November 17, 2021
Luis Martínez-Fernández poses with his Don Quijote Award finalist statue alongside fellow finalist Cyndia Muniz

Professor of history Luis Martínez-Fernández is a finalist for a 2021 Don Quijote Excellence Award, an honor that recognizes visionary, courageous Central Floridians who have taken risks to achieve their goals and improve their community.

Conceived in 1997 by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando and Prospera, the Don Quijote Awards have honored 140 individuals to date for their contributions as community leaders, business owners and outstanding professionals. Finalists are celebrated for exhibiting the qualities of the classic literary character of Don Quijote: a visionary, courageous dreamer.

“The true great honors are serving our students, our community, and the historical profession,” said Martínez-Fernández about his nomination. “This nomination represents those greater honors.”

Martínez-Fernández has taught at UCF since 2004 and was named a Pegasus Professor in 2021 — the university’s highest faculty honor. He is recognized as one of the most prolific and influential scholars in the field of Caribbean history and has published six books, among them: Fighting Slavery in the Caribbean, Revolutionary Cuba: A History and Key to the New World: A History of Early Colonial Cuba.

Beyond UCF, he works with teachers in K-12 schools to help improve the education of all students, with special attention to students from underserved communities. He served as trustee of the College Board and currently serves on the board of the National Council for History Education, the International Advisory Board of United Planet, and the boards of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and Orlando’s Alianza Center.

In 2005, he founded the annual Latin American Culture Festival of Orlando. More recently, he became a nationally syndicated columnist — a role that enables him to use his platform to discuss complex social and cultural issues and give a voice to America’s Latino community

“My perspective in academia has been marked by my background as an immigrant,” he told UCF Today earlier this year. “There is something we call immigrant’s work ethic and not taking anything for granted. We know we have to work hard to excel.”

Martínez-Fernández is one of three finalists for the Excellence Award. Other award categories include Professional of the Year, Hispanic Community Champion and Lifetime Achievement. All of the winners will be announced at the 24th Annual Don Quijote Awards Gala on December 11 at Epcot’s World ShowPlace Pavilion.

Click here to learn more about the Don Quijote Awards.