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These amazing individuals, chosen by community members from our Steering Committee, have demonstrated meaningful service and commitment to El Barrio and Latino communities throughout New York City.


JesusPapoleto_250x250JESÚS “PAPOLETO” MELÉNDEZ
Poet, Playwright, Performance Artist and long-time El Barrio resident
Long considered one of the original founders of the Nuyorican Movement, Meléndez addresses political, intellectual and linguistic topics in his work that remain relevant today. A New York-born Puerto Rican award-winning poet, playwright, teacher and activist, he began his career nearly 40 years ago as a poet-facilitator in public schools, working at workshop programs in California and New York. In 1974, Meléndez’s play, “The Junkies Stole The Clock,” was the first Latino play produced by the New York Shakespeare Festival, The Public Theatre’s Nuyorican Playwright’s Unit. Over the years, Meléndez has performed his poetry with his musical group “Exiled Genius,” with Eugene Mingus on piano, and M’Chaka Uba on bass, a trio that combined the tradition of jazz spontaneity and precision with the natural melody of the poetic voice in poetry/jazz collaboration.


donjaimefotoflores-h-2JAIME LUCERO
Entrepreneur / Founder of Casa Puebla New York-New Jersey
Born in a small town of the state of Puebla called Independencia, Jaime Lucero seems to have been marked by the name of his hometown. Jaime arrived to the United States in 1975 looking for a better future and was part of the first wave of Mexican immigrants that came to the tri-state area. Jaime and his brother Julio bought a truck and started a clothing distribution service in New York and New Jersey. By 1985 the small business had grown into Azteca Enterprises. In 1993, Gold and Silver Inc. was founded and which imports and finishes high-end fashion clothing for major department stores. In the late 90´s, Mr. Lucero built a garment factory in his native state of Puebla. With it, he has helped to create more than 5,000 jobs and revitalize local economies in several underdeveloped regions of Mexico.
Recently, Mr. Lucero was named President of the Comité Guadalupano of the Archdiocese of New York by His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York.


daisy-martinezDAISY MARTINEZ
Chef and Author / Associate Director of Alumni Affairs at the International Culinary Center
Daisy Maria Martinez is a Brooklyn native born to mainland Puerto Rican parents. Between her grandmother and her mother Daisy grew up appreciating the diversity of Latin cuisine. Prior to entering the food world Daisy was an actress and model, appearing in print ads for Spanish shoe company Martinez Valero, as well as American and Spanish-language commercials for products such as Ford and AT&T. Film credits include Carlito’s Way and Scent of a Woman.

After marrying, Daisy dedicated herself to raising her family. In 1998 she matriculated at the French Culinary Institute and after graduation Daisy worked as a prep-kitchen chef on the set of PBS’ Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen, as a private chef in New York, and as the owner of a small catering business called “The Passionate Palate.” In 2005 Daisy launched Daisy Cooks! on PBS and her cookbook, Daisy Cooks! Latin Flavors that Will Rock Your World, which was an IACP nominee and winner of the Best Latino Cuisine Cookbook in the World by the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. Daisy’s chance encounter with Rachael Ray led to Viva Daisy!, which had its debut on Food Network in January 2009. In addition to her show, Daisy is a regular columnist for Every Day with Rachael Rayand Selecciones magazines.

Proud of her Puerto Rican heritage, Daisy is very active in the Latino community. Her honors and activities include: Latinas Unidas in Rochester, N.Y., and The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families; mistress of ceremonies for The American Cancer Society Gala/Brooklyn Chapter and judge for the Street Vendor Project’s Vendy Awards;  contributor to Bodega Party in a Box; has worked with the New York Fire Department Museum Cook-Off, March of Dimes/ Chicago Chapter, Easter Seals Miami/Dade County Chapter; and has appeared at numerous career days at schools all over New York City. Daisy is a mother of four and resides in Brooklyn, N.Y.


edgardomiranda-rodriguez_photobydannyhastings02EDGARDO MIRANDA-RODRIGUEZ
Artist / Founder, Somos Arte | Co-founder, Darryl Makes Comics
Edgardo is the founder of his design studio, Somos Arte, and co-founder of the graphic novel publishing company Darryl Makes Comics with his business partner, Darryl DMC McDaniels. Via Somos Arte, he has a client roster that includes Marvel, Columbia University, Meredith Hispanic Ventures and various Latino non-profits like ASPIRA of New York, El Puente, and the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute. Edgardo was the Artistic Director of Pa’lante Siempre Pa’lante, part of the acclaimed PBS POV Documentary Series which received the Silver Apple Award from the National Media Alliance. Edgardo’s debut as a writer for Marvel has been received with critical acclaim similar to his initial work with Marvel as curator of two exhibitions Santerians: The Art of Joe Quesada and Marvelous Color. As Editor-in-Chief of Darryl Makes Comics he has successfully produced two full-length critically acclaimed and bestselling graphic novels DMC #1, DMC #2, and is presently in production of DMC #3.


nataliayantonio_adrienne-grunwaldNATALIA MENDEZ
Chef/Founder of La Morada Restaurant Bronx, NY
Natalia Mendez is an Oaxaca born migrant that came to New York City with her husband Antonio Saavedra in 1992. Together they opened La Morada Restaurant located in the South Bronx which they continue to run with their family. La Morada, opened its doors in 2009 and continues to be an entryway to many to the flavors of Oaxaca, Mexico. Natalia and family have fought long and hard over issues related to migration, farming, as well as initiatives that help support local businesses and undocumented citizens.


Poet, Performance Artist, Community Arts Activist, and Educator
Maria Aponte has written and performed two one woman shows: Lagrimas de mis Madres, based on the women in her family, and I Will Not be Silenced based on the life of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz. As a writer, she received the 2013 International Latino Book Award for 2nd Place in Best Poetry in English for Transitions of a Nuyorican Cinderella, is listed on RockThoseReads selected books about Harlem by Total Equity Now, and has published The Gift of Loss, her memoir about dealing with the loss of her parents and the healing process thereafter. Maria has her Masters in Latin American Studies from Fordham University, and continues working there as the Diversity Initiatives Coordinator/Career Counselor. Maria is the founder of Latina 50 Plus™, a program honoring Latina Pioneers, and was selected by the Bronx Times as one of 25 Bronx Influential Women for 2016. 

Choreographer and Founder, Keep Rising to the Top aka K3RT
Ms. Galagarza is a Spanish Harlem, born and raised, Latin Grammy Award-Winning choreographer, dancer and performer. In 1989, Violeta, a former LaGuardia Performing Arts High School and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater founded Keep Rising to the Top (KR3T) in 1989 as a way to inspire troubled teens through dance and expression, while educating them about the rich history of their surroundings to help instill a sense of pride.


Acting Director and Chief Curator of the Loisaida Inc. Cultural Center
Libertad O. Guerra is an anthropologist, curator, and art historian. Since 2014, she has served as Acting Director and Chief Curator of the Loisaida Inc. Cultural Center, where she has developed a diverse and intergenerational roster of programs, revamped the Loisaida Street Festival, and produced critically- and community-acclaimed exhibitions. Her academic research focuses on Puerto Rican, Latin@, and Latin American social-artistic movements and cultural activism in immigrant urban settings. Her publications include essays in The Journal of Aesthetics and Protest and in the edited volume New York-Berlin: Kulturen in der Stadt. She has organized numerous local and international exhibitions, panels, and conferences, among them ¡Presente! The Young Lords in New York at Loisaida Inc. Cultural Center (2015). Guerra is a longtime resident of the South Bronx, where she serves on the board of the Mott Haven/Port Morris Land Trust and advocates for environmental justice and cultural equity.

Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Education Department’s Office of Instructional Support
Angelica M. Infante Green’s portfolio includes overseeing the following offices: Bilingual Education and World Languages; Data Systems and Educational Technology; Assessment; Curriculum & Instruction; Special Education, and the Office of District and School Review.  In her previous role as the Associate Commissioner for Bilingual Education and World Languages, she spearheaded the release of the nationally-recognized Blueprint for English Language Learners’ Success, a statewide framework that establishes clear expectations for administrators, policymakers, and practitioners to prepare English Language Learners (ELLs) for academic success. In addition, while she was leading this work, the Board of Regents adopted Commissioner’s Regulations Part 154, the foundation for progressive statewide policies governing ELL education. Ms. Infante-Green is an education visionary and a proven leader of change.

wanda-salaman WANDA SALAMAN
Executive Director, Mothers on the Move
Wanda Salaman works to end disparities in education by fighting political corruption and organizing students to take leadership roles in their schools. Mothers on the Move is a social justice community organization in the South Bronx that hopes to bring fair housing, clean air, job training and green development to the neighborhood. 



President, Latino Commission on AIDS | Founder, Hispanic Health Network
Guillermo Chacón, born and raised in El Salvador, is currently working on a statewide task force whose goal is to eradicate AIDS in NY by 2020 and serves as a co-chair for the Housing and Support Services work group. He has been highly recognized by Governor Andrew Cuomo, who appointed him to serve on the New York State AIDS Advisory Council and nominated him to serve on the New York State Minority Health Council. In the past, he has also been on the Advisory Committee on HIV, Viral Hepatitis and STD Prevention and Treatment for the CDC and HRSA. Guillermo Chacón played a key role in promoting HIV and Viral Hepatitis awareness, testing, and education in Latino/Hispanic communities and continues to do so through his involvement in  the Latino/Jewish Coalition, the New York Immigration Coalition, the New York City AIDS Memorial, where he serves as a board member or chair.

Director, The Children’s Aid Society East Harlem Center
A Bronx native, Giordano has been devoted to helping others through social work from a young age. Giordano worked for the Children’s AID Society for 35 years and then transitioned to being Mental Health Intensive Case Manager (ICM) and Social Work Supervisor & Administrator with Catholic Charities. He obtained his MSW from the Hunter School of Social Work and continued there as a trainer and facilitator for all NYC Case Managers in Assessment & Treatment Planning and Cultural Diversity. He served as a Board Member, Trainer and Vice-President for The New York State Case Management Coalition, where he assisted in development of community based services offered to the most vulnerable of mental health populations. He is now working again at the Children’s AID Society as Director of The Children’s Aid Society East Harlem Center, as well as serving as a Community Board Member for CD 11 and as Chair for CD 11’s Youth & Education Committee. In addition, he sits on the Health & Human Services committee and is a CAB member of Metropolitan Hospital. His involvements in such organizations allow him to foster a greater collaboration among community organizations, elected officials and businesses to ensure the people are able to access and receive all needed services.

Director and Founder, Los Pleneros de la 21
Juan Jose ‘Juango’ Gutiérrez Rodríguez is a percussionist, composer and arranger. Juango’s musical upbringing was a combination of folk and academic, reared amongst the street musical traditions of San Juan neighborhoods and the skills afforded by the Escuela Libre de Música. He also went on to study music at the Conservatorio de Música in Hato Rey, which provided him with the opportunity to become a member of the Puerto Rican Symphony Orchestra, the Manhattan School of Music, and Lehman College, where he earned a Masters in Music Education. While working as a Broadway percussionist, he met and began studying with renowned Master plena practitioner and artisan Marcial Reyes Arvelo, whom embraced Juango as a peer and fellow Boricua living in New York in search for his roots. For his vision and contributions to the traditional arts landscape, Juango received the National Endowment of the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship in 1996. He is the mastermind behind the outstanding trajectory and recording works of LP21; including LP21’s most recent release by the Smithsonian Folkways titled “Para Todos Ustedes/For All of You” which was nominated for the 48th Annual Grammy Awards for Best Traditional World Music Album.

Arts Manager and Development Strategist, Pregones / Puerto Rican Traveling Theater
Arnaldo J. López joined Pregones Theater in 1999 and is part of the leadership team that engineered the company’s recent merger with the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater in Manhattan. As Development Officer, he plays a key role in planning and diversified fundraising, including government, corporate, foundation, and individual contributions. Experienced in nonprofit arts management and the peer-reviewed funding process, Dr. López works as advisor and consultant to organizations and individuals mapping paths towards sustainable arts practice. His professional background includes 10 years in letterpress/graphic design and 5 years of college-level teaching. He is member and former Board Vice Chair of The Bronx Council on the Arts, associate consultant with the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at The University of Maryland, and a frequent collaborator with the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures. 

Filmmaker, Educator, and Independent Journalist
Andrew J. Padilla is an award-winning filmmaker, educator, and journalist born and raised in East Harlem, NYC. He is currently profiling displacement in America through a series of documentary shorts entitled “El Barrio Tours: Gentrification USA”. From Hostos to Harvard, Andrew has lectured on urban politics across the US. His writing has been featured in NPR Latino, City Limits, Latino Rebels and La Respuesta.


chocolate_armenteros ALFREDO “CHOCOLATE” ARMENTEROS (1928 – 2016)
The king of the Afro-Cuban trumpet, Alfredo “Cho-co-la-te” Armenteros was an old school dapper dresser with a happy outlook on a life filled with jokes, adventures, pranks, love, romance, children, and good times. Playing his horn through seven decades of musical trends, Chocolate’s dynamically rich tenor defined the early days of the Cuban conjunto trumpet solo style. Chocolate’s tales took him from the Tropicana Nightclub where he backed Nat King Cole to the many stages he shared with names like Philly Joe Jones, Dizzy Gillespie, and Oscar Brown Jr. at the Apollo Theater. Winning the Latin New York Magazine Award in 1974 and the Latin New York category for Best Trumpet of the Year in 1977, Chocolate has nine albums to his name.

valentinGILBERTO GERENA VALENTÍN (1918 – 2016)
Former Military Veteran / Politician
A champion of the Puerto Rican and Latino Community, Gilberto Gerena Valentín migrated to New York City in 1937 where his interest in labor rights began. His subsequent performance as an aerial gunner and radio operator in World War II exemplified the courage and tenacity with which he took up later struggles at home. As a New York City councilman representing the Bronx, he introduced resolutions against the presence of the U.S. Navy in Vieques, Puerto Rico; against the movie Fort Apache, The Bronx, and against the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua. He was a true mover and shaker, a political advocate of remarkable commitment and stamina.

gag_washingtonGAYS AGAINST GUNS (G.A.G.)
LGBTQ People & Allies against flawed gun control laws and its convergence with homophobia
Gays Against Guns NY is an inclusive group of LGBTQ people and their allies committed to nonviolently breaking the gun industry’s chain of death–investors, manufacturers, the NRA and other lobby groups, and their puppets in Congress that block good gun laws. We are New York-based but work with GAG chapters in other cities to ensure safety for all individuals, particularly vulnerable communities such as people of color, LGBTQ people, religious minorities, and their significant overlap. We strongly believe that bigotry and hate plus easy access to lethal weapons is a deadly combination. We demand sensible and meaningful gun reform such as a ban on assault weapons and background checks on ALL gun sales, including online and at gun shows.

mariomoralesMARIO MORALES
Senior Academic Advisor, Harlem Center for Education
Mario received his Bachelors degree from Boricua College in Human Services. He had been a timeless staple of the Harlem Center for Education as his career started in (1980-2016). While in his final year of college as a drop-out prevention counselor, Morales gradually became full time College Advisor. Over the last 36 years, he has counseled thousands of students and in some cases the whole family. “I can’t get over the fact that I have had an impact on so many people” says Mario as he reflects on his long-term accomplishments. Some of Mario’s former students are Johnny Rivera, District Leader; Isaac Torres, Vice President, Corporate Secretary and Assistant General Counsel of Carver Federal Savings Bank; and Michell Cardone, architect. Morales, who was nowhere close to retirement made it his main priority to know all there is about the college financial process so he could continue helping low income students make it to and afford college.

maylin_reynosoMAYLIN REYNOSO (2016)
Member of Brujas Skate Group
Maylin Reynoso was a 20 year old Dominican girl from the Bronx who was last seen leaving her job on July 27th. She was missing for a week before her body was found and at the time, there was no media coverage of her disappearance- only homemade posters on the subway and on social media where many of her followers and her friends were posting pictures begging for her safe return. Her body was found a week later floating in the Harlem River. Maylin’s death is a call for all of the forgotten Latina women who are taken from us and not much is done to bring their perpetrators to justice and media outlets choose to silence these stories by not giving them any attention/ not deeming them “worthy”. The racial biases in journalism need to be addressed and the general public should have access to information about missing people as well their stories should be widely circulated so we can help bring them home safely. The media’s discrimination of missing/murdered WOC and Trans WOC needs to be acknowledged. We cannot let these stories disappear into the void of silence and apathy. We need to protect all women, we need to question systemic racism, and we need to demand a change.


rosariofROSARIO FERRÉ (1938 – 2016)
Puerto Rican Author
Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Rosario Ferré Ramírez de Arellano was an award-winning writer, poet, and essayist. During her time as a student at the University of Puerto Rico, she co-founded the journal “Zona de Carga y Descarga” to publish the works of new writers and promote the independence movement. After publishing collections of short stories and literary essays, her first book “Maldito Amor” in 1986 won the Liberatur Prix award from the Frankfurt Book Fair. She continued to write while working as a professor at the University of Puerto Rico, Rutgers University, and Johns Hopkins University, and her book “The House on the Lagoon” was a National Book Award finalist in 1995. She was awarded an honorary doctorate from Brown University in 1997 and was a Guggenheim Fellowship recipient in 2004.

“La tradición de los Reyes Magos es una de las más bellas y antiguas en nuestra isla. Es una tradición que nos une al amor de la tierra, a pesar de que somos hoy un pueblo urbano. Por eso a los camellos hay que ponerles hierba debajo de la cama. También es una tradición que nos une al cristianismo universal y nos saca del provincialismo. Los Reyes Magos vienen de tres puntos cardinales: del norte, del sur, y deleste; acuden al pesebre de distintas partes del mundo para descubrir el nacimiento del Niño Dios y darle la buena nueva a los hombres de que han de adorarlo. Pero los Reyes Magos simbolizan mucho más que eso para los puertorriqueños. También simbolizan para nosotros la mezcla de razas; la raza blanca, la amerindia, y la negra; y la mezcla de la cultura europea y española con las culturas sajonas y americanas. Es por eso que los Reyes Magos son hoy el ícono preferido de Puerto Rico, nuestros santos más venerados. Los queremos porque son sabios y porque son magos; porque le traen oro, mirra e incienso a una familia homeless que hace dos mil años se refugió en un pesebre: la familia de Jesús, María y José. Hoy venimos aquí a rendirles homenaje otra vez.” -Rosario Ferré