As this year’s Rey Feo, the 73rd in an august line of Fiesta royalty, Augustin “Augie” Cortez Jr. brings a sense of salt-of-the-earth rooting to the role.
“I just wanted to go more earthy, I wanted to be more of an earthy-toned Rey Feo this year,” he said, pointing to the polished mineral stones in his crown, where normally there might be faceted gemstones. and a strip of fur where normally there would be gold lamé.
Not only did a less flashy approach to playing the “ugly king” fit his personality, but for Cortez, a more down-to-earth attitude was better suited to the pandemic era, with its many sacrifices and deprivations.
He began his reign with appropriately reduced expectations about the amount of money he and his court could raise for the annual Rey Feo scholarship campaign. the Rey Feo Scholarship Foundation the funds benefit San Antonio-area high school students attending college with annual payments of $2,000 to help cover many higher education expenses.
But the same work ethic that has contributed to the success of the restaurants that Cortez owns with his wife Sandra — Augie’s Barbed Wire Smokehouse on North St. Mary’s Street and the new Augie’s Alamo City BBQ Steakhouse on Broadway — helped Rey Feo’s court raise more than $300,000 and count toward the scholarship fund.
Along with members of their yard, the couple visited more than 80 area schools to spread Cortez’s message, “empower your mind and always be kind,” to impress on students the importance of staying in school.
“I let them know in my speeches that it’s our most important factor with Fiesta, we’re the ones doing it,” Cortez said. “Yes, we have fun during the Fiesta, we are all over town and we eat and drink and all this and that,” he said, but the reward for him and his courtiers will be to meet the students and the parents. in good time. Scholarships.
One of these recipients was Tommy Calvert Jr.who graduated from Tufts University near Boston and became Bexar County Commissioner for Precinct 4, the first African American on the Court of Commissioners.
Calvert said that while the Rey Feo scholarship helped with practical things like books and shower curtains for his dorm, it also helped foster a commitment to give back to the community that supported him.
“For a lot of young people…this may be the very first time they’ve had a community organization invest in them,” he said. “And so there’s a seed planted there about coming back one day…and helping to open that door and that scholarship available to those who come behind.” I think a lot of fellows have done that.
Calvert is now the first African American to serve on Rey Feo’s court and said he appreciates the opportunity to give back by helping raise funds for other students. Proudly wearing his court uniform during a meeting of the Court of Commissioners on Tuesday morning, Calvert delivered the official proclamation recognizing Cortez as Rey Feo LXXIII.
Give back to the community
Upon receiving the proclamation, Cortez emphasized his message to the students of San Antonio. “We believe that every student has a special gift, and if they’re smart in the classroom, if they’re smart at heart, they’ll be better citizens in the future of our great city.
Another among the 7,000 scholarship recipients to date is Adriana Rocha Garciathe first in her family to attend college, and now a councilor for District 4. Her Rey Feo scholarship helped her buy books for her classes at the University of the Incarnate Word.
“I had sticker shock when I saw how expensive college books were,” she said. “For kids like me, you really need these scholarships to help with books” and other unforeseen expenses at the start of their college quests.
Rocha Garcia had been in awe of the grandeur of the Rey Feo court ever since she attended Fiesta events as a young girl, but winning the scholarship brought home the importance of the organization and its role. of “king of the people”.
The scholarship recognizes the importance of education and that “not everyone has the same access,” she said. “None of these organizations knew who I was. They didn’t know if I was going to join the civil service. They just wanted to give back to their communities.
Now, said Rocha Garcia, she is able to do the same. “I give back to my community as much as I can by being a mentor, pushing education, pushing job skills and training to develop people, because people believed in me. They didn’t know me and they gave me a chance. And I think it’s my turn to pay him back. That’s what Rey Feo did for me.