Hispanic heritage month.

Position:PORTFOLIO
 
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Stories by Staff of Latino Leaders Magazine

Yes, yes yes.

It's true that Hispanic Heritage Month may have begun as a government-pushed festivity, but the 30-day celebration has gone legit since President Lyndon B. Johnson approved it (starting out as a week).

For this Portfolio we are steering about from the corporate side and showcasing leaders who have defied the odds and made it when few thought they would, They all went off the beaten path and carne through.

There's Victor Cornejo, perhaps America's best hat designer; Benjamin Galaz, the modern father of the Sonoran Hot Dog; Linda Camacho, one of the few Latinas in the publishing industry and Claudia Sandoval, who is following a family tradition of cooking while competing in Fox's SuperchefTV series.

From different backgrounds and places, they all make us proud.

HAT TRICK

Photo by Jason Kindig

Victor Cornejo went from being a young prodigy hat designer for Stetson to a master hat brand manager of some of the most famous styles in the world.

HE DESIGNS Bruno Mars' Panamas, trilbys and fedoras.

Jorge Hernandez, the lead vocalist of Los Tigres del Norte, can't be seen without a cowboy hat created by Victor Cornejo. He also brings to production Carlos Santana's cool hat collection.

When it comes to hats, Cornejo could possibly be the best stylist in the world. As the head brand manager and designer of Milano Hats and Dorfman Pacific, he does everything from economical caps to high-end, sophisticated brands.

But as Cornejo walks past thousands of hats of all types, steaming machines and workers who press, buff and sew at the large factory in Garland, Texas, he reflects on the days in Ciudad Juarez, when he was too poor to even dream of shopping in El Paso. His father left his family when he was two and school tough kids constantly bullied him while growing up as a nerdy, skinny kid in the dangerous slums of the border town.

But as a teen, Cornejo won a Halloween costume contest for rich kids, using the money to pay for a good high school and later, college. He earned a scholarship to a Florida school, where a newspaper story on one of his designs for a Disney company caught the attention of a Stetson executive, who saw something in the young man.

Back then, Stetson, the venerable hat brand known for its classic Western hats and fedoras, was going through some trying times and the company thought that some fresh ideas were needed. Under the tutelage of Gary Rosenthal, a legend in the hat...

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