07/24/2014 06:46 pm ET Updated Jul 24, 2014

Eva Longoria Tells America Latino Doesn't Mean Immigrant

Carolina Moreno/The Huffington Post

LOS ANGELES -- Eva Longoria has a message for America.

The actress, honored for activism at the National Council of La Raza’s Awards Gala at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Tuesday night, explained during her acceptance speech why she's been hosting and executive producing the group’s ALMA Awards for the past seven years.

NCLR, the country’s largest Hispanic advocacy organization, gave Longoria the Raul Yzaguirre President’s Award. The group's president, Janet Murguía, said the star deserved the recognition for using “her platform to advocate for issues of concern for our community.”

Longoria has helped Latinas gain access to education and become entrepreneurs through her foundation, according to a video that introduced honorees. After ABC stopped broadcasting the awards gala in 2009, the actress was key to reviving the ceremony on MSNBC.

“I remember when we first started, having to explain to ABC who Pitbull was -- us going, ‘He has the Number One song in the nation!’ and they were saying, ‘In Spanish-language?’ We go, ‘No, in the nation!,'” Longoria said in her acceptance speech.

The ALMA Awards, she added, are not just a glamorous evening with big names, but a moment to highlight the contributions Hispanics make to American culture.

“It is an opportunity for us to shape the narrative of how this country defines us and how we recognize the contributions that Latino artists make to American pop culture,” Longoria continued. “And it’s an opportunity for people to see we are not just what you see on the news and for people to know that we’re just not synonymous with the word ‘immigrant.’ We’re not synonymous with ‘drug cartel.’ We’re not synonymous with 'not from here.’ We are so much more.”

Los Angeles Supervisor Gloria Molina, activist Angelica Salas, journalist Jose Diaz-Balart, and former baseball star Manny Mota also were honored on the final night of the NCLR’s annual conference.

Longoria closed by recalling her childhood growing up near the Texas-Mexico border and reflected on the current child immigration crisis.

“Little is being done to understand who these children are, where they’re coming from, what they’re facing,” Longoria said. “They had the bad luck to be born in poor, violent countries in Central America. These children are running for their lives and they believe that the United States will protect them. And ‘will we?’ is the question, and I don’t know.”



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