Hispanic

Personal Memories During National Hispanic Heritage Month

The author and his family.

The author and his family.

By Elias Rodriguez

America is presently engaged in National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 to October 15. Latino cultural pride is a diverse, multifaceted and nonpartisan experience. This national period of reflection and events began in 1968 under President Lyndon B. Johnson and was broadened by President Ronald Reagan in 1988.

To remember and honor my Latino ancestors during this festive period, I’m sharing a family photo that captures the affection, energy and delight of family life in my distinct Puerto Rican clan.

My father and mother migrated to Nueva York from Santurce and Canovanas, Puerto Rico in the 1950s. They met at church on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and the rest is history. In this photograph, taken in NYC, circa 1970s, the restless niño on my grandfather’s lap is me. Anchoring the family portrait is my beloved mother and maternal grandparents surrounded by my two sisters, four brothers, one aunt and an infant cousin. True to form, dad was absent during the photo shoot and at work after which he probably brought home from the local bodega: groceries, treats and, on one memorable occasion, a live rooster. The latter did not last long in a Manhattan apartment building and was promptly converted into a delicious stew.

A few short years after this photo, I experienced my first visit to Puerto Rico. Treasured memories of my abuelo and abuela include hearty meals of rice, beans, pork and freshly picked vegetables from our ancestral home; the luscious taste of leche fresca straight from cows milked early in the day; and the absolute recognition that the only way to address my grandparents was in a low, respectful tone, and in Spanish, their sole language.

Fortunately, my forbearers also left behind the legacy of a healthy respect for the Earth, an admiration for nature, and a commitment to responsible stewardship. Their enduring message is that every natural resource is a divine blessing and should be managed with wisdom, generosity and cooperatively. My abuelitos taught my family to respect the planet because it will outlast us, never litter because this is where we live, never be wasteful because every resource is cherished, and always be grateful for our days are few before we too are a memory.

About the Author: Elias serves as EPA Region 2’s bilingual public information officer. Prior to joining EPA, the proud Nuyorican worked at Time Inc. conducting research for TIME, LIFE, FORTUNE and PEOPLE magazines. He is a graduate of Hunter College, Baruch College and the Theological Institute of the Assembly of Christian Churches in NYC.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Celebrating Diversity

By Elias Rodriguez

February is National African American History Month and I’ve been reflecting on my distinctly mixed heritage as a Nuyorican. Before relocating to New York City, my immediate forbearers were both born on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico or Borinquen, as the natives originally referred to it. Although born in the Big Apple, it wasn’t until I lived in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico that I discovered the wide diversity of colors, shapes, shades and hair texture of my extended family and related cousins. From ebony to ivory from brown-eyed to green-eyed, the genetic mixture of my family was both wondrous and intriguing to behold. You see, Puerto Ricans benefit from un Sancocho (a stew) of African, Spanish and Taíno bloodlines. When the Spanish conquistadores arrived they encountered the island’s friendly Taínos who spoke Arawakan, the most commonly known native tongue of all South American and Caribbean natives at that time. As generations passed, the peoples mixed and a prodigious progeny was birthed.

My aunts, uncles and grandparents were light skinned, dark skinned and somewhere in between. They were equally beloved and I always asked for their Bendición (blessing). I proudly derive a crucial part of my identity from this generic diversity and rich tradition. My second language is Spanish and I thoroughly enjoy listening to Salsa music with its unmistakable African beat. The nexus between island natives and Africans is historically significant. Who could have looked at the great late Roberto Clemente and not assumed he was black? The famous fort San Felipe del Morro was built with slave labor. Juan Garrido, who made landfall in 1508, is believed to be the first person of African descent to voluntarily arrive on the island when he arrived with Juan Ponce de Leon. The Espiritismo practiced by my maternal grandmother was surely influenced by traditions from across the Atlantic. One look at my childhood photographs and I can surmise that my mother’s taste for dressing me in psychedelic clothes did not come from the Plymouth Rock pilgrims.

The threads of African culture within my own heritage are enriching and enhance my awareness of cultural differences in my work as a federal representative. I teach my children to appreciate this multiculturalism. After all, the U.S. Census Bureau instructs us that “People who identify their origin as Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish may be of any race.” As a native New Yorker, I celebrate the melting pot that gives our nation its strength and resiliency.

About the Author: Elias serves as EPA Region 2’s bilingual public information officer. Prior to joining EPA, the proud Nuyorican worked at Time Inc. conducting research for TIME, LIFE, FORTUNE and PEOPLE magazines. He is a graduate of Hunter College, Baruch College and the Theological Institute of the Assembly of Christian Churches in NYC.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Taking EPA to the Community

Beyond Translation logo bannerFor nearly four years, EPA has undertaken a multilingual outreach effort entitled Beyond Translation. The first Beyond Translation Hispanic Stakeholders Forum saw the light in San Antonio, Texas in the fall of 2006 as a Hispanic outreach initiative designed to increase environmental awareness among Hispanic leaders. Thanks to hard-working EPA employees, this initiative has blossomed into an effort that truly engages EPA and with Hispanic stakeholders from community-based organizations, small businesses, academia, and government officials. As the title suggests, the main objective is to go beyond the traditional mechanisms of reaching out to Hispanics in the US. While necessary, translating brochures into Spanish only produces limited results in increasing the environmental awareness of Hispanic stakeholders. The purpose of these forums is to take EPA to the community where people live, work, learn and play in order to sustain a productive and ongoing dialogue on their environmental concerns and challenges. Through this important tool, the Agency can effectively promote environmentalism among Hispanic communities in a language they can understand so they can actively participate in EPA’s decision-making process.

This year, EPA is once again taking its message to the community in a series of Beyond Translation Forums. The first one will be in EPA Research Triangle Park, NC on October 7th. The theme for this year’s RTP forum is: “EPA and the Hispanic Community: Building Environmental Awareness in Rural Communities.” I urge you attend either in person or virtually (webcasts will be offered) Stay tuned for the next one in our series. Together we can make a difference in environmental protection.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

La EPA llega a la comunidad

image of Beyond Translation logoPor casi cuatro años, la Agencia de Protección Ambiental ha realizado un esfuerzo de alcance público para las comunidades multilingües llamado “Beyond Translation” (Más allá de las traducciones). El primer foro con líderes hispanos de Más allá de las traducciones se efectuó en San Antonio, Texas en el otoño del 2006 como una iniciativa de alcance público a fin de aumentar la concienciación ambiental entre líderes hispanos. Mediante la gran labor de empleados de la EPA, esta iniciativa rindió frutos y ha culminado en un esfuerzo que realmente logra una comunicación efectiva entre la EPA y partes interesadas hispanas provenientes de organizaciones de base comunitaria, pequeños negocios, académicos, y funcionarios públicos. Como el título sugiere, el principal objetivo consiste en ir más allá de los mecanismos tradicionales para alcanzar a los hispanos en los Estados Unidos. Mientras todavía es necesario, la traducción de folletos al español sólo produce resultados limitados para crear conciencia medioambiental entre partes interesadas hispanas. El propósito de estos foros radica en lleva a EPA a las comunidades donde el pueblo vive, trabaja, aprende y juega a fin de sostener un diálogo productivo y sostenido sobre sus preocupaciones y retos medioambientales. Mediante esta importante herramienta, la Agencia eficazmente promueve el ambientalismo entre las comunidades hispanas en un idioma que pueden entender y en el cual pueden participar activamente en el proceso de toma de decisiones de la Agencia.

Este año, EPA está llevando nuevamente su mensaje a la comunidad en una serie de foros de Más allá de las traducciones. El primero se celebrará en las oficinas de EPA en el Parque de Investigaciones del Triángulo (RTP, por sus siglas en inglés) en Carolina del Norte el 7 de octubre. El tema del foro de RTP este año es: “EPA y la comunidad hispana: creando conciencia ambiental en comunidades rurales.” Le instamos que participe sea en persona o por vía cibernética. Quédese sintonizado a nuestros blogs porque pronto brindaremos mas detalles sobre el próximo en la serie. Juntos podemos hacer una diferencia a favor de la protección ambiental.

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

One Down, Three To Go

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Lea la versión en español a continuación de esta entrada en inglés.
Some links exit EPA or have Spanish content. Exit EPA Disclaimer

Beyond Translation Conference Banner“…Regardless of our heritage, we all have the same interest in a clean, healthy environment. Hispanics, with their deep sense of family and community, can help EPA spread the ethic of environmental stewardship to all segments of our society.” – EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson

Hard work pays off! We successfully hosted our first National Beyond Translation Forum on September 15th. Participation surpassed our expectations. Feedback from the attendees has been very positive.

This event was the first Beyond Translation Forum held at the national level in Washington, DC as a result of the successful initiative originated by employees in Dallas three years ago. EPA Employees in partnership with Hispanic organizations and state representatives came together for this important event.

As the theme of the conference suggests, “EPA and the Hispanic Community: Partnering, Engaging, and Building Awareness,” we’ve learned that our work has just begun. It didn’t end with the event last Monday. Far from it. Currently, we are identifying opportunities in which stakeholders will be able to work together. We plan to collaborate in order to increase environmental awareness on environmental health issues of interest to the Hispanic community as well as potential economic opportunities for Hispanic small business and organizations to work with the Agency.

After the presentations, it was very exciting to see many of the stakeholders come to me and other conference speakers to discuss ways in which we can join forces to build on the momentum generated by this important event. As administrator Stephen L. Johnson said in his speech at the BT Forum in Washington, DC this week, “with the help of the Hispanic community, we will continue our environmental successes.”

The next forum will be held on October 1st at EPA Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. At the EPA-RTP campus, we will be focusing on children’s environmental health.

Once again, thanks to the team members from the EPA Office of Small Business Programs, Office of Cooperative Environmental Management, our Office of Civil Rights, the staff from our program and regional offices, as well as many of the speakers from HHS, NASA, LULAC, AFOP, Hispanic College Fund, LCLAA, and others who gave their all for this event. It was a true labor of love.

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

Beyond Translation Conference banner“…Independientmente de nuestro patrimonio cultural, todos tenemos el mismo interés en un medio ambiente limpio y saludable. Los hispanos con su profundo sentir de familia y comunidad pueden ayudar a EPA a difundir los valores de protección medioambiental a todos los segmentos de nuestra sociedad”. – Administrador de EPA Stephen L. Johnson

¡La ardua labor tiene recompensas! Auspiciamos exitosamente nuestro foro llamado “Más allá de las traducciones” el 15 de septiembre. La participación sobrepasó las expectativas y las reacciones han sido muy positivas.

Este evento fue el primer foro celebrado a nivel nacional en Washington, DC como resultado de una exitosa iniciativa originada por empleados en Dallas, Texas hace tres años atrás. Empleados de EPA en asociación con organizaciones y representantes estatales hispanos se unieron para este importante evento.

Como sugiere el título, “EPA y la comunidad hispana: Creando conciencia mediante colaboración y diálogo”, vemos que nuestra labor tan sólo ha comenzado. No culminó con el evento del pasado lunes. Al contrario, ahora estamos identificando oportunidades mediante el cual las partes interesadas empezarán a trabajar juntas. Esperamos colaborar a fin de fomentar la concienciación medioambiental sobre asuntos de salud ambiental que sean de interés a la comunidad hispana así como potenciales oportunidades económicas para pequeños negocios y organizaciones hispanas que quieren trabajar con la agencia.

Después de las presentaciones, fue excitante ver a muchos participantes acercarse a nosotros para discutir maneras en que podemos aunar fuerzas para seguir el ímpetu generado por este importante evento. Como el administrador Stephen L. Johnson declaró en su discurso en este Foro de Más allá de las traducciones en Washington, DC esta semana, “con la ayuda de la comunidad hispana, continuaremos nuestros éxitos ambientales”.

El próximo foro se celebrará el primero de octubre en las Oficinas del Triángulo de Investigaciones de EPA en Carolina del Norte. Allí nos enfocaremos en la salud ambiental infantil.

Nuevamente, mil gracias al equipo de EPA de la Oficina de Pequeños Negocios, la Oficina de Gestión Cooperativa Ambienta, nuestra Oficina de Derechos Civiles, el personal de nuestras oficinas programáticas y regionales, así como a los oradores de agencias federales y organizaciones como HHS, NASA, LULAC, AFOP, el Hispanic College Fund, LCLAA, y otros que dieron su máximo por este evento. Realmente fue una labor encomiable.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.