$141 million Lotto winners from San Jose still active in philanthropy years later

News + Events

Long before they made headlines after winning a $141 million California lottery jackpot in 2001, Alcario and Carmen Castellano were stalwart supporters of San Jose’s Latino community and its events. Sure, their lottery windfall allowed them to make a much larger impact, but they were hardly newcomers to the scene.

The Castellano Family Foundation will mark its 15th anniversary with a public celebration at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in East San Jose on Friday, and the festivities will include the debut of a project with roots dating back decades earlier.

It’s a one-hour documentary about San Jose’s popular parades and festivals for Cinco de Mayo and Mexican Independence Day on Sept. 16. Those downtown celebrations famously drew thousands of attendees for about three decades, but they were marred by violence during Cinco de Mayo in 1997 and stopped after 2010 when the G.I. Forum, the sponsoring organization, could no longer afford to stage them.

But Al Castellano captured more than a decade’s worth of the spectacle, stretching from 1982 to 1996, on VHS tapes. He’s been working with his daughter, Carmela Castellano-Garcia, for two years to create the documentary.

“It’s the only record that we know exists of those events,” said Castellano-Garcia, who is also president of the family foundation. “Going through these videos really helped me understand how my father loved the community and his commitment to these events.”

Father and daughter spent hours at a time poring through video footage and reliving memories for both. Castellano-Garcia was the San Jose G.I. Forum queen in 1983, giving her a prominent place in the celebrations. Castellano, 82, narrates the entire video, providing his perspective on Latino pride and culture.

“I was so impressed at his ability to roll up his sleeves and do this meticulous work,” Castellano-Garcia said, adding that it’s only part of a collection of videos he’s made on other events and cultural activities that the family is working to preserve digitally.

The premiere screening will be the centerpiece of the 15th anniversary event, which starts at 6:30 p.m. and will be followed by a music-filled “pachanga” dance party in the plaza’s courtyard. The celebration will reflect on the foundation’s mission to support arts, education and leadership development and recognize many of its grantees, who have been beneficiaries of $5 million in donations over 15 years.

The celebration is free and open to the public, but you should register at castellano-ff.org

ARTICLE CREDIT: By SAL PIZARRO | spizarro@bayareanewsgroup.com | Bay Area News Group

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