The 25 of the AL DÍA 25th Year Anniversary
On the occasion of celebrating our 25th anniversary, we decided to dive into our archives and pick the 25 most outstanding individuals who more often AL DÍA have followed in their careers
December 03, 2020
During the 25 years, and the more than 1,300 weekly editions of our publication printed and circulated, thousands of faces and names have come and gone over our pages during the incessant and inevitable flow of weekly journalism.
On the occasion of celebrating our 25th anniversary, we decided to dive into our archives and pick the 25 most outstanding individuals who more often AL DÍA have followed in their careers, and, because of their personal merits, more frequently have appeared in our pages.
We also added those others that only now and then have been featured in AL DÍA, but made an impact of exceptional proportions when they did.
They are men and women of all backgrounds and professions, all extraordinary Americans of Latino descent we have decided to call “The 25 of the AL DÍA 25th Year Anniversary”.
We will introduce them briefly to you on the following pages and we intend to feature them during the upcoming 12 months when we plan to engage them in open discussions about the inaccurate representations of Latinos in the media and on the urgent need to shift the narrative about Americans of Latino descent in the public discourse.
We have chosen these 25 American leaders because they all have the capacity to discern this crucial challenge of our times and also because they happen to command the influence to do something about it.
Our selection is an open letter to all of them to join us in writing together with the next chapter of stories published AL DÍA in the years to come, when we intend to make, from the field of independent and self-sustaining journalism, our own contribution to reshaping the perceptions of Latinos in America.
The harmful stereotypes existing today about Americans of Latino descent need to be confronted head-on with fact-based reporting, credible data journalism, and powerful storytelling that finally brings an understanding and appreciation of the actual role Americans of Latino descent are playing in American culture, American politics, and American business.
Let’s roll up the sleeves and let the discussion and actual action begin.
Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez is an American politician who serves on the Philadelphia City Council representing the 7th District. A member of the Democratic Party, she has held the position since 2008. She was the first Latina elected to the city council. In the February 10, 1999 edition of AL DIA, the then-new candidate told this newspaper that her district had suffered from a lack of real representation on the Council and that her career on the legislative body would be “a neighborhood-level, door-to-door campaign. I’m going to knock on the door in a way that Rick Mariano has done.
Nelson Diaz is a former Philadelphia City Attorney, Judge of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, and General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Judge Nelson Diaz’s life is based on being first. He was the first Latino to attend and graduate from Temple Law School. While there, he co-founded the first association of Black and Hispanic law students. In 1972, he became the first Latino to pass the Pennsylvania Bar Exam. “There was no student who had graduated from my background at any of the law schools here. Either at the University of Pennsylvania or Temple,” Diaz said in a 2018 profile.
She was executive director of the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Human Services (DHS), and executive director of Congress of Latinos Unidos, before assuming her current role as director of Vanguard’s Retail Investor Group.
Martinez, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, is the daughter of teachers who taught in rural Jayuya. Although they were not specifically involved in politics, they believed deeply in public service, a value they instilled in her.
“For me, the Latino community in Philadelphia was always inspiring and a reason to fight for more opportunity, justice, and resources,” she told AL DÍA.
With a professional project of nearly two decades, José Garcés today owns more than a dozen restaurants in the tri-state area of Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. He has traveled to several continents sharing his expertise and influence with many others, and what he defines as “the true culinary art.” Of Ecuadorian parents, Garcés is a Latino leader in the industry, and a testament to the true American Dream.
Pedro A. Ramos is president and CEO of the Philadelphia Foundation, one of the nation’s first community foundations. Pedro has spent his career guiding organizations through critical turning points and redefining how those organizations support and communicate with the communities they serve. He is a collaborative leader with a proven track record of forging next-level partnerships in his roles of serving and leading legal, business, government, and non-profit organizations in the region. “All… all the work we do is to connect neighbors with each other,” Ramos said at an event in 2019. “We want to make it easier for people to connect with each other, and be able to turn intention into action.
Pedro Rivera is the former Secretary of Education of Pennsylvania, having been nominated by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and confirmed in June 2015. Previously, he served as superintendent of the Lancaster School District. As of October 1, 2020, he began a new role as President of Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology. “If I hadn’t had the support of my family, if I hadn’t had the help of the community to lift me up and keep me engaged, I never would have had the opportunity to be secretary,” Rivera told AL DÍA in 2015.
Pedro A. Cortés was twice Secretary of State of Pennsylvania. He was the first Latino confirmed in the cabinet and the oldest Secretary of State in Pennsylvania’s history. Cortés was also the first Puerto Rican Secretary of State in the United States, outside the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. “As Latinos, we are known for our ability to work hard. To make the most of every opportunity, not for personal gain, but for the common good. Because what is good for Latinos is good for the state,” Cortés told AL DÍA in 2016.
Luis Felipe Restrepo is a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and a former United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. “Citizenship is not a spectator sport. You must participate in a democracy,” she said in a speech at the 2018 Mother Cabrini Immigrant Heritage Awards.
Patricia DeCarlo, a native of Puerto Rico, has dedicated most of her life to the struggle for justice and the empowerment of all people. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, DeCarlo became an attorney with Camden Regional Legal Services in New Jersey. “I want people to know that they have in their own hands the resources to change. If we just sit at home complaining or asking someone to solve our problems for us, we will never solve anything,” DeCarlo told AL DÍA in 2016.
Nilda Iris Ruiz is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Associacion Puertorriquenos en Marcha, (APM). After a 25 year career and her time from 1999 to 2005 as one of the directors at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), Nilda Ruiz took the reins of APM.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, she decided to take the challenge because of her motivation towards the community and because she knew the great number of opportunities that exist and that were not being distributed.
“I didn’t come back for the title but for what the agency could do for the community,” Ruiz said. “Philadelphia is a difficult city for any Latino, man or woman because everything tends to be black and white. There is a lack of unity that is very evident in the city.
Gisele Barreto Fetterman
Gisele Barreto Fetterman is a Brazilian-American activist, philanthropist, and non-profit executive. She is co-founder of 412 Food Rescue, a non-profit organization focused on eliminating food insecurity in the United States. As the wife of Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, she is the current Second Lady of Pennsylvania. For Fetterman, holding public office after being an undocumented immigrant has a special meaning: “It would send a message to all immigrants in the U.S.: that we all belong to this country and are part of it, and that we love our country as much as any other citizen,” she told AL DÍA in 2017.
Schidlow is a professor in the Departments of Pediatrics, Pharmacology and Physiology, and Medicine. Previously, he was Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics and Associate Dean of the Pediatric Clinical Campus. The road to professional stability has taken him several decades, but Daniel has taken it as a duty inherited from his ancestors. He considers himself the “typical product” of several waves of immigrants who came to America. His Jewish parents fled Nazi Germany in 1939 and ended up moving to La Paz, Bolivia. “I feel deeply – and I keep repeating – that my Hispanic roots are my most valuable asset,” Schidlow told AL DÍA in 2017.
Lou Rodriguez is the CEO and founder of Rodriguez Consulting LLC (Rodriguez), an award-winning professional engineering and surveying firm he founded in 2007. “I don’t do the work at Rodriguez Consulting. My strength was being able to bring together the people – a team – who were able to play this game,” he told AL DÍA last September. Rodriguez said it has taken him 13 years to build that “team” to win the “Super Bowl” or the “World Series,” as he calls it, but that he has created a family in the process.
Alberto Ibargüen has been President, CEO, and Trustee of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation since 2005. With Ibargüen at the helm, the Knight Foundation has led the transformation of the information industry by encouraging the digital evolution of newsrooms and seeding innovative ideas to engage and inform the public. Under his leadership, the Knight Foundation launched the pioneering Knight News Challenge in 2006 and the Knight Prototype Fund in 2012. Prior to joining the Knight Foundation, Ibarguen was editor of the Miami Herald and its sister publication, El Nuevo Herald. During his tenure, the Miami Herald won three Pulitzer Prizes and El Nuevo Herald won Spain’s Ortega y Gasset award for excellence in journalism.
Peter Gonzales, is the president and CEO of the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, where he arrived after seven years in the economic empowerment organization Project HOME, going through the Philadelphia City Attorney’s Office and running his own immigration practice for about a decade. Founded in 2003, the Welcoming Center is a local nonprofit organization whose work is based on the idea that immigrants play a crucial role in revitalizing communities, not only as consumers, but also as contributors.
Juan Lopez is the Senior Vice President of Finance Shared Services for Independence Blue Cross, a key element in the corporate gear of the Philadelphia insurance company. Juan belongs to the first American generation of a Puerto Rican family that settled in New Jersey in the middle of the last century. “One of the things that affect us most as a culture is that tendency to stay locked into our own group, to stay in a comfort zone that is familiar to us. Sometimes that prevents us from dreaming of different things,” he told AL DÍA in 2017.
Joseph Dominguez is the first Latino to become CEO of Illinois’ largest public energy company, ComEd. He was born in Union City, New Jersey, where his parents settled by fleeing Cuba in the early 1950s, at the beginning of the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power in 1959. Prior to being named ComEd’s CEO, he served as senior vice president of communications in 2009 and was executive vice president of government, regulatory, and public policy affairs at Exelon. “We know that talent exists everywhere,” he told AL DÍA in 2017. “But opportunity is not everywhere. So creating opportunities for people who haven’t had them is the key to success.
Dr. Villarruel is the dean of UPenn’s School of Nursing, number one worldwide, according to the QS World University Ranking. Her story is a testament to the Hispanic heritage in the U.S. Villarruel today leads a school of 1320 students (590 undergraduate, 730 graduate). “I believe that hard work is a foundation of my origin,” he told AL DÍA in 2017. Villarruel graduated from Nazareth College in 1978 with a degree in nursing science. Four years later he earned his master’s degree from UPenn. She then returned to her hometown to study for a doctorate at Wayne State University. As a nurse, Villarruel has had the opportunity to go around the world; as a researcher, she has turned nursing around.
Gloria Bonilla Santiago
Gloria Bonilla-Santiago, born January 17, 1954, in Puerto Rico, is a Distinguished Service Professor on the Board of Governors in the Department of Public Policy and Management and Director of the Center for Strategic Urban Community Leadership at Rutgers-Camden University.
Nina Vaca, CEO and president of Pinnacle Group who was named the fastest-growing women-owned company in the United States by the Organization of Women Presidents in 2015 and 2018. She served as Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) through the U.S. Department of Commerce. Vaca is a member of Henry Crown Fellows’ Class of 2016. The story of Nina Vaca and the Pinnacle Group opens the Entrepreneur chapter of McGraw-Hill’s textbook, “Understanding Business. Vaca was named one of the top 100 CEOs in the STEM publication by STEMconnector. In 2018, she gave the keynote address at the AL DÍA Women’s Summit.
Solomon Dennis “Sol” Trujillo is an American businessman, global media and technology executive. He has served as CEO of Telstra, US West, Orange S.A. and has held executive positions in the U.S. federal and state governments. Through initiatives such as L’Attitude, an event that highlights the importance of Latinos in the economic development of the United States, Trujillo has emphasized the importance of the Hispanic community as “a competitive advantage in the global economy.
Mari Carmen Aponte
Mari Carmen Aponte is a Washington DC-based attorney who was named acting Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs on May 5, 2016. Before this post, she served as U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador, a position she first held from August 2010 until December 2011 and then from June 14, 2012, until December 2015. Aponte was born in Puerto Rico and later moved to the U.S. to pursue a better education. She completed her bachelor’s degree in political science from Rosemound University, then completed law school at Temple University, becoming the first Latina lawyer in Pennsylvania.
Claudia Romo is a social entrepreneur, responsible for the creation of the We Are All Human Foundation, a New York-based non-profit organization dedicated to advancing an agenda of diversity, inclusion and equity. With extraordinary experience in managing global organizations, including the United Nations and the World Economic Forum, she has worked in humanitarian causes for 25 years with organizations such as UNICEF, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. “We have never been so prepared. We have never been so strong. We have never been so many,” Romo Edelman told AL DÍA in an interview. “We are like creating the platform for conversations to happen.”
Garcia is a Social entrepreneur and business guru, currently serving as CEO of the Association of Latino Professionals For America (ALPFA), an organization focused on empowering Latino leaders. Born in Washington, D.C., to Panamanian parents, Garcia went from a career in the Air Force Academy to a Law School graduate from Columbia.
Archbishop Nelson Perez
Nelson Perez is the first Latino archbishop in the history of the city of Philadelphia. Long before he was named the new Archbishop-elect, Nelson J. Perez started his journey working in the Catholic Church in this very city. On May 20, 1989, Perez was ordained to the priesthood of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He spent the first four years after his ordination as a curate at Saint Ambrose Parish in Northeast Philadelphia. “I’m back to the church, the archdiocese that formed me and ordained me, and walked with me,” Perez said during a press conference at the Philadelphia Archdiocesan headquarters last January. “I come back really with a great sense of gratitude and joy to serve alongside great bishops.”
At only 28 years old, and still paying off her college debts, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortéz, better known as AOC, became the youngest member in the history of the U.S. Congress, after defeating the fourth largest Democrat in the House, Joe Crowley, in the 2018 primaries. In just two years, AOC has revolutionized national politics, becoming a powerful voice and a youth movement in its own right.