of the digital department for the last 12 years at ABC13.  

Blanca was born in south Texas, but Houston has been home most of her life.  She earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Journalism at the University of Houston.  Blanca is also a fitness instructor who loves sharing her life-long passion for health and fitness.  She is currently a board member for a non-profit, Thrive Pro Bono, which offers assistance to the community in need.  In her spare time, she enjoys her family, volunteering, yoga, tennis, and running, as she has completed five Houston Aramco Half Marathons and currently training for her 8th

AMANDA DE ROSARIO, Mckinley Homebuilders 

Vice President, McKinley Homebuilders

AMANDA DE ROSARIO is a land development executive who has combined her love for the industry with her passion for art.

TONY DÍAZ, Nuestra Palabra

Tony Diaz





Host, Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say Radio

Writer, activist, and professor TONY DÍAZ, El Librotraficante, was the first Chicano to earn a Master of Fine Arts Degree from the University of Houston Creative Writing Program. He earned his bachelor's degree in Communications from De Paul University in Chicago. DÍaz is currently the Director of Intercultural Initiatives at Lone Star College-Houston North, where he also teaches Mexican American Literature.  

Díaz is also a political analyst on "What's Your Point" which airs on Fox 26 Houston. He also hosts the weekly bilingual radio program Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say which covers Latino Literature, Art, and Politics on KPFT 90.1 FM Houston. His essays have appeared in the Houston Chronicle, Texas Observer,, the Los Angeles Times, and Huffington Post Latino Voices, among other publications and wrote the novel “The Aztec Love God.” 

Díaz made national and international news when he led the Librotraficantes in defying Arizona's ban of Mexican American Studies by organizing the 2012 Librotraficante Caravan to smuggle books banned books in Tucson back into Arizona. He just completed writing the textbook "The Mexican American Studies Toolkit" for adoption in Texas high schools.  Díaz currently resides in Houston where he continues to fight for Intellectual Freedom and Freedom of Speech.  


Executive Director, FIEL

CESAR ESPINOSA is a native of Mexico. He came to the U.S. in 1991 at the age of 5. He is currently a DACA recipient. Mr Espinosa attended the prestigious Michael E DeBakey High School for Health Professions. He then went on to study at Houston Community college then transferred to the University of Houston where he studied Political Science. Mr. Espinosa is Co founder and current Executive Director of the largest Immigrants Rights Organization in Texas named FIEL (Familias Inmigrantes y Estudiantes en la Lucha – Immigrant Families and Students in the Fight). FIEL is immigrant-led nonprofit that seeks to empower the immigrant community in Houston, the State of Texas and The United States. Mr Espinosa has served and is currently serving on a variety of boards at the local, state and national level. Mr. Espinosa is an advocate for immigrants rights, students rights and human rights. With his over 19 years of experience in the field of organizing Mr. Espinosa has learned how true grassroots organizing can truly make the difference in our communities. 


Anna L Garcia





National President, HACEMOS

Events/Activities Subcommittee

ANNA L GARCIA is a strategic account lead in the global business organization at AT&T, with over 24-year experience in telecommunications and technology. She is a community ambassador, mentor and coach to the next generation of leaders and has a passion for continued growth and the empowering of both self and others. She serves her community through her work as National President of HACEMOS, an employee resource group of AT&T, as the HACE El Futuro Chair for the Houston chapter of this national organization, and other volunteerism efforts. 

CYNTHIA GARCIA, San Jacinto College

Cynthia Garcia





Adjunct Professor, San Jacinto College

CYNTHIA GARCIA was born and raised in El Paso, Texas and has a background in acting, singing, and dancing. She’s received a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Dance from Sam Houston State University, a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Dance Performance from the University of Texas at El Paso, and an Associate of Arts Degree from El Paso Community College. Her dance training includes 23 years experience in styles such as Tap, Jazz, Modern, Ballet, Hip-Hop, Folklorico, Flamenco, and Aerial Silk. Cynthia has taught various levels and styles of dance classes at The British Ballet Academy, Sam Houston State University, The Houston Metropolitan Dance Center, Claire School of Dance, TUTS Humphreys School of Musical Theatre, and the Institute of Contemporary Dance. Cynthia has also had works presented at the American College Dance Association, Comedy Dance Festival, El Zócalo Festival, and Bailando Dance Festival. She has had the pleasure of dancing for artists such as Sean Curran, Erin Reck, Dionne Noble, David Deveau, Andrea Vazquez-Aguirre, Myron Nadel, and Ayan Felix. She has been seen in shows such as Mamma Mia, Chess, In The Heights, Monty Python’s Spamalot, West Side Story, Singin' In The Rain, The Producers, VIVA! El Paso, and is a performance company member at the Texas Renaissance Festival. Cynthia has a love for all things art and embraces her theatrical and collaborative voice as a part of her creative soul.

BLANCA GARZA, Center for Creative Resources






LPC Psychotherapist, Center for Creative Resources

BLANCA L. GARZA, LPC-Intern. Graduated with her Masters in Counseling Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute in California. She currently interns as a Bilingual Psychotherapist at the Center for Creative Resources under the supervision of Jyl Scott-Reagan. She works with BIPOC communities and the focus of her studies has been Depth Psychology where she focuses on the relationship between the conscious and the unconscious incorporating mythologies, somatic work and other creative modalities. Her thesis work and research has centered around the archetypes of the Latina woman including the archetypes of the warrior goddess and the enslaved virgin. 

Bachelor of Arts in Arts, French, and Spanish from the University of Houston, Masters of Business Administration in Finance and International Business from University of St. Thomas, and Masters of Arts in Counseling Psychology from Pacifica Graduate University


Media Specialist, METRO

PR/Marketing Subcommittee

JACKIE GIL is a communication strategist with strong public relations, storytelling, and social media skills. She joined the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) Press Office during a transformational year for the transit agency. In 2015, METRO reimagined its entire local bus network and opened two new light-rail lines. Gil helped METRO get national attention for its bold move and overnight rollout. To spread the word for a seamless transition, she organized local phone banks with TV stations and toured radio and publication media outlets. Knowing that video storytelling is a crucial tool for branding, she introduced the video component in her department. Gil now has a dedicated Media Room with quality equipment to produce, film and edit videos. She also trains staff to film and edit social media videos. She continues to boost the agency's social media presence and engagement by developing original video content. 

She has a passion for the Arts and the Environment and loves to volunteer and give back to her community!

YEIRY GUEVARA, Houston Arts Alliance






Grants Manager, Houston Arts Alliance

YEIRY GUEVARA is a creative with extensive experience in the nonprofit sector. Currently, Yeiry is the Grants Manager for Houston Arts Alliance, the local arts agency for the City of Houston. In this role, she oversees all grantmaking processes and policies for the distribution of city-funded grants in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs. Previously, she was the Manager of Consultants and Programs for National Executive Service Corps (NESC) in New York, NY. She was responsible for program/volunteer management, data information system and digital marketing campaigns in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. Yeiry has served as a panelist for the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) and Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA). Additionally, Yeiry is a 2020 Fellow of NALAC Leadership Institute (NLI).

Yeiry is a writer, translator and multimedia artist. Her work has been published in Texas Monthly, VICE, and Remezcla. As an engaging public speaker, she has presented at several events including the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Twitter NYC Headquarters, and Columbia University. Learn more at


Marketing and Alumni Relations Manager, AVANCE Houston

PR/Marketing Subcommittee

LORELY DE LEON is a Journalist, Editor, Photographer, and Multimedia Producer, the daughter of Mexican-born parents, and the third out of six children. Like many other Latino families, Lorely is a first generation college graduate.  She graduated from Phillis Wheatley H.S. in 2001. She earned her BA in Multimedia Production from the University of Houston in 2012. Currently, she is the Spokesperson and the Marketing and Alumni Relations Manager at AVANCE-Houston; a nonprofit dedicated to serve the needs of low-income families by empowering them with the skills and knowledge they need to break the cycles of poverty. With nearly 15 years of experience in media relations, throughout her career, Lorely has written thousands of articles on widely-read weekly newspapers targeting the Latino community in Houston. She has produced over 60 educational videos in various topics and, created news packages to show in Mexico and Central America. During her career, she has interacted/interviewed on a regular basis with many people (including authors, reviewers, political leaders, athletes, singers, etc.) whom she believes  they all make such an exciting, dynamically advancing field. Her contributions have appeared in SemanaNews, ESPN Radio, University of Houston Athletic Department, Houston Dynamo, and CadenaTres.
Lorely stood out as the Editor in Chief of La Prensa de Houston, one of the largest newspapers for Latinos in Houston. During her tenure at La Prensa de Houston, she covered the most relevant news at a local, national, and international level, coordinated the distribution of 96,000 copies on a weekly basis, and grew subscribers from 0-4,000 spanning four countries. In 2013, Lorely was the recipient of the ‘Outstanding Journalistic Work’ given by the Cámara de Comercio Centro Americana. In 2015, the Public Relations Society of America awarded Lorely and her team with the ‘Best Nonprofit Communications Team of the Year.’ In 2016, the Business Marketing Association (BMA) awarded Lorely with Best Video Production/Internal Communications Award for directing, producing and editing the video ‘AVANCE-Houston -Tribute to our Board of Directors 2015.’ Lorely’s creative mind and passion for her job, has taken her to gain the respect and a reputation of dedication, and integrity in Houston and surrounding areas. During her spare time, Lorely enjoys running, volunteering, reading, and spending quality time with her family. She has been happily married for nearly 20 years and is the proud mother of three boys: Raul (17) Gerardo (16) and Diego (10.)

DR. SERGIO LIRA, Former HISD School Board Trustee

Sergio Lira





Education Consusltant, Former HISD School Board Trustee (2018-2020)

A public-school educator for twenty-eight years, DR. SERGIO LIRA received his doctorate in Urban Educational Policy from the University of Houston. His  mission in life is preparing all students for a career or college and advocating for equity of resources for their future. He proudly served on the Houston ISD school board as a trustee from 2018-2020. 

Dr. Sergio Lira's thirty-five years of community involvement have centered on helping all students, immigrant families, parents, teachers, staff, and all educators. He pursued the highest level of education possible because he wants to be the best prepared to offer his knowledge and experience to those who need it the most. His vocation, his mission in life is to provide educational access and equity to those who are disenfranchised and to create maximum educational opportunities to all students. He promotes strong academics supported by a strong fine arts program to enrich and develop every students with multiple intelligences. 

KARINA LOZOYA, YMCA of Greater Houston

Community Executive Director, YMCA of Greater Houston

KARINA LOZOYA was born and raised in Houston, Texas by immigrant parents from Mexico city who continue to call this city, home. Karina has over 9 years of progressive experience in community engagement and program development. She currently serves as Community Executive Director at the YMCA of Greater Houston, which will guide and lead community development efforts in the Greater East End. In addition, she leads strong and innovative community programs and innovates community approach models and services.
Karina’s success is derived from her abilities to effectively connect with her team, colleagues, partners and stakeholders. It is Karina’s ability to communicate and bridge the gap between what has been done and what others say cannot be accomplished that makes her stand out above the rest when it comes to her leadership and abilities. Moreover, her holistic approach and unique ability to build capacities of scale ensures growth within a community. Her goal is to build a stronger community of individuals in her serving area.

IVETTE MAYO, Power on Heels Fund, Inc.






Founder & CEO, Power on Heels Fund, Inc.

IVETTE MAYO is an awarding winning entrepreneur, international author, globally recognized career coach, motivational business speaker and philanthropist. Her 27 year global career was spent working in business development, sales, marketing and training for both employees and clients throughout five continents. Her focus is to incorporate cultural awareness into all her training programs to assist participants in inspiring performance, build stronger interpersonal skills and build an agile team of leaders.  This dynamic facilitator has worked with Fortune 100 & 500 all over the world. POWER On Heels Fund, Inc™ is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization focused on the advancement of LATINAS by helping to decrease the impact that GENDER PAY GAP has on their earning potential.


Christina Morales





State Representative, State of Texas

CHRISTINA MORALES's grandfather Felix H. Morales came to Houston and began a family tradition of community building. Seeing a need for dignified burials for Latino families he founded Morales Funeral Home. With no Spanish-language radio in Houston, Mr. Morales saw another need and opened Radio Station KLVL, La Voz Latina, the first Spanish-language radio station to cover news for the Gulf Coast.  This is where Christina learned to view the community as her family and soon built her own institutions in the community.​ At 23, after the death of her grandmother, Christina took over the funeral home. She would form long-lasting bonds with families she consoled in their darkest hour. She didn’t just provide a service for families, she befriended them and learned about their needs. Children in the same neighborhood as her own son and daughter were starting school without basic supplies. Like Grandpa Felix, Christina saw a need and decided to do something about it.​ In 1997, Christina founded the Annual Morales Back to School Supplies Giveaway. Twenty-one years later, the program continues to help over 20,000 students from Houston’s most underprivileged communities with supply packs to help foster their education.​ After seeing the difference and positive impact she was able to make in her community, especially with children's education, she knew she had found her passion and wanted to dedicate herself to helping children now and for future generations like her twin grandsons to have a better education.  In the Spring of 2019 Christina would win election to the Texas House of Representatives, House District 145. Rep. Morales is now focused on creating and supporting legislation that helps educate the children of her district and protect the seniors that built her community.​

Leadership in Our Community: ​CEO/President of Felix H. Morales Funeral Home, CEO/President of CMK Investments, Inc., CEO/President of Morales Radio Hall, City of Houston Planning Commission – Commissioner​, President and CEO of Morales Memorial Foundation for the past 5 years, Buffalo Bayou Partnership, Board Member, Center for Mexican American Studies at UH, Advisory Board Member, Denver Harbor Seniors, Board Member, East End Foundation, Board Member, HISD Foundation, Board Member, Mayor’s Hispanic Advisory Board, Memorial Hermann Children’s Hospital Committee, Member

LAURA MORENO, The Catastrophic Theatre

Laura Moreno





Managing Director, The Catastrophic Theatre

LAURA MORENO is currently pursuing an MFA at the University of Houston School of Theatre and Dance after receiving a BFA in Acting in 2016. Moreno is known throughout the local theatre community as a producer, director, arts administrator, actress, makeup artist, costume and wig designer, and teaching artist (Alley Theatre, Main Street Theater, University of Houston). She currently sits on the advisory board for El Zocalo at the Alley and she served as an advisor and task force member of the play selection committee for Stages’ Sin Muros Latinx Theatre Festival. She founded the Houston chapter of the Parent Artists Advocacy League (PAAL) and is its chief representative. She is also a member of the UH College of the Arts Anti-Racism Task Force and School of Theatre and Dance DEI committee. 

VERONICA OLIVAREZ, University of Houston Hispanic Alumni Association*

Veronica Olivarez





Communications Chair, University of Houston Hispanic Alumni Association

PR/Marketing Subcommittee

VERONICA OLIVAREZ is a digital marketing consultant, solo-traveler, and creative professional who believes in living big and laughing often. She specializes in assisting entrepreneurs with digital marketing strategies to help build a clean and effective online presence. After graduating with a BBA in Marketing from the University of Houston and two years in the oil industry she began researching and learning the ins and outs of digital marketing and the best practices to build a brand online. 

MINERVA PEREZ, Minerva Perez Media LLC.

President & CEO, Minerva Perez Media LLC

MINERVA PEREZ is an award-winning TV Journalist, Producer, Talk Show Host and Author: I Gotta Story-My 30 Yers in TV News. 


Lollie Ramirez-Benett





CEO, Women of AT&T National

Events/Activities Chair

An AT&T employee with 35 years of service, LOLLIE RAMIREZ-BENNET is a business trend analyst and strategist that utilizes data to effectively lead an organization to meet and exceed their business goals.  She has managed remote teams across the US, Europe, and India. For the past 30 years, Lollie has built a dual career working with several of the AT&T Employee Resource Groups. She was a founding chapter leader for the Houston HISPA chapter (now HACEMOS) and later took leadership of the Women of AT&T Houston chapter, as CEO / President.  Today is serves as the CEO for Women of AT&T National.  Lollie has a passion for empowering women, mentoring students, and serving our underrepresented communities for a better tomorrow.

JANNELL ROBLES, Harris County Defender's Office

Jannell Robles






Assistant Public Defender, Harris County Defender's Office

MS. JANNELL ROBLES is currently an Assistant Public Defender in the Felony Trial Division and serves as a Board Member for the Mexican American Bar Association of Houston. She previously served as an Assistant District Attorney in Harris County where she handled misdemeanor and felony cases in the Trial Bureau. Ms. Robles graduated from the University of North Texas with a major in Anthropology and a minor in Mexican American Studies where she also became a published author by the Harvard Educational Review . She then served in the nonprofit sector as the outreach coordinator for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and then for the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition as a criminal justice policy analyst. Ms. Robles subsequently attended and graduated from South Texas College of Law Houston where she earned the Dickerson-Moore Humanitarian Award and the Lyndon B. Johnson Civil Rights Award. 

RICHARD RODRIGUEZ, Tejano Center for Community Concerns

Housing Director, Tejano Center for Community Concerns

RICHARD RODRIGUEZ is a Houston Native, Economic Development Consultant and Art Advocate. He is also a Cellist and Housing Developer 

ROSARITO RODRIGUEZ, Texas Southern University

Associate Professor, Texas Southern University

ROSARITO RODRIGUEZ is an Associate Professor of Theatre at Texas Southern University since 2006. She is also the co-founder of the Children's Theatre Company Somos Niños. 


Project Lead, Tecolotl LLC/Antena Houston

JOSÉ EDUARDO SÁNCHEZ is the founder and current project lead for Tecolotl, LLC, a new consulting collective rethinking design to sustain, heal, and empower our communities. José Eduardo has over ten years of experience collaborating with communities to create, transform, and reclaim public space, both as a community organizer and as a socially-engaged artist. He also specializes in the creation of multilingual spaces and works with local, national, and international organizations as a simultaneous interpreter, translator, and language justice coordinator to develop meetings, workshops, and conferences where all participants can speak, understand, and be understood in the languages in which they feel most comfortable.

MICHELLE TOVAR, Holocaust Museum Houston









Associate Director of Education - Latino Initiatives, Holocaust Museum Houston

DR. MICHELLE TOVAR is the Associate Director of Education- Latino Initiatives at Holocaust Museum Houston, where she is responsible for building bridges between the Latino community and the museum. Her initiatives include outreach to bilingual/dual language school programs; creating educational workshops and events for teachers, parents, and community leaders; and working with local and national organizations dedicated to serving Latinos. Michelle earned her EdD at the University of Houston in Curriculum and Instruction in K-12 Social Education with an emphasis on Social Justice Education. She was a Smithsonian Latino Museum Studies Fellow and a 2017 and 2019 Fulbright-Hays Scholar. 

More information to come for the following El Zócalo Advisory Committee Members:

VANESSA ALONZO, Houston Artists
PATRICIA CANTU, Houston Police
FRANCES CASTAÑEDA-DYESS, East End Chamber of Commerce
KARLA CISNEROS, City of Houston District H
MARIA VILMA DURAN, Central America Collective
ROBERT GALLEGOS, City of Houston District I
ILSA GARCIA, National Houston Professional Organization*
MARY ANN GARCIA, Raices Unidas
TONY GARCIA, Friends Feeding Families
CONNIE LEON, Houston Community College
CLAUDIA MACIAS, Teaching Artist
JOAQUIN MARTINEZ, City of Hosuton District I
DEBBIE MCNULTY, City of Hosuton Cultural Affairs Office
MACARIA MENDEZ, Houston Mariachi Festival
CYNTHIA MORENO, Houston Artist
LOURDES REMOND, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
ANGELA RODRIGUEZ, Justice of the Peace, PCT 2, Place 2
JOANNA RODRIGUEZ, Magnolia Park Arts
GRACIELA SAENZ, Lulac Council 60
RHONDA SEPULVEDA, Catholic Charities*
GISELA TREVIÑO, Children's Museum Houston*
JAIME TRENIÑO, Cine for LIFE, Latinos in Film Education