Two Hispanic leaders, Jaime Garcia and the late Jane Barbosa, received prestigious honors from Elgin City Council for their decades of leadership and contributions to the Latino community.
Proclamations honoring Garcia, one of the founders of the Centro de Informacion, and Barbosa, a Latino community activist who died in June 2021, were read at this week’s council meeting. The honors come during Hispanic Heritage Month.
Mayor David Kaptain also presented Garcia with a key to the city.
“They are very rarely distributed,” said the mayor. “It’s one of the few things a mayor can do. I can think of no one more deserving who has changed the face of the city for the better. Congratulations.”
Garcia helped co-found Centro in 1972. He has served as a board member, volunteer, and most recently as chief executive. He retired in June.
Centro was launched to help Spanish-speaking residents with translation, immigration and other issues, Kaptain said. It started as a part-time nonprofit that grew into an agency with three locations, 16 paid staff and a $1 million budget, the mayor said.
“Centro is still Kane County’s premier Hispanic social service agency,” Kaptain said.
Garcia served 15 years as executive director, helping shape and grow the organization and helping thousands of people, he said.
“He opened doors in this field for many, many people and gave them the basics they needed to become citizens of the United States,” Kaptain said.
Garcia said he was just one of many who made Centro what it is.
“I just want to say that I was just a catalyst. There are so, many other people who have contributed to the Centro de Informacion over its 50 years,” he said. “I was just one of many workers.”
Garcia was 9 when his family moved to the United States, so he understands what “it means to come to a different country, to learn to speak a different language, to learn a different culture,” he said. he declares. “Therefore, I felt that a calling as an adult was to be a spark, a catalyst, and to be able to make this country, this city a better place to live.”
Kaptain has also declared September 16 as Juanita “Jane” Barbosa Day. He asked Elginites to remember Barbosa for “his lifelong kindness, prolific volunteerism, and passionate commitment to politics, history, education, and social causes in the Latin American community.”
Barbosa was born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico and moved to the United States when she was 2 years old. Her family moved to Elgin in 1957, where she attended the former St. Joseph’s Catholic School and graduated from St. Edward Central Catholic High School.
She had a long career at Elgin Community College as a recruiter and Minority Affairs Coordinator. She also founded the Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS), then became a real estate agent.
Barbosa created ECC’s Hispanic Heritage Month breakfast, dedicated to him this year.
She created a space where Latinos felt empowered, the mayor said.
“Jane will be remembered for her countless volunteer hours in the community of Elgin,” said Kaptain.
Melissa Barbosa Guzman, Barbosa’s daughter, thanked the city for the honor.
“It’s a great recognition. It’s a very special day for us,” Guzman said. “My mother, as you know, was very fond of Elgin. As proud as she was of her roots and her home country of Mexico, she was very proud of Elgin. It was his house.
Councilwoman Rose Martinez said she remembers visiting Puerto Rico and meeting a group of people attending a family reunion. When they found out she was from Elgin, “The first thing they asked was ‘Do you know Jane Barbosa?'” she said.
Gloria Casas is a freelance journalist for The Courier-News.