Alexandria woman recognized by the Mexican government during Hispanic Heritage Month

Cenla restaurant owner awarded during Hispanic Heritage Month
Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 5:14 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - September 15 to October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens with Hispanic roots.

Irma Rodriguez came to Central Louisiana in 1985 from Veracruz, Mexico.

“There were hardly any Hispanic people around here in Central Louisiana, I was just barely learning how to speak English,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez began working in the grocery business, where she helped usher in Hispanic products and food options where previously there had been none. She also volunteered as a translator for Spanish-speaking mothers in labor.

In 2004, she opened Mi Tierra in Forest Hill, then a second location in Alexandria, serving authentic Mexican cuisine. Her success in business did not stop her from helping others in the community, which is why on September 15, Rodriguez was given the prestigious ‘Ohtli Award’ by the Mexican consulate in New Orleans. It is the highest award given by the Mexican government to Mexican-Americans who have helped clear the path for new Mexican and Hispanic generations in the U.S.

“I just couldn’t believe it because it’s a really difficult award to get,” said Rodriguez. “I knew I was nominated but I didn’t know I was going to get it. So, I was kind of surprised when they called me and told me that I had made the award, and I was like ‘woah.’ I was just very surprised, and I’m very proud and very honored to get it.”

Rodriguez’s daughter, Kristie Rubio, said it is great to have someone like her mom to look up to.

“Being able to stand by her side that day and as they were reading off all her accomplishments and everything she had done, it’s amazing to see other people notice it,” said Rubio. “I’ve actually been able to firsthand see it, and for her to be that role model and to just be a good person and to give back and not expect anything in return, it’s something to be very very proud of.”

Rodriguez said helping people is just in her DNA.

“It’s just the nature that I have inside of me to help others,” she said. “I guess it’s because when I came to Louisiana, I was like one of the pioneer people when I came here. So, I didn’t have anyone to help me, so that’s probably one of the things that make me help others.”

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