María López De León, President and CEOMaria López De León

President, CEO and NALAC Board Member

María López De León is the President, CEO and board member of the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC). In 2013, President Obama appointed Ms. De León to the National Council on the Arts. In 2012 and 2013, she was named among the nation’s Fifty Most Powerful and Influential People in the Nonprofit Arts. She serves on multiple arts and culture policy panels and is an advocate for arts and cultural equity. She serves on the board of the First Peoples Fund, the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and the Performing Arts Alliance.

Jennifer Guel

Chief Financial Officer

Jennifer Guel is the Chief Financial Officer for NALAC. She has over 10 years of experience with nonprofit accounting and auditing. She graduated with her Master of Science in Management Information Systems and Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting after completing the Professional Program in Accounting from Texas A&M University.  When away from the office, she enjoys spending time with her family and traveling to new and familiar destinations.

Frances Guajardo, Accounting ManagerFrances Guajardo

Accounting Manager

Frances Guajardo is the Accounting Manager of NALAC and has over 24 years of nonprofit experience working with community based organizations across the state. Ms. Guajardo joined NALAC in 2009 and worked closely on the implementation of upgrades to the Buena Vista Gardens building. She studied Nonprofit Management at University of Texas San Antonio. She actively volunteers in the San Antonio community.

Mari Hernandez Program Manager, Leadership Institutes & ConveningsMari Hernandez

Program Manager, Leadership Institutes & Convenings

Mari Hernandez is an Arts Administrator and Artist with nearly 20 years of experience in the nonprofit arts and leadership sector. She earned her BA in English from The University of Texas at San Antonio. She most recently served as the Education Manager for Blue Star Contemporary (BSC) where she provided strategic oversight for BSC’s education department. Prior to BSC, Hernandez was the Program Manager at San Anto Cultural Arts. She is a recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation Emerging Artist Grant and The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) Fund for the Arts Grant and has shown her work locally, nationally, and internationally. She is an alumna of NALAC’s Leadership Institute and Advocacy Leadership Institute. As a community servant, educator, and artist with skills in critical and creative writing, Hernandez has substantial knowledge in developing, facilitating, and managing programs and outreach.

Luis M. Garza, Database and Digital Media SpecialistLuis M. Garza

Manager of Technology and Innovation

Luis M. Garza is the Manager of Technology and Innovation for NALAC and is an alumnus of the NALAC Leadership and Advocacy Institutes.  He is an artist and owner of LMG Photography and Art. Prior to joining NALAC Luis worked with Jowdy Photography for over eight years, contracting with associations, conventions and corporate events throughout the U.S. and abroad. His experiences have encompassed many facets of the photography business. ranging from fine art photography, video and photo documentation, studio photography, large format print, and digital photo editing. His core competencies include computer networking and administration to digital content management including graphic design, web design and print output.  He continues to produce and exhibit work in San Antonio, TX while collaborating with other artists in and around San Antonio to document their artworks, exhibitions, and events.

Penny Rodriguez Communications CoordinatorPenny Rodriguez

Communications Coordinator

Penny Marie Rodriguez is the Communications Coordinator for NALAC. A Texas native, Penny obtained her Bachelor of Science Degree in Public Relations and Mass Communication from Texas State University. Prior to working at NALAC, she served as the Marketing and Communications contact for the City of Austin, Cultural Arts Division lending key support to marketing, strategic messaging, and community engagement for multiple Cultural Arts programs. She hopes to continue the work of amplifying opportunities and resources for education, advocacy and preservation of creative communities and cultural arts.

Lucha Lopez, Operations ManagerLucha López

Operations Manager

Lucha Lopéz is the Operations Manager of NALAC. As a multi-ethnic native Texan, Lucha is guided by social, political, and economic equity. She brings over 16 years of diverse, grassroots non-profit experience. Lucha studied liberal arts locally and joined NALAC in 2017. Lucha retains her culture by practicing many forms of native ceremonial traditions including Aztec and Chichimeca song and dance along with American Indian singing and drumming. She also maintains an active lifestyle which includes yoga, pilates, meditation, and lifting weights.

Lucila Lagace

Manager of Research

Lucila Lagace is the Manager of Research for NALAC. She brings over thirty years of experience to the nonprofit community and has spent her career as a leader of nonprofit and governmental organizations across the U.S. and Central America. She is known throughout Texas as “The Nonprofit Girl” based on her passion for nonprofit management and leadership. She founded the Lagace Consulting LLC, served on the board of the Texas Association of Nonprofit Organizations (TANO), and was one of eight Texans selected to serve on the Taskforce on Improving Relations with Nonprofits. She holds a BA in Spanish Literature from the University of Texas at Austin and attended the Spanish Graduate Program in Literature and Cultural Studies at Texas Tech University. Born in Texas as a first-generation American, Ms. Lagace was raised both in Mexico and the United States. In 2019 she survived a severe spinal cord injury and now views joy as the heartbeat of life.  She currently lives in the Rio Grande Valley where she enjoys writing creative non-fiction.

Karla Aguilar

Development Director

Karla Lorena Aguilar is the Development Director for NALAC. She has worked to foster social transformation through cultural arts and social justice organizations for two decades. For the last 20 years, she has been a practitioner of Nahua-Tolteka Indigenous traditions from Central Mexico and her homeland, El Salvador. She’s also an adopted member of the Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation since 2017 in the Auteca Paguame clan of families. As the Development Director of American Indians in Texas (AIT) at the Spanish Colonial Missions, Karla’s cultural preservation and community development strategy co-generated resources for AIT’s restorative programs and services including interrupting the pipeline to prison for youth and families, and applying healing programs that strengthen families by preserving traditional Native American/Indigenous values, while implementing innovative cultural organizing strategies at the grassroots level. Now, the opportunity to serve in the Development Director capacity at NALAC offers the wherewithal to bring increased resources to advance the mission of this iconic organization that influenced Karla early in her professional career.

Jody Sarkozy-Banoczy, Development AssociateJody Sarkozy-Banoczy

Development Associate

Jody Sarkozy-Banoczy is an independent grant-writing consultant based in the Washington D.C. area. Her expertise lies in the arts and Native community development field. She has 15 years of experience and success writing grants to several foundations and federal agencies including the CDFI Fund, Administration for Native Americans, USDA, HUD and others. She is the former director of development for First Nations Oweesta Corporation and her work supports organizations focused on Native artist entrepreneurship, small business development, youth, leadership and affordable housing.

Anna Laflin, Development AssociateAnna Laflin

Development Grants Manager

Anna Laflin is an artist from Houston, Texas who recently graduated in May 2019 from Trinity University with a Bachelor of Science degree in both Studio Art and Business Administrative  Marketing. Currently, Anna is the Development Grants Manager at the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture (NALAC) and the Director of Attendee Experience for TEDx Trinity University; a student-run organization dedicated to fostering creation and change by giving students, faculty, and alumni the opportunity and forum to share their ideas and learn from others. Prior to working at NALAC, she worked at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. As a multi-ethnic artist, Anna is passionate about breaking the glass ceiling in the business and art world for minorities and hopes to one day create a community for people of color to come together to discuss ideas and express themselves through the fine arts.

Armani Martinez

Technology & Digital Media Specialist

Armani Lauren Martinez(she/they) is the Technology & Digital Media Specialist at NALAC. She is a fronteriza and technologista from Brownsville, Texas. Armani is driven to using digital media and technology as a tool for social change. With over 5 years of experience, her expertise lies in computer networking, administration, and technical support. Her mantra is “The inspiration you seek is already within you.” Outside of work, she enjoys staying active in her community and spending time with her husband and their dog Margot.

José A. Castillo

Program Associate

José A. Castillo is a musician, arts advocate, and social activist raised in San Antonio, TX, and Monterrey, Mexico. Prior to joining NALAC, he interned with arts administrations such as Mexic-Arte Museum, Ballet Austin, Austin Music Foundation, and the Corpus Christi Symphony Orchestra in a wide range of capacities such as development, youth programs, and digital marketing. Alongside his administrative work, Castillo is an active composer and educator in a variety of styles. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music Composition and Business minor from the University of Texas at Austin where he routinely performed with university orchestras, jazz ensembles and combos, and the student-led Volunteer Chamber Orchestra which he also co-directed. Castillo’s musical output ranges from pieces for electronic media to chamber music to international mariachi collaborations. Most recently, Castillo has completed a solo harp commission for the Butler School Collage Series which is set to premiere in Spring 2020.”

Alyssa Pineda Program AssociateAlyssa Pineda

Program Associate

Alyssa Pineda is a Program Associate at NALAC. Born and raised in San Antonio, she obtained her Bachelor of Arts Degree of Criminal Justice from The University of Texas in SA. Prior to working at NALAC, Alyssa brings her field experience in Theater Management and Festival Coordination from her time at The Majestic & Charline McCombs Empire Theatre, SXSW and Sundance Film Festival. Alyssa hopes to continue her education of the arts through advocacy and community. She is passionate about environmentalism, breaking generational trauma and barriers, as well as carving out safe accessible spaces to not only explore creativity but to encourage curiosity of expression through art.  

River Kiefer

Grants Intern

Growing up on a small border town farm, River Kiefer found a passion for expressing herself through visual and dramatic arts. After moving to the city and studying for four years at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, she obtained her Bachelor’s degree in English and English Language Arts, with a minor in Expressive Arts. River enjoys participating in local theater productions, creating unique self-portraits, and singing loudly in her car. Her passions include learning more about the world, connecting with people of diverse backgrounds, and being of service to others.

Estela RodriguezEsthela Rodriguez

Facilities Associate