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Interviews with Latino Leaders in Hartford

While there is evidence of Latinos in the Hartford area from as early as the 1840’s, it was in the 1950’s that Puerto Ricans first began to form a sizeable Latino community in the Hartford area. This community has grown tremendously and has become multinational, as Peruvians, Dominicans, Colombians, Mexicans, Central Americans, and other Latin American and Caribbean groups have begun to establish homes here and contribute to Hartford’s livelihood and liveliness.

But who defines this community in its plurality, who shapes and leads it, helps guide it toward the future while affirming its multicultural and multinational past?

The class of Hispanic Hartford decided to seek out some of the people most visible in the Latino community today, people with vision, with creative leadership, with compassion and dedication to Hartford’s Hispanic population.

As you explore the following profiles and listen to the words of these individuals, you will learn who some of its most distinguished visionaries are, its most dedicated contributors, its intellectuals; who has fought for education, for equal rights, for political representation; who its artistic leaders are, and the vision and inspiration they provide; who are some of the people most dedicated to Hartford’s children, and which young leaders will be guiding the community in the future.

Glaísma Pérez-Silva

Listen to Glaisma’s Interview – Part 1 Listen to Glaisma’s Interview – Part 2 Glaísma Pérez-Silva is a native Puerto Rican who migrated to the United States 20 years ago as an “adventure”. Today, Glaísma is no stranger to Hartford and its surrounding community. As a professor, special education worker, poet, radio personality, activist and …

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Jeannette B. DeJesús – Exec. Dir. – Hispanic Health Council

Listen to: Interview with Janet DeJesus The Hispanic Health Council focuses its efforts on the improvement of Hartford’s Latino community. Through health advocacy, research and community outreach, the Hispanic Health Council has established itself as a leading and vital voice of the diverse Latino population in Connecticut’s capital city and beyond. Founded in 1978, due …

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Juan Hernandez

Listen to: Interview with Juan Hernandez Juan Hernandez was born in the 1960’s in Puerto Rico. He moved to the United States in his twenties and originally lived in Wethersfield, Connecticut, where he worked at a food factory. Years later, after having lived in Idaho, Mr. Hernandez decided to move back to the east to …

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Fernando Betancourt – Exec. Dir. – Latino Puerto Rican Affairs Commission

Slideshow Presentation Fernando Betancourt was born and raised in Santurce, Puerto Rico. While in Puerto Rico, he was a member of the Puerto Rican Independence Party. Betancourt graduated with a Political Science degree and then attended law school at the University of Puerto Rico where he was president of the student council. At twenty-eight-years-old, Betancourt …

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Luis Cotto

Listen to: Part 1 Part 2 Luis Cotto is a Puerto Rican born in the United States. Together with his four sisters, he owned a coffee shop in Hartford called La Paloma Sabanera. They opened the coffee shop to provide a “third space” for the Hartford community; in other words, a space that is neither …

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Marela Zacarias

Listen to: An interview with Marela (conducted in Spanish) Marela Zacarias was born in Mexico. She came to the United States, more specifically to the state of Ohio, to enroll in an American university. After studying four years at the university, she returned to Mexico for one year. After one year, she obtained a new …

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Raul De Jesus Jr.

Listen to: Interview with Raul De Jesus Jr. Raul De Jesús, Jr. considers himself ” a true son of Hartford.” He is one of six children from fourth generation Puerto Rican immigrants. De Jesús grew up in the Charter Oak Terrace projects and is also a graduate of Buckley High School. His life, filled with …

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Jorge Rivera – Exec. Dir. – Mi Casa Family Services

Listen to: Interview with Jorge Rivera Jorge Rivera, J.D., M. Ed, M.S.W., a prominent leader and role model of the Latino community in Hartford, moved to the United States from Caugas, Puerto Rico.  After growing up in a poor neighborhood in Puerto Rico, Jorge Rivera decided to dedicate his life to help troubled children and …

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Edwin Vargas Jr.

Biography: Edwin Vargas, Jr. is a career educator and a leader in political, civil rights, labor, civic and public policy circles.  He was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. of Puerto Rican parentage.  He is currently an educational consultant.  Mr. Vargas also serves as the Public Policy Chair of the Washington, D.C.- based National Puerto Rican Coalition, …

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