Heroes of Hispanic heritage

Jose Peralta

October 25, 2011

Times Ledger

A community activist, a firefighter and an artist were among the seven people honored by state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) as a part of Hispanic Heritage month.

The senator’s Oct. 12 celebration, held in the Unisphere Gallery of the Queens Museum of Art in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, recognized significant city leaders of Hispanic descent and featured music and dance originating from numerous Latin American countries.

Hispanic Heritage month is a nationally recognized holiday that runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

“Hispanic Heritage is about pride, pride in who we are and what we’ve accomplished,” said Peralta, who is the first Dominican American elected to the Senate.

The honorees were diverse both in their profession and ethnicities. They included Puerto Rican Rossana Rosado, publisher of the Spanish-language newspaper El Diario; Colombian Ana Maria Archila of the advocacy group Make the Road New York; Dominican community leader Agustin Rojas; and Peruvian artist Juan Ramiro Torres.

Other honorees were Elmhurst FDNY Firefighter Ricardo Remon, who saved his neighbor from a fire while off duty, and Alvaro Rodas, founder and director of the Corona Youth Music Project, which teaches neighborhood students for free. Three students of Rodas also performed during the ceremony.

“I’m deeply honored to be working in Corona because this is a very welcoming, very warm community,” Rodas said.

Hispanic Federation President Lillian Rodriguez was listed as an honoree but did not attend.

Peralta said the Latin-American community has made incredible strides in recent years, with three Latin electeds representing the neighborhood and an increase in Latino judges and business owners.

“Latinos are entrepreneurs,” Peralta said. “They come here to work hard and fulfill the American Dream.”

The senator’s fellow Latin-American electeds — City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) and state Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) — joined him for the celebration. Ferreras said Peralta had put together an “incredible group” of people to honor.

“We stand here on the shoulders of giants and those giants are the honorees,” Ferreras said.

Moya said the location of the event was appropriate as he, Peralta and Ferreras all grew up in Corona. Moya said the Unisphere itself was also significant to him because his parents first met in Ecuador, then met again at the World’s Fair and later married.

“We all share these great roots and great stories,” Moya said.

Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (D-Corona), who also attended the ceremony, applauded the Latin community and said Latinos contributed to the wonderful mix of cultures in the borough of Queens.

“We are this marvelous combination of human beings from all over the planet,” Aubry said.