Los Angeles educator and activist Victoria Castro was born and raised in Boyle Heights. Castro attended California State University, Los Angeles, and earned her teaching credential from University of California, Santa Cruz, and her master’s degree from Pepperdine University. During her college years, she was active in community and college organizations seeking equality, fair representation, and an increase in college attendance for Latinos. She worked in an array of educational posts that ranged from teaching math to administration. In 1986, she assumed her first position as a school principal in East Los Angeles. In 1993, Castro was elected to the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education. As a member of the Board, Castro worked tirelessly to improve the school system. In 2001, after eight years on the Board (including one year as president), she returned to school administration as the principal of Hollenbeck Middle School, the junior high she attended. Castro retired from Hollenbeck and LAUSD in 2006. She continues serving on several community-based board of directors. Her activism, dedication, and leadership continue to contribute to community empowerment and educational reform and inspire those who follow in her footsteps.
The dream and vision for LAAAE comes from founding board member Moctesuma Esparza. He is an award-winning filmmaker, producer, entertainment executive and entrepreneur, and is well known for his contributions to the movie industry and commitment to creating opportunities for Latinos in entertainment. As a partner in the highly successful Esparza-Katz Productions with Robert Katz, he has worked with stars such as Robert Redford, Jennifer Lopez, Andy Garcia, Jimmy Smits, Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall and Halle Berry. Esparza most recently founded Maya Entertainment, a vertically integrated production, acquisition and distribution company. It is the only Latino owned and managed production/distribution/exhibition entity in the United States, dedicated to the growing U.S. Latino market. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Esparza received a Bachelor of Arts and a Master in Fine Arts in Theatre Arts, Motion Pictures and Television, from University of California, Los Angeles, and from the onset of his career dedicated himself to empowering and transforming the images of Latinos in Hollywood. Esparza has received numerous awards and honors including being named one of the 50 “Most Powerful and Influential Latinos” of 2008 by The Imagen Foundation, recipient of the 2013 EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award, an Academy Award nomination, a Golden Globe nomination, an Emmy award, a Clio award, Alma Award and a Cine Golden Eagle award.
Tonantzin Esparza is an accomplished producer, actress and distribution consultant, and currently Founder and Managing Partner of JoyLab Media – a Los Angeles based production and distribution company. Previously, she served as V.P. of Acquisitions, at Maya Entertainment, a Los Angeles based film production and distribution company focusing on independent films. She was responsible for all content acquisitions, strategic planning, and brand stewardship for the international and U.S. divisions, acquiring and packaging content for theatrical, television, home entertainment and digital. Additionally, she helped launch the international sales division, including strategy, recruiting key talent and co-production opportunities. Previously, Ms. Esparza co-founded the Latino Theater Company’s Laboratory, a group of young actors, writers and directors led by artistic director Jose Luis Valenzuela at the Los Angeles Theater Center. As an alumna of Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, Ms. Esparza brings to LAAAE the perspective of a performing arts high school graduate. She double majored in Theatre and Chicano/a Studies at University of California, Los Angeles, with summa cum laude recognition. Most recently, she earned a master’s degree in Business at New York University (NYU).
Hector and Norma Orcí
In 1986, Mr. and Mrs. Orcí founded La Agencia de Orcí & Asociados—a 100% independent, Latino-owned and managed communications agency. Mr. Orcí is highly respected and has been recognized as a leader by members of the industry, clients and the community. He serves on the boards of the American Advertising Federation, the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies and the New America Alliance. Mrs. Orcí is a frequent speaker at colleges and universities around the country and serves on the boards of the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, New America Alliance, and other community organizations.
Otto is President and COO of Meruelo Media Holding. Before joining the Meruelo Media team, Otto was Senior Vice President for Univision Television Network, the leading Spanish language Network in the US. Otto is the only executive to successfully have headed programming for both major US Spanish language networks, Univision and Telemundo. His unique media background brings a rich perspective and matchless insight of the Hispanic viewer profile, content and cultural preferences to any project. As a shaping member of these powerhouse brands, Otto skillfully blended solution-based ideas with a value-oriented management style driven by bottom-line results. During his 20+ year tenure programming these competitive networks, Otto developed a keen understanding of relevant entertainment formats and has established a reputation for delivering winning results through production excellence and flawless execution.
Otto is a Lieutenant Colonel with over 30 years of service in the US Army. He’s an Infantry officer having served in some of the most demanding units in the Army from the 1st Ranger Battalion to 20th Special Forces Group Airborne. LTC Padron has been featured in the “US Army Strong” campaign and in national print publications as one of America’s top Hispanic leaders. He holds an advanced degree in Military Strategic Studies from the US Army Command and General Staff College, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. Additionally, Otto is a decorated and tested leader with multiple combat tours in Iraq. Otto is also a Commissioner at the City of Los Angeles Convention Center. He holds a double Bachelor of Science in Broadcast Communications and Economics from the University of Miami, Coral Gables and an MBA from Florida International University’s Chapman School of Business.
Julio Vallejo is Vice President of Finance & Strategic Planning at Maya Cinemas, a film exhibition company focused on Latino markets across the United States. He has been instrumental in assembling and securing the necessary financing for Maya’s existing theaters, including private and venture capital, commercial lending, New Markets Tax Credits, EB-5 and government subsidies. He is responsible for evaluating and underwriting the feasibility of new theater projects. He also monitors and identifies market and industry trends to incorporate them into the company’s overall business and market strategies, leveraging on his deep understanding of the Latino consumer behavior and market. Julio began his career with Maya Cinemas as an intern 15 years ago and worked his way up working hand in hand with Moctesuma Esparza.
Julio founded Pigmentocracia Foundation, a non-profit organization in Mexico focused on spearheading the conversation and combat against racial discrimination based mostly on skin color amongst Mexicans, a social issue that is close to Julio’s heart. Over the past six years, Julio has become an empirical expert in the subject of racial dynamics in Mexico and how it relates to migration into the United States. He has created an extensive network in the fields of academia, social entrepreneurship, media, film and advertising, as they relate to the subject matter. He majored in Economics at the Tecnologico de Monterrey (ITESM) in Mexico and then went on to study Business and Management of Entertainment at UCLA. Before Maya, Julio started his career working on business strategy consulting and venture capital working at multinational corporations.