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Meet the Board

Founded in 1986, the Society of Hispanic Historical and Ancestral Research (SHHAR) has grown into a nationally and internationally recognized organization, thanks to committed leadership. Its first President, Raul Guerra, laid the groundwork, followed by Mimi Lozano, whose dedication propelled SHHAR to new heights. Under Lozano's guidance until her resignation in January 2013, SHHAR reached a status that continues to resonate across the globe. Our team, rich in expertise and united by a shared passion for history and ancestry, continues to build on this legacy, uncovering and preserving Hispanic heritage. Explore our members' contributions to discover the essence of a society deeply committed to genealogical research and cultural exploration.

Sindy Valdez

Sindy Valdez, the President of the Society of Hispanic Historical & Ancestral Research (SHHAR), is a fervent advocate for Hispanic genealogy. Her personal journey tracing her family's roots spans over 500 years, reaching back to Mexico, Spain, and Portugal. This passion has not only enriched her understanding of her own heritage but also led her to assist others on similar paths.

Sindy's expertise extends to the media, where she contributed research to the TV show "Finding Your Roots." Her commitment to helping others discover their familial connections has resulted in countless individuals tracing their families' histories.

In addition to her work with SHHAR, Sindy is also actively involved with, where she continues to make a lasting impact in the world of genealogy. Her dedication to uncovering the past, combined with her ability to help others do the same, underscores a career marked by curiosity, empathy, and significant contributions to the field of genealogy.

Letty Rodella

Letty Rodella, a retired educator with 42 years of experience, found her love for genealogy 21 years ago upon retirement. A graduate of the University of Texas at El Paso with a Master's from Cal State Fullerton, she has traced her ancestry to pioneers of the early 1500s in West Texas and New Mexico. An engaging speaker, Letty has lectured at genealogical and historical meetings across California and Arizona. Now serving as a board member of the Society of Hispanic Historical & Ancestral Research (SHHAR), her blend of educational insight and genealogical passion makes her a significant contributor to both fields.

Maria Tello

Maria Tello

Maria Tello, AG, is the secretary at the Society of Hispanic Historical and Ancestral Research (SHHAR) and an Accredited Genealogist with a specialization in Spanish-language areas, including accreditation for research in Mexico. With 46 years in genealogy, she has volunteered in a Family History Center for 25 years and worked professionally at ProGenealogists, contributing to projects for "Who Do You Think You Are?" and "Finding Your Roots." A seasoned presenter in both English and Spanish at RootsTech and various international and stateside groups, Maria's extensive expertise and dedication make her a vital asset to SHHAR and the broader genealogy community.

John P. Schmal

John P. Schmal is a distinguished historian, genealogist, and lecturer based in Los Angeles, California. After earning dual BA degrees in Geography, History, and Earth Sciences from Loyola-Marymount University and St. Cloud State University, John focused his expertise on the Indigenous history and genealogical research of several Mexican states, including Chihuahua, Nayarit, Zacatecas, Jalisco, and Guanajuato.

An accomplished author, he has penned influential books like "Mexican-American Genealogical Research: Following the Paper Trail to Mexico" (2002) and "The Journey to Latino Political Representation" (2007).

In addition to his writings, John is the author of, where he publishes informative articles and insights on Indigenous Mexican heritage. His contributions to the field have established him as an authoritative voice, connecting the past with the present and enriching our understanding of Mexican cultural history.

Sonia Palacio

Sonia Palacio is the conscientious treasurer of the Society of Hispanic Historical and Ancestral Research (SHHAR). In her role, she brings an unwavering commitment to accuracy, always ensuring that every detail is accounted for. Her exceptional organizational skills extend beyond mere numbers; she is known for her great ability in assisting and coordinating within the organization.

As a person deeply devoted to the mission of SHHAR, Sonia's role is not only confined to handling financial matters but also in building and sustaining relationships within the community. Her attentive nature and readiness to help others make her an invaluable asset to the organization.

Sonia's work at SHHAR is more than just a position; it is a reflection of her broader commitment to promoting and preserving Hispanic history and culture. Her diligence and efficiency, combined with a warm and engaging personality, not only make her a key player in SHHAR's success but also a beloved figure among her colleagues and peers.

Refugio Sanchez

Refugio Sanchez, born in East Chicago in 1939, spent his early years in various Mexican states, including Jalisco, Michoacán, and Zacatecas, before his family legally immigrated back to California in 1952. He completed his education in Orange County, graduating from Santa Ana High School.

In 1962, Refugio joined the California Army National Guard, serving for four years. He then built a career at the Orange Unified School District, working his way up to an electrician position before retiring in 2000.

An active and engaged individual, Refugio continues to maintain his home and yard, enjoying a fulfilling retirement alongside his wife, Mary. Both are devoted members of the Holy Family Cathedral, reflecting a life marked by service, hard work, and community commitment.

Irene Foster

Irene Foster is an experienced archeologist and Anthropology Instructor at Cypress College, specializing in Cultural Anthropology and Archaeology. Along with BA & MA degrees in Anthropology from California State University, Fullerton, and an Associate of Arts degree in Geology/Earth Science, Irene's academic achievements are complemented by her role as a Board Member of the Society of Hispanic Historical and Ancestral Research (SHHAR). Beyond teaching, she's engaged in independent research and led a significant research expedition to Salt Lake City, Utah, in collaboration with the Mormon Temple of the Latter Day Saints. Her dedication to archaeology and her contributions to Hispanic historical research make her a respected figure in her field.

Michael Vega

Michael Vega is a dynamic and creative media professional hailing from San Fernando, CA, with a passion for leading others towards a better world. As the Outreach Coordinator at the City of Fort Worth, he leverages his communication skills to engage with the community and foster positive relationships.

Beyond his professional life, Michael is an optimist who embraces life to the fullest. His love for the outdoors, hiking, and photography mirrors his adventurous spirit and commitment to personal growth.

As a board member with the Society of Hispanic Historical and Ancestral Research (SHHAR), Michael contributes his talents to a cause aligned with his values. His eclectic blend of creativity, leadership, and zest for life makes him not only a valuable asset in his professional roles but also a vibrant presence in his community.

Don Garcia

Don Garcia, a prominent member of the Society of Hispanic Historical and Ancestral Research (SHHAR) and lifetime member of the Orange County California Genealogical Society (OCCGS), has dedicated the last 7 years as a family history consultant at the Orange County Family Search Library. Before this, he enjoyed a 42-year career at Boeing Co., working in various roles until his retirement in 2006. Don's passion for genealogy and his commitment to helping others trace their heritage make him an invaluable asset to the genealogical community in Orange County and beyond.