In commemoration of the 178th Anniversary of Independence of the Dominican Republic, the Hostos Office of the President gathered an impassioned and impressive group of Dominican American leaders on Tuesday, February 22, 2022, to celebrate Dominican heritage and it was much more than the announced roundtable discussion. It transformed into a story circle that affirmed identity and how Hostos has helped advance generations of Dominicans.
Moderated by Hostos Community Advisory Council Chair Mr. Elias Alcantara and Hostos Dean Ms. Ana I. García Reyes, who on a yearly basis coordinates this event in conjunction with the President’s Office. The event heard the warm welcoming words of Hostos President Daisy Cocco De Filippis; a dedicated recorded message from Congressman Adriano Espaillat; NYS Assemblymembers Amanda Septimo and Yudelka Tapia; NYC Councilmembers, Carmen De La Rosa, Oswald Feliz, and Pierina Sanchez; and Bronx Deputy Borough President Janet Peguero.
Hostos President Dr. Daisy Cocco De Filippis demonstrated her passion as she remarked, “I am bursting with pride. It is amazing to see the future in the faces of our leaders here. Unbelievable to me that we got to this point. It is wonderful to see the face of the future.”
Before learning from CUNY Dominican Studies Institute Director Dr. Ramona Hernández about her research study Impact of COVID19 in the Dominican Community and Dr. Juan Tapia Mendoza’s timely remarks, each one of the distinguished guests shared a shortened version of their Dominican heritage story and living to achieve the American dream. Everyone paid homage to the sacrifices of those who came before.
Assemblymember Amanda Septimo began by acknowledging Hostos, “Thank you so much to Hostos for everything that you do day-in-day-out for our community and most importantly for everything you represent…we are so lucky to have you in the South Bronx and it is so fitting we are celebrating Dominican heritage together today. There are no words to describe the difference and impact you make in the Dominican community and in the lives of so many Dominican families in the Bronx.”
Councilwoman Carmen De La Rosa praised the accomplishments of Dominican women who, “have risen across our city and state…this is a testament to the sacrifices of our parents to the sacrifices of our people who worked so hard to make sure that we had access to education that as a community we became civically engaged and today when we celebrate Dominican heritage, we celebrate the contributions of our ancestors.”
Assemblymember Yudelka Tapia was inspiring as she expressed: “this event is about all the hard work we have done as a community and the contributions we have created in this country over the years. We are people of creativity, that work hard, like to progress. We have planted our feet in this country knowing that we believe in the America Dream and are getting it through the fight and being an example is a testament of who we are as a community.”
Councilmember Oswald Feliz’s father came to this country without a penny but with a desire to move forward. He worked as a taxi driver seven days a week and his mother as a home attendant to become a housing lawyer.
“We’re here,” said Councilmember Pierina Sanchez to Hostos students. “All the hard work you are doing is worth it.” She shared her Tia Irma’s story who was a Bronx Community College custodian for years. Cleaning the halls, she saw young people at the College and one day asked one of the professors, “can my son come?” And just like that, one person changed one entire family and a generation. Sanchez acknowledges it was that gesture long ago that led the rest of her family to study hard and dream, because “Ustedes pueden, you can and you will, and don’t let self-doubt take the best of you.”
And the stories kept coming. The elected officials, including Deputy Bronx Borough President Peguero reminded students that they were there for them and to carry on with their education.
When it came time for Dr. Hernández’s presentation, she began by saying, “I am speechless because of these accomplishments and a feeling of pride.” Soon she engaged the audience with her data that revealed that Dominicans in the NY, NJ, CT tristate area had a high rate of compliance with guidelines and best practices such as masking and getting vaccinated.
One in four Dominicans were impacted by COVID and 77.29% of Dominicans were vaccinated the minute the vaccine was made available. Dr. Juan Tapia Mendoza, a medical doctor supported Dr. Hernández’s research and spoke about how the pandemic unveiled the social health disparities that exist in our communities, and how through the worst part of the pandemic Dominican healthcare workers were on the front lines helping from day one.
The Dominican heritage event was yet again a moment to witness respectful camaraderie among generations of Dominicans who have worked hard to move ahead to uplift people who want to also live the American Dream.