The year 2019 was significant for Philadelphia-area Latinos: Political organizing was strong, more Latino candidates ran for City Council than ever before, and the first Dominican was elected to Pennsylvania’s legislature.
After speaking with Philadelphia community leaders, The Inquirer created a list highlighting the significant achievements of 10 Latinos.
The list is not comprehensive. It notes the talents, efforts, and impacts of artists, athletes, politicians, and others. Throughout 2020, The Inquirer will continue to report on the work of Latinos in the region.
Nominate members of the Latino communities for their achievements in 2020 by filling out this online form or sending a text message to the Latino Communities WhatsApp number: 267-908-1438.
In the arts
Raquel Salas Rivera, Philadelphia poet laureate 2018-19
Raquel Salas Rivera, 34, is a queer poet, raised in Puerto Rico and the Philadelphia area, who served as Philadelphia’s fourth poet laureate, a civic position overseen by the Free Library. Salas Rivera spent the past year promoting literacy and encouraging literary expression in service work, workshops, readings, and mentorship programs.
Salas Rivera, originally from Mayagüez, was one of the inaugural recipients of the Academy of American Poets’ Laureate Fellowship. As poet laureate, Salas Rivera organized and hosted a six-month poetry series, Lo nuestro — Spanish for “Ours”; organized and co-led a workshop alongside editor Nicole Cecilia Delgado in which participants created a “cardboard library” for the Kensington Library; and co-organized and co-hosted “Home on Our Back” with Boston poet laureate Porsha Olayiwola — a poetry collaboration to create work focused on migration. Salas Rivera mentored Philly’s 2018-19 youth poet laureate, Wes Matthews, and 2019-20 youth poet laureate, Mía Concepción.
Salas Rivera in 2019 also completed a Ph.D. program in comparative literature and literary theory at the University of Pennsylvania, and co-edited and published the bilingual anthology of Puerto Rican poets Puerto Rico en mi corazón.
Claudia Peregrina, community artist
Claudia Peregrina, 38, is a Philadelphia-based artist, community organizer, and art therapist who was the lead artist behind the ofrenda for Fleisher Art Memorial’s seventh annual Day of the Dead celebration, this year a tribute to the Xochimilco canals in her native Mexico City.
For her community-based efforts combining art and women’s social justice with organizations in the Philadelphia area, Peregrina was selected “Mexican artist in the United States of America” by Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.
She was recently selected as one of 10 people to receive the Leeway Transformation Award along with Latinx Melissa Beatriz and Wit López. The Leeway Foundation supports female and trans artists and cultural producers.
On the field
Marco Fabián, former Union midfielder
Marco Fabián, 30, made history this year when the Mexican midfielder joined the Union at a record salary of $2.27 million in guaranteed compensation. His base salary was $1.83 million over an 11-month contract, with two club-held option years afterward.
Although the Union cut ties with Fabián in November, the soccer player from Guadalajara was a key player in a successful season for the club.
Al Horford, 76ers forward-center
Al Horford, 33, put the local NBA team into a small category after the official announcement of his signing in July — pro basketball teams with Latino players. According to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports, only 2.4% of NBA players in the 2018-19 season were Latino — rising from 2.3% the year before.
Since joining the 76ers, the five-time all-star Dominican player has led a basketball clinic for a group of 30 middle- and high-school students from Thomas Edison High and El Concilio’s after-school program, as part of a commitment to get Latino youth involved in basketball.
State Rep. Danilo Burgos, 197th District
Danilo Burgos, 41, took office Jan. 1 as the first Dominican to serve in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. The legislator was appointed to serve in leadership committee roles with Agriculture and Rural Affairs; the Oil and Gas Caucus; Children and Youth; Human Services; and Gov. Wolf’s Census Commission.
Burgos, who was born in Washington Heights, New York City, has co-sponsored bills that address criminal justice, toxic school remediation and community safety. House Bill 1172 was signed into law in July, and was co-sponsored by Burgos. It allows Pennsylvania boards and commissions to issue a provisional license for anyone licensed to practice in another state, U.S. territory, or country.
Amy Eusebio, director of the city Office of Immigrant Affairs
Amy Eusebio, 34, is the first Afro Latina to lead Philadelphia’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.
The daughter of Dominican immigrants, Eusebio began working for the city in 2018 as director of the Municipal ID Program, where she led and launched the affordable photo identification program the following year. More than 10,000 people obtained their PHL City ID within the first six months of its launch, surpassing the city’s goal for the first year of the program.
She was appointed the director for the Office of Immigrant Affairs in September, after Nicaraguan Miriam Enriquez had led the office for more than three years. Eusebio, who is a first-generation American, completed her undergraduate and graduate education in social work. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Temple University and a master’s from Penn.
‘Puchi’ De Jesús, Philly Boricua
Gabriela “Puchi” Rodríguez De Jesús, 24, an Ecuarican (Ecuadorian Puerto Rican) native of Santurce, Puerto Rico, is one of the representatives for Philly Boricua. Philly Boricua is a political education group organized in 2019 to support local Puerto Ricans striving to make an impact in the city and on the island. De Jesús was one of 10 who headed the inaugural People of Puerto Rico Assembly in Philadelphia, where they discussed issues that the population is facing and Puerto Rico’s complicated relationship with the United States.
The goal of De Jesús and Philly Boricua is to continue the momentum gained in the aftermath of the political turmoil that caused Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló to resign in 2019 after a series of corruption scandals.
In the media
Udini La Voz, co-founder of Higher Than 7
Odín Palacio, 36, is better known as the bilingual hip-hop artist Udini La Voz. He is a Philadelphia-based entertainment producer recognized for his artistic work and efforts empowering Latino youth. In 2019 he received two citations from City Councilperson David Oh and was named Artist of the Year by City Council.
The native of Panama City, Panama, co-founded the urban media and entertainment production house Higher Than 7 with Anis Tayler and Travis Ruscil in 2014. His work includes commercial productions with the 76ers’ Joel Embiid and performance collaborations with Latin Vibes — a group of Latin urban music promoters and DJs in South Jersey, Philly, and Delaware. Palacio and his colleagues formed a partnership with Penn Law in which students work on Higher Than 7′s production contracts.
Palacio organizes workshops and panels with Philly and Camden youths to empower and encourage Latino participation in the music production and entertainment industries.
Arianne Bracho, producer of ‘Madre Tierra’
Arianne Bracho, 50, started producing community radio in her native Venezuela. Now a Philadelphia-based media personality, she produces two shows at the community TV and radio outlet PhillyCAM, including the show Madre Tierra, for which she won a 2019 CAMMY Innovation Award.
In the Spanish-language show, the producer from Caracas dives deep into the cultural and socially systemic experiences that Latin Americans and Latinos encounter in the United States and around the world. Bracho emphasizes the impact of ancestral feminine wisdom and the need to strengthen it in mainstream society.
Adriana Vázquez, CEO and co-founder of Lilu
Adriana Vázquez, 30, is the co-founder and CEO of the three-year-old startup Lilu, the company behind the hands-free breast pumping bra with automated massages that won Philadelphia’s 2019 Technical.ly Award for Invention of the Year.
The native of Mexico City, whose firm advocates for better technology for women’s health, worked on the bra’s manufacturing during July and started shipping in September.
Vázquez graduated in 2011 from MIT, where she received a B.S. in mathematics with a minor in computer science. She later pursued a master’s in integrated product design at Penn, where she developed the idea for Lilu’s Pumping Bra.