In town for the Festival People En Español, on Friday morning singer Gloria Estefan paid a visit to a San Antonio woman who marked her for life: Winston Elementary School teacher Dorothy Lee Collins, 81, who was her first grade teacher in 1963, when the Cuban-American singer spent a year in San Antonio at age six. In the early 00's, when Estefan was touring at the Alamodome, she announced she had been looking for Collins. Some school district employees, present at the concert, immediately contacted the teacher.
"They told me, 'Did you teach a Gloria Estefan in 1963?' I said, 'No, it doesn't ring a bell," Collins told the Current. "'Yes, she was a Cuban girl!' Then I remembered: 'Of course, that's Gloria Fajardo!'"
The two reestablished their relationship, kept in touch over the phone and even saw each other in person a couple of times, but Friday's meeting was special: Councilman Diego Bernal named Estefan honorary Alcaldesa (Mayor) of San Antonio for a day, and Collins herself received the People En Español Excellence Recognition Award from Monique Manso, People En Español's publisher. Also present at the ceremony was the whole editorial team of the magazine and Emilio Estefan Jr., Gloria's husband and producer of the Festival.
This is the moment Estefan and Collins reunited again.
Gloria then passed the mic to Mrs. Collins.
Among those present at the ceremony was Kenneth Young, another former Collins student who was back in town and, as soon as he heard of the event, wanted to stop by and say hi to his beloved teacher.
"Each and every one of the kids I taught were special, and I remember them all," Collins said. "But Gloria was incredible. She didn't speak a word of English but soon she was as good as anyone. I saw her rise with Miami Sound Machine but I didn't know she had been my student until much later. And she hasn't changed a bit. I feel her love and the love her whole family has for me. When I was elected to the SA Women's Hall of Fame in 2004, they sent me a bouquet of flowers saying, 'Congratulations, you've always been on our Hall of Fame.' I'll never forget that."
Emily, the Estefans' 14-year-old daughter, was also present. She will be attending Boston's prestigious Berklee School of Music in the next few days.
"She's the best musician of us all!" Emilio Estefan told the Current.
"There you have it," said Gloria. "I'm sending my daughter to college straight from San Antonio. Another reason why San Antonio is so close to my heart."