The Andrés y María Cárdenas Family Foundation (AMCFF) will host its fifth annual fundraising event, LA Tequila Festival, on Sept. 9 at the Los Angeles Center Studios, where attendees will be able to taste and enjoy more than 75 tequila brands. But more than enjoying libations, the annual tequila event is organized to continue its efforts in supporting Latino and first-generation students to pursue their dreams. 

AMCFF is a non-profit organization that seeks to provide educational resources and college scholarships for high school students in the Northeast San Fernando Valley.

About 50 years ago, Andrés and María Cárdenas, a married couple in Mexico, left their home in Jalisco for California. Andrés was a farm worker. He formerly worked in the fields picking crops near Stockton. After becoming a laborer, he launched his gardening business while caring for his 11 kids in Pacoima. Andrés and María Cárdenas continuously supported their children and encouraged them to achieve a higher education, where they later became community members. 

In 1997, the children of Andrés and María Cárdenas created the foundation to honor their parents’ legacy and values. “For over 25 years, the Foundation has supported students’ educational goals, giving almost $1.5 million in support to over 1,400 students,” according to the foundation’s website.

One of those students is Erik Andrade, a mechatronic engineering student at California State University, Chico (CSUC). Mechatronic engineering focuses on a combination of mechanical, computer, and electrical systems. At some point, Andrade heard about AMCFF’s scholarship from a high school mentor. Andrade said that the history of the Cárdenas Family resonated with him since his family are immigrants, too. 

Erik Andrade and his parents during his graduation in 2022

“The history was cool, learning about the Cárdenas Family, their actions, and how they established themselves,” Erick Andrade said. “Also, their values, since I come from immigrant parents, where my dad was the only one working.” 

In April 2021, Andrade was awarded the AMCFF scholarship and was able to pursue his college career at CSCU in engineering. 

“With the scholarship, I was able to pay for some of the materials for school, including a laptop for my major,” Andrade said. “Because we needed a laptop that needed a certain amount of memory, and that was a relief because I had a really old-school laptop.”

Over the past 27 years, the AMCFF organization has offered annual academic scholarships via donations from community members and sponsors like Walmart, Pepsi, Altamed and Westfield. Today, the LA Tequila Fest has become a rich source of funding, said Brian De La Rosa, who founded the festival in 2018. In 2022, the festival raised more than $600,000; their goal is to raise $1 million this year.

De La Rosa owns and operates DLR Planning and DLR Contractors, a woman-based construction and project management firm, and is also a board member of the AMCFF. De La Rosa has been a part of the board since 2008, when he married Vanessa De La Rosa, a member of the Cárdenas family, and has served as the Board President since 2017.

LA Tequila Fest 2022

Under his leadership, he established LA Tequila Fest as their primary fundraising event. Before the tequila festival, the foundation hosted the Andres y Maria Cardenas Family Foundation Community Breakfast, their signature fundraising event since 1997. It would generate around $200,000 in funds until they discontinued the event. 

“In 2017, we needed a new event that was more fresh and had more energy, Brian De La Rosa said. ”So, with my guidance and drive, I wanted the board to develop a new event that allowed us to expand the foundation’s brand and get exposure to people who don’t know the foundation.” 

He said in 2017, the foundation hosted a tequila-tasting event, which many sponsors and board members attended. De La Rosa said many of their attendees asked the organization when the next tequila-tasting event would be. 

“That night, I did a quick search of ‘LA Tequila Fest,’ and the website was available, the social media account was available, and I was like, “We’re doing it,” De La Rosa said.  

AMCFF has continued to host their LA Tequila Fest for the past five years. De La Rosa said that he personally enjoys organizing and hosting the Tequila Fest because it supports Latinx students and smaller tequila brands like Don Rico Tequilla, Casa Mate Organic Tequilla, and Lalo Tequilla. 

Brian De La Rosa speaking at LA Tequila Fest

“It’s an interesting tie-in with the tequila and Moscow we have,” De La Rosa said.“ Similar to our scholars and the community we support, they’re underdogs. They have adversity and challenges, and we help support and elevate them.”

Andrade said that the LA Tequila Fest is a great way to get outside sources to help and support financially struggling students and that a tequila festival dedicated to supporting lower-income students seeking higher education financially is “unorthodox, but very cool.”

The LA Tequila Fest will be held on Sept. 9, 2023, from 1:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the LA Center Studios at 450 South Bixel St., Los Angeles, CA 90017. For additional information, readers can visit LA Tequila

Edgar Ramirez Jr. is a freelance writer for Calo News. He grew up in the Los Angeles area and studied journalism at California State University, Dominguez Hills. His reporting interest includes social...