Texas Border Business
By Amanda L. Alaniz
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – UTRGV alumna and San Antonio native Victoria Gonzalez is more than ready for the responsibilities of being crowned Miss Fiesta San Antonio 2019.
Miss Fiesta San Antonio serves as one of nine official kings and queens who reign over the annual Fiesta San Antonio celebration in April. As Miss Fiesta, Gonzalez will work to execute her citywide community service project and attend events as an ambassador, raising awareness of the Fiesta San Antonio Foundation.
“I was surprised,” she said of the win. “I was so humbled that people really believed in me and my project. And that so many people were willing to support it, because it really does involve the entire community.”
Gonzalez, who graduated magna cum laude from UTRGV in May 2018 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology, said she wants a career in the health field.
“I always knew that I wanted to study medicine because that’s what I love to learn about,” she said. “At UTRGV, I was exposed to a lot of different professions and paths I wasn’t exposed to before. I was able to look at research, biomedical research and health professions.”
During her undergraduate studies, Gonzalez was a Greater Texas Foundation scholar and a sister of the Delta Zeta sorority. She took part in events on campus and in the Valley community, volunteering at Edinburg Children’s Hospital.
For Gonzalez, coming to the Rio Grande Valley was a bit of a culture shock, until she became immersed in the university and the community. Her family supported her decision to enroll at UTRGV, which she chose because the university offered what she needed to accomplish her goals.
One of her treasured accomplishments at UTRGV was conducting biomedical research as part of the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Program at UT San Antonio. The program selects three students from UT undergraduate campuses and gives them the resources they need to partake in research opportunities.
Gonzalez’s research project – “Virulence as a target in candida albicans: in vitro characterization of a small molecule analogue” – focused on identifying a drug to prevent the spread of candidiasis, an infectious fungal disease that can cause thrush and yeast infections.
“You work under some of the best professors and doctors in the field. My project was in the biomedical field and focused on finding the basis of a cure for this infectious disease,” she said. “You work in the lab every day for the entire summer, and you get to formulate your own project.”
Gonzalez was able to present the project at multiple conferences, including the UTRGV School of Medicine Inaugural Research Symposium, and for the UTRGV College of Sciences.
The work led her to see the true connection between health and the community, she said.
After graduation, she returned to her home town and decided to begin the application process for Miss Fiesta San Antonio. She said she entered because of what the title represented for her and for the inspiration it could give.
“What I really want to do with this title is be present in the community,” she said. “I think about all the little girls in our communities and how they’ve never seen someone in this position that looks like them or that’s from the same part of town as them.
“I want them to see someone in that role, hear someone who’s gone to college, who can tell them, ‘Yes, you can do it,’” she said.
Her family is her foundation, she said, and why she is where she is today. Like everyone, they have faced struggles and obstacles.
But now, the newly crowned ambassador finds herself an advocate for giving back to the community that helped raise her, and she encourages others to do the same.
Her community project will be implemented this year, focused on connecting middle school students in underprivileged areas in San Antonio with essential hygiene items packaged in a kit called “Boost Box.”
“All of that struggle turned into sacrifice, and now it has turned into opportunity,” she said. “I think that’s really where the heart of the community project, and the Miss Fiesta role, comes from.”