Rudy Beserra, center, received the lifetime achievement award. He's flanked here by his successor at Coke, Peter Villegas, left, and GHCC President Santiago Marquez, right. Photo courtesy of GHCC.

A retired Coca-Cola Co. vice president for Latin American affairs took home the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s first-ever recognition for lifetime achievement at a packed awards gala June 2. 

Rudy Beserra was honored with the inaugural Sara J. Gonzalez Award, named for the late chamber president from 1996-2007, who died not too long after announcing her intent to retire a decade ago. 

Mr. Beserra, a standout member of many Hispanic advocacy organizations both locally and nationally, accepted the award from his successor at Coke, Peter Villegas, as well as Isabel Gonzalez-Whitaker, Ms. Gonzalez’s daughter. 

The honor was one of many bestowed at a 30-year anniversary celebration that drew upwards of 600 people to the Flourish event space in Buckhead. The event aimed to show how the chamber is deepening its statewide influence, both with Hispanic entrepreneurs and organizations and in the broader business community. 

Santiago Marquez, the chamber’s president, reflected in his remarks about its strides to improve collaboration with other Latin American groups in the metro area, including the Latin American Chamber of Commerce, the Latino Hispanic Fund, Ser Familia, GALEO and the Latin American Association.

The chamber has also engaged with local chambers in Gwinnett and Dekalb counties and launched a partnership with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. Chris Clark, the Georgia Chamber president and CEO, spoke at the awards dinner. 

The GHCC is also in the early stages of reviving its interest in the international business scene, with representatives last week alone attending local events on Peru and Argentina

That might have pleased Ms. Gonzalez, who during her tenure made it a point to launch country-focused chambers under the GHCC umbrella. Many have lain dormant, but some including an Argentine chamber are seeing newfound momentum. 

Other gala awardees included: 

  • Goya Foods, Hispanic Corporation of the Year Award

  • Ruben Cruz, Business Mind, Servant Heart Award

  • HoPE, Excellence in Education Award

  • Edguard Santos, Businessman of the Year

  • Tania Allen, Businesswoman of the Year

  • Alex Salguiero, Legacy Award

  • Alejandra Urrego, HYPE (young professionals) Award

  • Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs, GHCC Community Partner Award

  • City of Brookhaven,Welcoming City

  • Special Recognition, Precision 2000

  • Jeanette Perez Gayle, 40 Under 40

  • Cecilia Wilson and Alberto Sapoznik, GHCC ambassadors of the year

    Sponsors included: UPS, Delta Airlines, Aflac, American Family Insurance, Arby’s, Anasteel, Adhoc, Arris, AT&T, City of Brookhaven, Caduceus, Cape Environmental, Chick Fil-A, Cox Enterprises, Grady Health System, Goya and P2K.

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...