Jacqueline Martinez Garcel Honored at Variety’s Power of Women Event With Google Social Impact Award

For Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, leaving her home in Washington Heights in 2015 to lead the California-based Latino Community Foundation  as its CEO was a considerable leap of faith. 

“I left a very comfortable job in New York to come lead an organization that barely had any money in the bank, had four staff members and had really struggled to keep the doors open,” Martinez Garcel says. “It was heartbreaking to know that California had 15 million Latino residents contributing to the state’s economy, all without a foundation to lean on.”

The opportunity to spearhead tangible action toward stimulating economic power for Latinos across California has yielded recognition in the form of Google’s Social Impact Award, which she will receive at Variety’s 2022 Power of Women event Sept. 28. 

LCF focuses on building civic, political and economic power for Latinos in California through funds, grants and awareness campaigns. Martinez Garcel says that, since she joined it in 2015, her work has helped raise more than $70 million in funds that have been invested back into resources for Latino grassroots organizations.

Martinez Garcel traces her line of work today to her earliest memories of growing up in New York City, where she lost her older sister at an early age. 

She learned the value and power of community then, when neighbors wrapped their arms around her family, helping them to find jobs and places to stay during a difficult time. 

“I learned what it means to be a community resident, what it means to be a neighbor, what it means to extend your family to your entire neighborhood,” Martinez Garcel says. 

“My mom worked with other moms in the same building to help take care of each other’s kids — they helped clean up parks and showed up in town hall meetings. That influenced me to choose a career where I could help others,” she adds.

Martinez Garcel recalls a particular situation where she was able to see her work actually affect lives. 

In 2017, her meeting with Jacob Martinez, the founder and CEO of Digital Nest, in Watsonville, Calif., led to a technology-workforce development hub. 

The hub was included in LCF’s inaugural Latino Nonprofit Accelerator, a 16-month incubator that gives Latino-led companies a chance to meet donors and provides them with resources. “Less than 1.1% of all philanthropic dollars are invested into Latino-led organizations,” she says. “That’s what we’re trying to change.”

Years later, Digital Nest has been able to expand beyond its Watsonville home base into multiple locations in Stockton and Salinas, with plans to expand into San Jose. “Martinez showed that kids from Watsonville don’t have to go to Silicon Valley to get a good job,” Martinez Garcel says.

“Under Jacqueline’s leadership, LCF has risen to new heights, strengthening the Latino-led and Latino-serving nonprofit ecosystem across the state, and providing critical support to Latino entrepreneurs,” says Hector Mujica, head of economic opportunity at Google.org. “We’re proud to stand in solidarity with Jacqueline and honor her with this award.”

Looking ahead, Martinez Garcel says tapping into the collective power that communities possess can provide a better outlook for the future of the country. “I want the United States to live up to the ideals for which it stands,” she says. “When we put ourselves in leadership positions that we are invested in, we can make those differences.”