People Staff
December 03, 2007 AT 04:00 PM EST

Last Tuesday, New York City’s Spanish Institute honored Penélope Cruz for her success as a liaison between Hispanic cultures and the United States throughout her film career, according to news agency EFE. Queen Sofía of Spain also acknowledged former President Bill Clinton, 61, for his “significant role as a world leader.”

The institute’s main objective is to improve cultural ties between Spain-Latin America and the United States, in addition to raising awareness about Hispanic culture.

Queen Sofía herself – along with the institute’s honorary president, designer Óscar de la Renta – presented gold medals to the Spanish actress, 33, and Clinton at the event, called the Gold Medal Gala.

Cruz described Clinton as “one of my personal heroes.” When the former commander-in-chief received his medal from the Queen, he joked: “I was trying to figure out exactly why I would receive this award tonight. It may be because even though I’m not of Spanish descent, I’ve seen every one of Penélope Cruz’s movies – and I liked them all.”

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