Nearly 500 years ago, Portugese Esteban Gómez explored the coastline of Delaware. Immigrants continue to discover the area for various reasons. Meet some of the up-and-comers who are working to improve the community, as well as a few established
By Paula Kelly
Fernando N. Guajardo
Though visible in organizations that advocate for affordable housing and education for Latinos, the Mexico native thinks of himself as a behind-the-scenes guy. “Call Fernando, he can help” is the buzz among Sussex Latinos. The 34-year-old’s credentials as a migrant worker, a U.S. Air Force veteran, a creative problem solver, and a Fortune 500 company executive have earned him the respect and trust of the Latino and Anglo communities. Guajardo, interested in results, is not afraid to challenge the system to do what is right.
This year La Esperanza, Inc., a non-profit community center in Georgetown, celebrates its 10th anniversary with a bang under executive director Guajardo, who started in June 2005. “Integration and empowerment are the keys in helping move my people forward,” the Puerto Rico native says. The agency has partnered with the local school district to promote parental involvement in their children’s educations. Guajardo, the wife of Fernando Guajardo (see above), also hopes to establish a one-stop resource center for budding entrepreneurs.
Galindo, of Middletown, often works 80-hour weeks at United Rhythms, the promotional company he founded
a few years ago. Galindo, 27,
organizes, promotes and runs wildly popular weekly Latin dance parties in Wilmington and New Castle—often with spinmeister Bismarck Sibaja (DJ Bis) a native of Costa Rica—that cater to all nationalities. “I have a vision of uniting people of different cultures through the universal language of music and dance,” says Galindo, a native of Bogota, Colombia, who moved to Delaware 10 years ago. “When I see 200 people—from Asians to people from countries in Latin America—all dancing together, I get a really good feeling.”
Lessons learned as a Cuban refugee and at the University of Pennsylvania Law School have helped Waserstein, 58, develop an empathetic ear and powerful way. In her 10th year of a 12-year term as a Family Court judge, she hopes to be reappointed. As an attorney, Waserstein preferred high-impact cases that deal with such things as recurring community problems through class action suits. She has litigated for pregnant women to receive earlier prenatal treatment and helped establish Hispanic students’ rights to education by addressing their language needs. “I like doing what I do now as a judge,” she says. “I like the ability to hear both sides and what I can bring into and tap into for the best interest of the children.”
The opportunity to own his business caused Pilioneta, 50, to combine his skills as historian, photographer, reporter and businessman to publish the only statewide bilingual weekly newspaper, El Tiempo Hispano. Its weekly circulation has grown from 5,000 when it debuted in February to 15,000 by May. Pilioneta arrived in Bear four years ago from Venezuela. He hopes the paper will strengthen the community and create a
dialogue among readers.
Jaime “Gus” Rivera
Dr. Rivera, 55, was appointed director of the Delaware Division of Public Health in July 2004. He bases his work on integrity and trust. Both are integral to creating a collaborative model of treatment with other health care providers, public and private, as they face several challenges: comprehensive cancer control, decreasing the infant mortality rate, addressing racial and ethnic disparities in health care, and preparedness for natural and man-made disasters and Avian influenza. Expect the Puerto Rico native to develop a workforce to deliver 21st-century services to deal with these issues. “We could not have come to public health at a more exciting time,” he says.
Vivian L. Rapposelli and Tabatha L. Castro
Never underestimate the power of a woman. In 2004 the Guatemala-born Rapposelli (left), 40, started the first all-Latino law firm, now Rapposelli, Castro & Gonzales, in Delaware. Shortly thereafter, she hired associates Castro, 32, with expertise in workers’ compensation, and Peter Gonzalez, who specializes in immigration. The practice also focuses on personal injury. Expect to see the firm become a household name as discussion about immigration reforms heats up. Rapposelli also donates time to the Westside Health board. Castro, of Puerto Rican descent, does the same with the Latin American Community Center. She has also co-chaired the city’s Hope Commission, which addresses crime reduction. “What I love is that I’ve created something that is a first for the state,” Rapposelli says, “and not only does the community trust us, but we have the respect of our colleagues.”
Cecilia M. Cordesa-Lusardi
“I want to know that every night when I go to bed that I made a difference,” says Cordesa-Lusardi, executive director of Voices Without Borders, Inc., a faith-based non-profit in Wilmington. The native Argentinean is dedicated to improving the quality of life for Latino citizens and immigrants. The 31-year-old has stood at the heart of every local march and demonstration for human rights. She facilitates dialogue with acts of love to create understanding, tolerance and change. Intensely spiritual (she calls herself a “zen Catholic”) and non-judgmental, she has worked internationally as well. Expect to see more of her as the immigration debate continues.
Providing information that improves the quality of life for Latinos and others has become Bastidas-Lopez’s mission. Six years ago, she created Delawarehispanic.com as a resource and inspiration for Latinos to pursue their dreams. In August 2005, the Puerto Rican entrepreneur published the Delaware Hispanic Yellow Pages, a book of Hispanic businesses. “It’s a great way to unite American and Hispanic cultures,” the 44-year-old says.
Los Angeles, Inc., the first Latino-owned marketing business, started by Cabrera, in 2002, offers communication and event planning. But the 42-year-old’s expertise lies in community outreach, connecting with diverse sections of the population. Having produced events for the City of Wilmington and the Grand Opera House, the Puerto Rico-born Cabrera also has consulted on Winterthur’s “The Grandeur of Viceregal Mexico: Treasures from the Museo Franz Mayer.” In five years, Cabrera hopes to establish herself as the Oprah of Latino television with her bilingual show, “En Color.”
and Hector Correa
Certain that Middletown is the next big cultural destination, Delgado, 41, and Correa, 35, have put money on it. In January the pair opened DelCor Home Interiors, an upscale design center. Correa, a native Puerto Rican, decorates. Delgado handles marketing. By restoring Middletown’s oldest residence, they’ve proven a commitment to the town’s past and future. Beyond the town limits, Delgado, of Puerto Rican heritage, serves on the boards of the Latin American Community Center and Westside Health. Correa donates time to the Miss Latina USA Pageant. As for the future? “You ain’t seen nothing yet,” Delgado says.
The entire student judicial system and academic standards remain the foremost responsibilities of the assistant vice president for academic affairs at Delaware State University. The 53-year-old plans to make DSU a viable option for every state high school graduate, especially Latinos, within five years. Figueroa, of Puerto Rican descent, wants to create a bridge between the university and the school districts to combat the high Latino drop out rate. Though he doesn’t recommend handouts, Figueroa advocates giving Latino students the necessary tools for success.
Westside Health and Lopez, 53, have helped each other come into their own. In 1990 the Delaware native became the fourth CEO in two years. Lopez, of Spanish heritage, wanted a small organization to develop her leadership skills. Since then, Westside has grown from a two-room facility to three sites in New Castle County. Lopez, a 2006 inductee into the Hall of Fame of Delaware Women, has expanded Westside Health mental health services, added a site in Northeast Wilmington in July and increased its patient base by 3,000 at its Newark site.
Raised in Wilmington’s Hilltop neighborhood and having a father as a city councilman has molded Prado, the fifth district city councilman. Prado, of Puerto Rican and Cuban heritage, is committed to the city’s survival, which includes his support for the Justison Landing project, the largest economic development package in Wilmington. He initiated dialogue among various ethnic groups through the Westside Crime Group. In response, the city hired 15 new police officers. Prado, the youngest councilman at 30, hopes to inspire Hispanics to raise their political voices. His political aspirations include a seat in the state legislature.
Saturday mornings find the 55-year-old Rivera, senior manager of Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity compliance at AstraZeneca, mentoring and empowering Hispanic teens and educating their parents in the Aspira Program. The objective? Reducing the Latino drop out rate and making college admission a reality for kids who might not think otherwise. “We want them to get self-esteem and pride in who we are,” says Rivera, of Puerto Rican heritage.
Education for patients and staff ranks as top priority for Rivera-Prado, 39, CEO of the Henrietta Johnson Medical Center in Wilmington. Having worked her way to the top position in August 2005, the Puerto Rico native hopes to provide partial reimbursement for staff members who pursue nursing degrees and remain at the center after graduation. Patient education equates to prevention. That may prove important to the center’s clientele, which is changing from traditionally black to include more Latinos.
As an introverted child in Venezuela, theater and photography helped DiSalvo express herself. As a 2005 appointee to the Delaware State Arts Council, the Dover resident wants to do the same for the Latino community by advocating for the arts. She hopes to accomplish this by serving on the education and outreach committees. DiSalvo, 44, also writes for El Tiempo Hispano and hosts “Con Sabor Hispano” (“With Spanish Flavor”), a talk show on Comcast.