TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Tampa Hispanic Heritage Inc. has named Catalina Botero Lovett as Tampa Bay’s 2023 Hispanic Woman of the Year.

Botero Lovett’s passion for giving back and commitment to representation is why she was presented with such a high honor.

Lovett has been giving back to the Tampa community for more than 20 years, but her story began in Medellín, Columbia.

“We moved to the United States in 1994, that was a couple of years after they killed the biggest drug lord in Colombia,” Botero Lovett said. “My mom made the decision to move to the United States. This time it wasn’t to visit mickey or a Christmas vacation, this time we called Miami home.”

Catalina Botero Lovett, 2023 Hispanic Woman of the Year.

With everything going on in Colombia at that time, Botero Lovett said her mother felt like it was best to move their family to the United States in order for them to fulfill their dreams.

“When I look at what is happening in our country right now, I understand those immigrants from Ukraine, from Israel, everything that’s happening just touches my heart because all of the violence continues to happen. We were one of those migrant families who had to pick up, put everything in a backpack and start a new life.”

Botero Lovett said her American dream was to be a professional.

“It was making sure that I was a professional so that at the time I made the decision to be whatever I wanted to be, I could,” she said.

Shortly after immigrating, Botero Lovett attended the University of Florida. There, she found a Hispanic organization that made her feel seen and at home.

“I didn’t know about scholarships, barely knew English, I didn’t know how to maneuver the system,” Botero Lovett said. “When I got in there I found this Hispanic Student Association and it was a place of belonging. I saw it and understood there’s a place where we belong and are represented.”

After graduating and after moving to Tampa, Botero Lovett found the Hispanic Professional Women’s Association.

Catalina Botero Lovett with her mentees from USF.

“This is a place where ladies and gentlemen do everything they can to raise funds for females to continue their education,” she said.

It has also fueled her passion for being involved in USF’s Latin Community Advisory Council, which is where she works to ensure Hispanic culture is not only represented, but also treated fairly on campus. Botero Lovett is currently an Account Executive for Spectrum Reach. For more than 20 years, she said she has worked to make sure all communities are included and represented within that media company.

Catalina Botero Lovett with Dr. Ray Ortiz, Hispanic Woman and Man of 2023.

For the last 20 years, Botero Lovett has attended the Tampa Hispanic Heritage Gala. This year, she will not be in the audience, instead she will be at the podium delivering an acceptance speech as this year’s Hispanic Woman of the Year.

“This is such an honor,” she said. “I want to be a voice to our community. I want to make sure the mentees and the youth, the immigrants coming in. To give them a beacon of light. To give them hope. To know that we’re going through this journey and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Botero Lovett will be honored at the gala October 27 alongside Tampa’s 2023 Hispanic Man of the Year, Dr. Ray Ortiz.