Earlier this month, the 21 Latino Spirit Awards were held at the State Capitol in Sacramento. To coincide with the state celebration of Cinco de Mayo, like every year since 2002, prominent, talented Latinos, who are leaders in their fields from across California were honored by the California Latino Legislative Caucus. Among the honorees was Bamby Salcedo, the first transgender woman activist to be recognized with these awards. 

This year, Salcedo made history and received an award in human rights after being selected by the members of the Latino Caucus, who privately voted to select the candidates. 

Wearing an entirely white outfit, a pair of heels and a colorful necklace, Salcedo walked through the hallway of the assembly while they were announcing her name and her work as an activist for the LGBTQ Latino community. 

For Salcedo, to walk into the chambers has been a big achievement. In her speech, she said this was a significant moment, as she has been in the state senate with powerful people, but who are mostly heterosexual. She takes pride in being the only one representing the transgender Latino community.

Latino Spirit Awards
Salcedo with a few of the honorees. Photo Courtesy of Hilda Salcedo.

“To be one of the honorees has been bien bonito, just the fact that I have been selected is an honor,” Salcedo said. “It’s definitely an honor to be the first transgender woman to be part of these awards.” 

Salcedo was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the U.S. in search of the so-called “American Dream” when she was only 16 years old. 

Ever since then, Salcedo has experienced many difficulties in her life such as discrimination, hate and rejection, not only for being a Latina who didn’t speak English but also for being a member of the LGBTQ community. 

After being in jail and overcoming drug addictions, Salcedo was inspired by these life obstacles and decided to study and prepare herself to help those who are struggling, just the way she did years ago. Salcedo received her bachelor’s and master’s degree in Mexican and Latin Studies from California State University, Los Angeles, and developed the Center for Violence Prevention & Transgender Wellness, a space for transgender people in Los Angeles.

For years, Salcedo has worked to welcome the migrants, help the LGBTQ community with HIV, and help others who don’t have anyone in this country. Her wish is to give them a sense of family and community and the resources they might need. 

“When I see people with a broken soul, we give them little by little a sense of hope,” Salcedo said.

Salcedo is not only the President and the CEO of the TransLatin Coalition, but she has also helped and given a voice to many transgender Latinas in the whole country.  

These factors were the reasons for the Latino Senate to select Salcedo among other candidates. All the honorees must be Latinos who have worked and contributed to their fields, and must also show leadership and inspiration among the Latino community, just like Salcedo.

After receiving the news about being one of the eleven honorees of this year, Salcedo shared her excitement with both of her sisters, Karen Salcedo and Hilda Troncoso. Both had the opportunity to be at the Sacramento Capitol to support their sister on the day of the Latino Spirit Awards.  

Karen Salcedo feels proud of her sister, she knows how hard Salcedo has worked to protect the transgender Latin community, and knows that her sister is always thankful for having the opportunity to help others.  

“She is an amazing woman, and I don’t think there are more like her. She always helps from her heart,”  Karen Salcedo said. 

For Troncoso, her sister is an inspiration not only for being a hard worker but also because Salcedo supports others without expecting anything in return. She has witnessed her sister’s desire to help those who need help from someone in the same way she needed that help in the past.

“I’m very proud of her. Bamby has never expected any of those awards, she only likes to help others,” Troncoso said. “One of her goals is to train people to keep helping others for the day she’s not here anymore.”

Maria Louise Roman-Taylorson is a leader in social services for the transgender community and the vice president of the TransLatin@ Coalition. Roman has been friends with Salcedo for over 20 years. She said that she feels proud of her friend for becoming one of the honorees and for representing their community as a transgender Latina at the capitol. She could not miss such an important event in her friend’s life and accompanied Salcedo to the Latino Spirit Awards.

“I felt pride, I was so glad that an iconic person was one of the honorees,” Roman said. “I felt like a mom witnessing her child getting graduated. The leader, the activist, the woman, she’s my homegirl.”

Roman noticed that Salcedo was surrounded by artists and politicians and that her friend was distinguished among all of them for her altruistic work. She also described the moment of the awards ceremony when Salcedo was awarded as very emotional, and mentioned that this is a privilege that not everyone can experience.   

In the past 21 years of Latino Spirit Awards, all honorees have excelled in fields such as technology, journalism, media, literature, health and science, advocacy, business, education, human rights, arts, public service, entertainment and more, but never honored any transgender activist before. 

Salcedo hopes that this award she received could open the door for more transgender Latinos that also contribute to the LGBTQ community and have not been honored at the Latino Spirit Awards. 

“Having the privilege of being one of the honorees of the Latino Spirit Awards is a symbol of what is happening in the Latino community,” Salcedo said. “This shows the capabilities of our people, and I’m hoping that this opens opportunities for other trans and Latinx people to be the next honorees.”

Annais Garcia is a Mexican-American journalist. At CALÓ NEWS Garcia covers social justice, health, care, and education. She graduated from California State University, Dominguez Hills. Garcia was also...