Hispanic Heritage Month 2020

“During National Hispanic Heritage Month, we celebrate the countless contributions of more than 60 million Hispanic Americans to our culture and society.  Hispanic Americans are the largest minority group in the United States today, and generations of Hispanic Americans have consistently helped make our country strong and prosperous” – President Trump.
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This year, we celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, along with the trajectory of these exceptional Dominican-Americans who take advantage of their talent and commitment to the development and cultural integration of both nations every day.

 

Steve Martínez – Producer

I am Steven Martinez, a Segment Producer for The Jump on ESPN. I received my Bachelor’s degree from Columbia University in 2011, where I majored in Film Studies. I’ll talk about my job more in a second, but first, here’s why I’m lucky enough to be featured here as a proud Dominican-American.

I am the son of Dominican immigrants, Luis and Ivelisse Martinez. Both are from Santo Domingo, but ironically enough never met each other until they worked in the same building in New York City in their 20s. I am so thankful that they chose to raise me in Inwood/Washington Heights (207th Street train stop), because I always felt a strong connection to my Dominican roots as a result. Growing up in a neighborhood so rich in Dominican culture was the perfect way to ensure that I would always be a fluent Spanish speaker who knows how to dance Bachata (very well) basically. English is my first language, but Mangú was my first breakfast. Being Dominican, I always had a passion for baseball, but growing up in New York, I developed a love of all American sports as well. As a result, the NBA has always been appointment viewing for me. 

My daily responsibilities on the Jump, a daily NBA show on ESPN, include coordinating topics for discussion with TV talent, writing scripts, conducting pre-show interviews with retired NBA players and traveling to major NBA events (in a pre-COVID world). The job is called Producer, but the work is composing the best storytelling. What is the best way to convey the stakes of this game? How can we put someone’s exceptional performance into context?

 Who is the next player to look out for? That is the work, and that’s the best part of the process. Prior to COVID, I worked on site producing live shows at the last 5 NBA Finals and last 5 NBA All-Star Games. I feel extremely lucky to enjoy the work I do every single day.


Diana Heredia – Fabrics Designer

My name is Diana Heredia, I am the oldest daughter of my dominican immigrant parents. My mom is from Santiago and my dad is from San Cristóbal. I was born in Washington Heights (en el alto manhattan), where my parents still live. Now I live in the Bronx, but I still feel Washington Heights is my home. It is where my dominican roots come from.

Even though I am from New York, the Dominican culture has influenced me a lot, and it’s a big part of myself. I have traveled to very nice places around the world, and I have had the pleasure of tasting really good food in lots of different countries, but when I get home, I crave for rice and beans. I love even the most basic of the dominican kitchen, but my favorite part is that we are very happy people. Everything is a reason to celebrate and you can easily find yourself at a party. You can ask anybody, and they will tell you the same, I love to dance!

I am very conscious of the efforts my parents made, and the obstacles they had to overcome to give us stability and opportunities to me and my sisters. I always cherish this idea and I feel grateful because they gave me the platform to take advantage of what I have at my disposition.

I studied fashion design at Syracuse University and I have dedicated my career to an aspect of the design process, fabrics. I am currently the director of fabrics at Carolina Herrera, and I collaborate with designers to create the fabrics that will make their ideas come true. I am pleased to be part of a creative process that contributes to memorable moments, whether in a personal space or in a more public scenario.

When I worked with Jason Wu, I had the pleasure of giving my inputs in the creation of the two dresses that Michelle Obama wore in the inauguration party in 2009 and 2013. I felt very proud when I went to the National Museum of American History, part of the Smithsonian institution, to see the exhibits of the dresses. Out of the luxury and emotion that sometimes brings the high fashion, in that time I felt I achieved something special, and that I participated in those historical moments.

The career I chose has given me the opportunity to help mold the way women dress. The closet says a lot about a person without having to express it verbally, because it’s wardrobe defines them. It’s a vehicle of expression and a way of exhibiting confidence.

Fashion narrates historical moments and identifies periods of time. Fashion brings luxury to life. Fashion is culture. Fashion is art. Fashion is expression. Fashion is part of the human experience (my favorite part).


Un hombre vestido formalmente sonríe.

Atenedoro Gonzalez – Attorney

¡Saludos! My name is Atenedoro Gonzalez and I am an attorney practicing law in New York City. I am a housing attorney representing low-income New Yorkers from the Bronx in enforcing their rights, and defending themselves, against bad landlords. I am also a proud member of the Dominican Bar Association, serving as its Vice-President. The Dominican Bar Association is an organization made up of attorneys of Dominican descent or heritage, whose purpose is to promote Dominican ancestry in the legal community. In my capacity with the Dominican Bar Association I focus my work on enlarging our membership by bringing in new members and acting as a mentor to Latino and Latina law students and pre-law students who are interested in a career in the law.  

My Dominican heritage and culture is extremely important to me and I want to use my position to uplift the efforts of my Dominican brothers and sisters in the law, and promote Dominican leadership in the legal community. My favorite part about our culture has to be our dancing! There is nothing like a good bachata or merengue to get the blood pumping at any family or friendly get together. Through my grandmother, Nereyda Fermin Gonzalez, my Dominican family hails from the province of Maria Trinidad Sanchez in Nagua. Soy muy orgulloso de ser Dominicano!


Un hombre sonríe.

Eric Frías – Tech Entrepreneur

A pioneer in online video and three time Latino Startup Founder with nearly two decades of AdTech and Digital Media experience. Eric launched LatinoAthlete.TV a Youtube-like platform dedicated to recognizing and inspiring the emerging U.S. Latino Youth. Our mission is to #Aspire2Inspire #AspirarParaInspirar. Prior to launching LatinoAthlete Eric held key positions at DigitalTrends, Dailymotion, CNN, ESPN among others. A passionate tech entrepreneur and Latino champion!

“I’m extremely proud to be from La Novia Del Atlántico, Puerto Plata the town that has it all!”

“One of my ultimate goal is to make Dominican Republic a Tech Hub in the Caribbean.”

 


Una mujer sonriente.

Stephanie “Tetty” Thomas – Marketer

Stephanie “Tetty” Thomas moved from the Dominican Republic to New York City in 2013 to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing. Although she’s had many offers to join the corporate world, this young entrepreneur is passionate about helping small businesses grow in the digital age. In 2014, she started Streben Marketing, a digital marketing agency, to fulfill this mission. 

She believes small businesses deserve the same creative and technological resources that major brands can afford. As of today, Tetty and her team have helped over 360+ small businesses all over the United States. 

When she isn’t running the day-to-day operations of her agency, Tetty speaks about the importance of Diversity and Women in Technology in conferences worldwide. 

“When I speak in Tech conferences around the world and look around, I don’t usually see other Dominicans, let alone Dominican women. I’ve realized that we can’t aspire to be what we can’t see. I want my people to know that if one of us can make it, we all can” says Tetty.


John Infante – Writer

As a Dominican writer, writing primarily in English, I sometimes question if Dominicans will “get” my stories. Turns out that Dominicans not only get it, but go out of their way to support and celebrate my writing. This is true of organizations like the Dominican Writers Association in NYC and readers in Santo Domingo.

“Whether it be in a beauty salon in the neighborhood of Cuatro Caminos in Madrid, a restaurant in Miami’s Allapattah or Word Up Bookstore in New York City, Dominicans have encouraged and spread the word about my writing.” 

Even though I’m not explicitly writing the “Dominican story,” readers from the D.R. appreciate the references to Lemisol and Barcelo in multi-generational narratives about people coming to terms with immigration, assimilation and preserving one’s cultural identity.

I was raised between Alma Rosa in Santo Domingo and Yasica, Puerto Plata before moving permanently to Washington Heights. Much of my work as a writer is defined by my experiences in these places. These include conversations with my great-grandfather Lionel L. Sajous, a Haitian lawyer and intellectual who spoke multiple languages. He would always say, “one should be doing more reading than speaking.” My great-grandmother, Enolasca Infante, was a campesina turned business woman, who provided housing for recently arrived Dominican immigrants to the U.S.

These experiences have led me to the point I am now. I am currently translating Spanish texts by Dominican writers in the hopes of furthering the Dominican narrative and broadening what it means to be Dominican.


Julissa Calderón – Actriz, directora y productora
Julissa Calderon is an Afro-Latinx actress, writer, producer, and director from Miami. She can be seen playing the dynamic role of Yessika Castillo, a strong-willed, heart driven activist, in the MACRO/Netflix series, GENTIFIED. The bilingual dramedy, with executive producers America Ferrera and Teri Weinberg, premiered to great notoriety this past February 2020. She recently appeared on the AwesomenessTV/FUSE series, WTF BARON DAVIS. Prior to that, she appeared in ABC’s REVENGE, starred in the ABC Diversity Showcase, and completed a two-year talent residency at Buzzfeed’s Pero Like channel where her videos garnered (conservatively) roughly 100 million views across digital platforms.

Julissa is passionate about Afro-Latino representation and challenging Latino stereotypes. Some of her videos such as “Pelo Bueno, Pelo Malo,” “Sammy Sosa’s skin color rant” and “How I Went from Waitress to Buzzfeed Producer” have been featured in numerous news outlets, including The Huffington Post and CNN Español. She also just wrapped a multi-city speaking engagement tour where she used her platform to share and celebrate her experiences as a Latinx woman. Julissa is based in Los Angeles.

“My mom and my grandma instilled in me that being Dominican was amazing. They were so proud of it. And so because they were proud. I was like, I’m Dominican. Always. I never negated it. I was always so excited about saying that, even when people didn’t know what it was, I was like, oh, let me show you and let me teach you what being Dominican is. My affirmation for our community is to stand in your truth and show brown and black girls everywhere to see that they can do it as well.”   


Stephanie Ballena – Artistic Performer
I am a Dominican/Peruvian artist, without my Dominican roots and culture I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am a first generation American; my mother is from the Dominican Republic and my father is from Peru. I was born and raised in Northfield, New Jersey. Throughout my childhood my family and I would travel to the Dominican Republic often. 

I began to sing at church choir and choir at school. My dance teachers had all said that the stage was where I was meant to be so after graduating high school, I decided to move to Los Angeles to pursue my career in entertainment. For a few months, I was working for various dance companies and dance projects. I went on tour with Juan Gabriel the Michael Jackson of Mexico and Paulina Rubio. I also worked with other artists such as Wisin y Yandel, Mana, and Thalia.

Now I’m working on creating my original music and finding my sound. I want to continue to do the Latin genre, it is a sound that defines my Dominican culture.

“What I loved about visiting the Dominican Republic was how lovely the people were. Music was heard everywhere, and people would party and dance on the street”, Stephanie says.

 


Sherly Tavárez – Fashion Stylist and Entrepreneur
Sherly is a Dominican-American stylist and entrepreneur who, during her childhood would hear phrases like, “Why don’t you brush your hair?” and “Are you going to the hair salon to straighten your hair?” which led her to believe that curly hair wasn’t beautiful. She spent years applying treatments to her hair, but finally decided to embrace her natural curls. After searching for apparel brands that matched her newfound confidence, this pioneer chose to create a line of her own, “Hause of Curls”, a brand made for the new age woman in mind, who have embarked on their natural hair journey, turning negative words about natural hair into empowerment statements on shirts.

Despite not being raised in the Dominican Republic, Sherly always was always aware of her Hispanic roots in food, music and the joy of people. Her favorite artist is Juan Luis Guerra and she hopes to meet him one day so she can tell him how much his music means to preserve his roots.

“Learn about your hair and what makes it happy. Then you’ll see how ‘good’ your hair really is!” says Sherly.

 


Patricia Valoy – Activist for women in Engineering
Patricia is a Civil Engineer Project Manager. Born in Santo Domingo, who later immigrated to New York City with her family with only 5 years old. She grew up in Brooklyn, NY surrounded by other Dominican immigrants, which gave her the sense that she had never left the island.

Although many doubted that she could get accepted to an Ivy League school and become an engineer, she broke many stereotypes and got accepted to Columbia University where she graduated with a Bachelors in Civil Engineering. After working for 10 years in the engineering and construction industry she refocused her career and is now a writer and activist. She writes and speaks on a variety of issues pertaining to women in engineering and other male-dominated fields, particularly as it relates to women of color and underrepresented minorities.

Patricia’s advocacy is on attracting and retaining women in STEM careers. She also speaks and writes on a variety of issues affecting the Latinx community including racism, immigration, cultural and religious pressures, and living at the intersection of two cultures.

When she isn’t too busy fighting injustices she is at home with her husband, young daughter, and two dogs. “I focus myself in building work environments where women are free from discrimination, sexism, and racism“, Patricia says.


Gerardo Mateo – Entrepreneurship developer
Gerardo  is an Engineer candidate currently pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering (B. Eng.) majoring in Computer Science & Technology with a scholarship from the Organization of American States. He’s led and developed projects in technology, entrepreneurship, education and social action in Germany, the United States and the Dominican Republic.

Gerardo co-created a social-awareness project in Germany to empower women to join the workforce, with the goal of creating value for themselves and their countries. He was part of the Board of Directors of Youth Service America (YSA), becoming the youngest appointed member for his outstanding work as one of the Global Youth Council members. He worked on increasing the quality and quantity of volunteer opportunities for young people to serve globally. He was handpicked to be part of the 4th International Forum for Young Entrepreneurs of the Caribbean 2013 in the Dominican Republic and was the 4th winner of Udactiy’s High School Challenge 2012 — an international competition for high school students learning science, math, programming and technology. Gerardo cares about creating collective solutions to solve the world’s grand challenges, especially the ones in Dominican Republic, and is passionate about using technology to help accelerate this process. 

I love traveling and getting to know other places and cultures. Everywhere I go I learn something new and get excited about the adventure. But every time I get to go back to my roots, to Dominican Republic, I feel welcomed and inspired by a country of kind people“, says Gerardo


Yolaine Díaz – Fashion and Beauty editor
Yolaine was born in Bonao, Dominican Republic, she arrived in New York where her mother was already, driven by a clear mindset: To study journalism in college and become an editor for a big magazine as she always dreamed of. After Yolaine graduated from Lehman College in multilingual journalism, she went to try her luck in Miami, obtaining her first job in a magazine and learned many things that later helped in much greater job opportunities. After several years she returned to the ‘Big Apple’ to continue knocking on doors. It was then that she became a member of People magazine en Español, although not yet as a writer, instead as part of the fact-checking team. Over time her talent and professionalism showed-off allowing her to become a member in the line of writers, kicking off her story in the most important Spanish magazine in the United States. Today, with over 10 years of experience, Yolaine has the role of fashion and beauty editor for People en Español. From a very young age, being very clear about what she wanted to do, she stills gets excited when seeing any of her pieces published in the pages of the magazine or any celebrity interview. Without a doubt, with work and focus, dreams do come true.

“Working in such an important magazine fills me with great pride, especially because I know that I am representing my country with dignity and respect, something very important to me. Although I have been away from my homeland for so many years, it’s been with me in everything I do, and I try to represent it in the best way possible”, says Yolaine.

Yolaine says she has worked hard to get where she is now and would also like to serve as an example for the new generations who dream of working in this professional field. She wants to let others know that there’s a Dominican woman who’s very proud of her roots, and will strive every day to raise real high her heritage and country name.


Rafael Enrique Delgadillo – Latin American Studies PhD
Born in New York to Dominican parents in 1982, Rafael Enrique Delgadillo Alvarez would move to Santo Domingo just a few months later as a newborn. He and his family would remain in the Dominican capital until 1988 when they returned to the United State; this time settling in New Orleans, Louisiana. Due to this movement so early in his life, even though he was born in the US, Rafael has insights into the experience of being a Dominican immigrant. Today, Rafael is a Ph.D. student in Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz where his research is centered on the historic and cultural connections between New Orleans and Latin America.

My research is centered on the historic and cultural connections between New Orleans and Latin America. This includes the influence of Spanish colonialism on New Orleans after it was ceded to the French in the 18th century; the commercial networks that New Orleans developed with other port cities in Latin America since colonial times up to the present day; and the migration flows that have led to the emergence of Latin American migrant communities in the New Orleans metropolitan area.

My parents met in New York in the early 1970s and were married in 1976. My father, Rafael Delgadillo Blanco is from Santiago (in Santiago Province). My mother, Olga Alvarez de Delgadillo, is from the town of Castañuelas in the province of Monte Cristi.

For me, being a Dominican is important because of the strength and beauty of our culture. My love for the Dominican Republic is rooted in the strong bonds I still share with my relatives there and the memories of living there as a child. The Dominican community in New Orleans, though small, has always been a strong network of support. This is why the visits to my parents’ homeland throughout my life have always felt like a pilgrimage.” said Rafael


Juan Angustia – Visual Designer 
Juan was born and raised in Constanza, a small town surrounded by beautiful mountains in the Dominican Republic. In the year 2004, before he ever dreamed of joining Google, he went to college at the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD) to study Advertising with a focus on Graphic Design. However, he did not finish his degree because the school did not offer classes that sparked his specific interests. Instead, Juan decided to continue teaching himself the things that he loved. Juan has 10 years of experience working on projects for diverse brands such as Comcast, MasterCard, Copa Airlines and among others. Currently he works in Google Duo, in the Seattle/Kirkland office, but in his free time he loves to work on his clothing brand design Murbanic, an urban clothing brand inspired by vibrant and positive vibes, along with the energy that evolves from the creativity and individuality of us all. Also, Juan loves to make videos, like the short film “El Camino”.

For me it is an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to have a voice that represents my people, my culture, my country and my DOMINICANIDAD” says Juan.

To read more about Juan’s journey to Google read here:
https://students.googleblog.com/2020/02/my-path-to-google-juan-angustia-visual.html
https://juanangustia.com/

 


MORE STORIES COMING UP DURING THE MONTH


Click here to read the story of those who joined us during Hispanic Heritage Month in 2019