Puerto Rico: NOTABLE LATINOS

Negron, Edna (1944-). An educator and a politician, Negron was born in Puerto Rico and came to the United States in 1955. Her family settled in Hartford, where she attended Weaver High School. Negron went on to graduate from Hartford College for Women and then the University of Hartford, where she was awarded a BS degree in 1973 (summa cum laude) and an MS in 1974. She holds an honorary doctorate degree from Trinity College. She served for many years as the Coordinator of the Bilingual/Bicultural Education Program for the Hartford Public Schools. As principal of the Ramon E. Betances School in Hartford, she founded the Family Resource Center, which became a national model for family-based, multi-generational social services housed in public schools. In 1989, after a long term on its Board, Negron was elected President of the Board of Directors of La Casa de Puerto Rico. A year later, Negron became the representative for the State’s 6th House District, after winning a special election for the seat vacated by the death of Maria Sanchez.

Perez, Eddie (1957-). Mayor of Hartford, Perez is originally from Puerto Rico. He graduated from Hartford Public High School and later earned an Associate’s Degree from Capital Community Technical College. After spending many successful years as a community organizer, Perez earned his degree in economics at Trinity College (while working there full-time). He then spearheaded the completion of the Learning Corridor recognized as a national model for comprehensive community revitalization. Perez has made history by being not only Hartford’s first Latino mayor, but also the first Latino mayor of a state capital.

Betancourt, Fernando (1959-). Executive director of the State of Connecticut Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, Betancourt develops and recommends public policy as it affects the Latino and Puerto Rican communities throughout Connecticut to the Executive and Legislative branches of State government. Some issues on which his expertise is particularly valued include: welfare and welfare reform; racism; housing rights; Puerto Rico’s political history and status; the AIDS epidemic and services; civil rights; language rights; voting rights; discrimination by gender, sexual orientation and national origin; bilingual education; and campaign finance reform.

Perez-Escamilla, Rafael (1960-). Originally from Mexico, Perez-Escamilla obtained his BS in chemical engineering from the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City and his masters in food science and PhD in nutrition from the University of California at Davis. He is the principal investigator and director of the Connecticut Center of Excellence for Eliminating Health Disparities among Latinos, and a professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Connecticut. He also holds the title of Nutrition Extension Scientist for the State of Connecticut and a joint appointment with the Department of Community Medicine and Health Care (MPH program) at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington. Perez-Escamilla is an internationally recognized scholar in the areas of domestic and international community nutrition.

Matos, Kica (1966-). The community services administrator of the City of New Haven. Matos was executive director of Junta for Progressive Action, New Haven’s oldest Latino, community-based organization. She is also a clinical visiting lecturer in law at Yale Law School. For most of her adult life, she has devoted herself to advocacy in the area of human rights and civil rights, working in nonprofit organizations including Amnesty International and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. In 2005 she was the recipient of the New Haven Register Person of the Year award. Prior to joining JUNTA, she was an assistant federal defender in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she represented death-sentenced inmates in state courts and federal habeas corpus proceedings. She has a BA from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, an MA from The New School, and a JD from Cornell Law School.

Cotto, Luis (1967-). Cotto is an artist and Hartford city councilmember (2008-2011) with a long history of community activism in the Puerto Rican community. He is the former co-owner of La Paloma Sabanera, a coffee shop and political center for community activists in Hartford.

Gonzalez, Jose B. (1967-). Born in San Salvador, El Salvador, migrated to New London, Connecticut at the age of eight, and has been the recipient of such honors as Connecticut’s Higher Education Multicultural Faculty of the Year Award. Gonzalez has published poetry in such journals as Callaloo, Teacher’s Voice, Palabra, Calabash, and Colere, and anthologies including Coloring Book, Nantucket: A Collection, and Latino Boom: An Anthology of U.S. Latino Literature, which he also coedited. He is the recipient of the 2006 Poet of the Year Award, presented by the New England Association of Teachers of English. In addition, he has contributed critical and nonfiction essays to such journals as New England Quarterly and to National Public Radio. He holds a master’s in English from Brown University and a PhD in English from the University of Rhode Island.

Soto, Balam (1970-). An artist, Soto was born in Mixco, Guatemala, into his native tribe Pocomam Maya. In his mixed media images, he has combined shamanic training with his experience as a Native Central American to develop a unique style of contemporary native art. He is the owner of Nahual Balam Studio, where he exhibits and sells his paintings and masks. He currently resides in an artists’ community with his family in Hartford.


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