The first estimates put the number of participants around 2,000 and filled the large Sullivan’s Gym, the site for opening and closing ceremonies, while some 80 exhibitors were on standby in the Murphy Field House, from the ACLU of Ohio to the Young Latino Network. There were representatives from many companies looking for new hires to colleges recruiting young high school grads.
The successful convention is the brain child of the Hispanic Roundtable that created this vehicle to deliver not only a status report of the Hispanic Diaspora in Northeast Ohio but also to propose solutions and create opportunities for the local communities.
In his welcoming address, the Chairman of the Hispanic Roundtable, licenciado José C. Feliciano Sr., quoted the English bulldog (Great Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill): “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give,” hoping to inspire and motivate the attendees to take advantage of the information and possibilities that Convención Hispana 2013 has brought to the table.
In an exclusive interview with La Prensa, Madga Gómez, president of the Hispanic Roundtable’s Community Programs, spoke on the 20-year history of the Roundtable putting on the convention every 3 years—“Convención is the time to assess the progress that has been made in the Latino community and to address the barriers that still plague the community. Convención is entirely volunteer, driven with 6 major committees achieving all of the work that goes into this event.”
President Gómez continued, “The workshop for students was to help develop them with career options with the hopes and expectations to have them remain in the region….Everyone is very excited about the keynote speaker the mayor from San Antonio, Texas, the Honorable Julián Castro; he spoke as the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention 2012 and he also spoke at President Obama’s inaugural.”
“Mr. Castro is the leading Hispanic rising star, who many think he may be the first Hispanic president of the United States.” La Prensa asked Ms. Gómez to sum up the day’s momentous occasion; with one word, she stated: “Adelante,” we must keep moving forward.
Convención is described as the self-help event that works to create the partnerships with the residents of Ohio to empower all Latinos in Ohio. Quoting the theme of Convención—Pueblo Unido Futuro Seguro—seems to fall in line with the goals and aspirations of the local Latino populations as they work to achieve a place at the table—the table of the decision makers, the table of opportunities, and the table of hope for a better life.
In the afternoon, several individuals were recognized. In Esperanza, Inc.’s essay contest Juan Caminero (2nd year at Cuyahoga Community College) was awarded a 1st-place cash prize for writing on what would be the reaction of a Taino Chief (Taino’s were the dominant tribe on the island of Boriken, now know by the Spaniard name of Puerto Rico) to the modern day Boricuas (Puerto Ricans) on the mainland. A 2nd-place prize was awarded to Ana Medina Fetterman (freshman, Ohio State University) and a 3rd-place prize was awarded to Rafaela Coelho (senior, Miami University).
Awards were presented to Andrés González (former director of the Office of Diversity at the Cleveland Clinic) and Veronica Dahlberg (founder and CEO of HOLA, a grassroots organization fighting for immigration reform and caring for the families that have been torn apart by the deportations of undocumented immigrants) for community service.
The emcee for the evening was the lovely and talented Stephanie Ramírez, reporter for Channel 5 News; speaking on the day’s events she stated: “I think, first, we as people need to support each other; Latinos need to support each other as well. We have different struggles than other people and we need to continue to be there for each other if we are to succeed as a people.”
Speaking on the unity that was prevalent at the event, Ms. Ramírez said: “The Unity was incredible; there were many different colors, people of different ways but today we were all one—no white, no black, no Puerto Rican, no Dominicans; the people were all one.”
The day’s activities included entertainment (during the box-lunch) by the dance troupe from Julia de Burgos Cultural Center and the Coqui group from Cleveland. Well fed and nourished, the participants seemed to thoroughly enjoy the presentations and the free health clinic had everyone waiting in line for free screenings and health checks.
Convención Hispana 2013 has made a huge impact on the area, bringing information and opportunities that, by themselves, would have been hard to come by.
Photos courtesy of Antonio Barrios