BANQUETE, Texas — Today kicks off Hispanic Heritage Month, which is celebrated from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15.
Over the next few weeks, we'll introduce you to several influential members of our local Hispanic community.
We start with Lionel Lopez, a long-time advocate for those who live in Nueces County's colonias.
"I've been doing this for a long, long time, helping the colonias communities," Lopez said.
It's been nearly 50 years.
Over that time, Lopez has made helping the colonias his mission.
But why does he help?
Because it runs in his family.
"My mom and dad, my brothers, they all helped the Hispanic community," said Lopez, a graduate of Carroll High School and Del Mar College.
He joined the Corpus Christi Fire Department, serving the community for more than 20 years.
It was as a firefighter that Lopez first saw the conditions in the colonias.
Conditions which haven't improved over the years.
"We still have colonias that don't have electricity, we still have colonias without septic tanks," he said.
Lopez, now 78 and retired, can usually be found in rural Nueces County helping in any way he can.
He often spends his own money to do so.
After nearly five decades, Lopez says he's lost count off just how many people he's helped.
"Thousands," he said. "Some are dead, some are old. But I love them all."
One constant, his wife of 55 years, Juanita, remains his biggest supporter.
"She never said no, or that I was spending too much money or too much time," Lopez said. "She never complained."
Lopez says he helps so that the people of the colonias can have a better life.
And how long does he plan to keep helping?
"As long as I can," he says. "As long as I can."