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AL DÍA has selected the 25 most important leaders in its 25-year history.
AL DÍA has selected the 25 most important leaders in its 25-year history.

The 25 of the AL DÍA 25th Year Anniversary

On the occasion of celebrating our 25th anniversary, we decided to dive into our archives and pick the 25 most outstanding individuals who more often AL DÍA…

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May 27th, 2022

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During the 25 years, and the more than 1,300 weekly editions of our publication printed and circulated, thousands of faces and names have come and gone over our pages during the incessant and inevitable flow of weekly journalism.

On the occasion of celebrating our 25th anniversary, we decided to dive into our archives and pick the 25 most outstanding individuals who more often AL DÍA have followed in their careers, and, because of their personal merits, more frequently have appeared in our pages.

We also added those others that only now and then have been featured in AL DÍA, but made an impact of exceptional proportions when they did. 

They are men and women of all backgrounds and professions, all extraordinary Americans of Latino descent we have decided to call “The 25 of the AL DÍA 25th Year Anniversary”.

We will introduce them briefly to you on the following pages and we intend to feature them during the upcoming 12 months when we plan to engage them in open discussions about the inaccurate representations of Latinos in the media and on the urgent need to shift the narrative about Americans of Latino descent in the public discourse.

We have chosen these 25 American leaders because they all have the capacity to discern this crucial challenge of our times and also because they happen to command the influence to do something about it.

The harmful stereotypes existing today about Americans of Latino descent need to be confronted head-on with fact-based reporting, credible data journalism, and powerful storytelling that finally brings an understanding and appreciation of the actual role Americans of Latino descent are playing in American culture, American politics, and American business.

Our selection is an open letter to all of them to join us in writing together with the next chapter of stories published AL DÍA in the years to come, when we intend to make, from the field of independent and self-sustaining journalism, our own contribution to reshaping the perceptions of Latinos in America.

The harmful stereotypes existing today about Americans of Latino descent need to be confronted head-on with fact-based reporting, credible data journalism, and powerful storytelling that finally brings an understanding and appreciation of the actual role Americans of Latino descent are playing in American culture, American politics, and American business.

Let’s roll up the sleeves and let the discussion and actual action begin.

Maria Quiñones-Sanchez

Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez is an American politician who serves on the Philadelphia City Council representing the 7th District in this city. A member of the Democratic Party, she has held the position since 2008, as the the first Latina ever elected to City Council, always overcoming the lack of endorsement of her own party. AL DIA started to follow her political career since the previous 10 years, when she first ran for Philadelphia City Council, and lost. Today, a veteran of all political wars in the city, she is a credible candidate to run for the office of the Mayor in 2023. In the February 10, 1999, edition of AL DIA the then-new candidate told this publication that her district had suffered from a lack of real representation on the Council and that her career for the legislative body would be "a neighborhood-level, door-to-door campaign." That style of politics, running against her own party, has placed her in front of the opportunity to be a contender for the top office in Philadelphia City Hall.

Nelson Diaz

Nelson Diaz is a former Judge of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, a former General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a former Philadelphia City Solicitor, and a former candidate for Mayor of Philadelphia. Judge Nelson Diaz's life is based on being first Latino ever in any of the prominent positions he has achieved in his trailblazing career. He was the first Latino to attend and graduate from Temple Law School. While there, he co-founded the first association of Black and Hispanic law students. In 1972, he became the first Latino to pass the Pennsylvania Bar Exam. "There was no student who had graduated from my background at any of the law schools here. Either at the University of Pennsylvania or Temple," Diaz said in a 2018 profile. He went to become the first Judge of Latino descent in the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court. From there, he went to DC to be the first Latino to occupy the office of General Counsel in the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, returning to Philadelphia to become city's top lawyer from the office of City Solicitor. Before running for the office Mayor of Philadelphia in 2017, he became the first Latino ever to serve in the Board of Exelon.

Alba Martinez

AL DIA started covering the career of this Latina trailbrazer ever since she was appointed Executive Director of "Congreso de Latinos Unidos", a non-profit organizations she transformed through her leadership into a moder multiservice community organization in North Philadelphia. She became the first Latina to serve in the cabinet of the Philadelphia Mayor when Mayor John Street appointed her as Commissioner of Human Services. She went to become the executive director of the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, before assuming her current role as director of Vanguard's Retail Investor Group. 

Martinez, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, is the daughter of teachers who taught in rural Jayuya in the Caribbean island. Although they were not specifically involved in politics, they believed deeply in public service, a value they instilled in her. She graduated as a lawyer from Georgetown Universirty, in Washington DC, before settling in Philadelpha that AL DIA has followed for the past 25 years.

"For me, the Latino community in Philadelphia was always inspiring and a reason to fight for more opportunity, justice, and resources," she told AL DÍA in a early interview.

José Garcés

With a business career that spans nearly two decades, José Garcés is a visionary chef and entrepreneur who mainstreamed Latino cuisine in the U.S.

He started his career in New York, but it was in Philadelphia whwre he transformed the city's restaurant scene concieving and developing Latino-themed exclusive locations that later reached later Atlantic City and New York.

Garces was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Ecuadorian parents who moved to the United States during the late 1960s. Growing up on the northside of Chicago, Garces was surrounded by a very diverse community, from Italian to Irish to Polish to Mexican. In 2005, Garces opened his first restaurant in Philadelphia, Amada, named after his grandmother. 

He has traveled to several continents sharing his expertise and influence with many others, and he has made what he defines as "the true culinary art” the way to make the Latino culture better known to the rest of America.

“Our food, our culture is so diverse and has so many different avenues that it can’t help but bring people together,” he said in an interview with AL DÍA.

 

Pedro Ramos

Pedro A. Ramos is president and CEO of the Philadelphia Foundation, one of the nation's first community foundations. Pedro has spent his career guiding organizations through critical turning points and redefining how those organizations support and communicate with the communities they serve. He is a collaborative leader with a proven track record of forging next-level partnerships in his roles of serving and leading legal, business, government, and non-profit organizations in the region. "All... all the work we do is to connect neighbors with each other," Ramos said at an event in 2019. "We want to make it easier for people to connect with each other, and be able to turn intention into action.

Pedro Rivera

Pedro Rivera is the former Secretary of Education of Pennsylvania, having been nominated by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and confirmed in June 2015. Previously, he served as superintendent of the Lancaster School District. As of October 1, 2020, he began a new role as President of Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology. "If I hadn't had the support of my family, if I hadn't had the help of the community to lift me up and keep me engaged, I never would have had the opportunity to be secretary," Rivera told AL DÍA in 2015.

Pedro Cortes

Pedro A. Cortés was twice Secretary of State of Pennsylvania. He was the first Latino confirmed in the cabinet and the oldest Secretary of State in Pennsylvania's history. Cortés was also the first Puerto Rican Secretary of State in the United States, outside the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. "As Latinos, we are known for our ability to work hard. To make the most of every opportunity, not for personal gain, but for the common good. Because what is good for Latinos is good for the state," Cortés told AL DÍA in 2016.

Felipe Restrepo

Luis Felipe Restrepo is a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and a former United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. "Citizenship is not a spectator sport. You must participate in a democracy," she said in a speech at the 2018 Mother Cabrini Immigrant Heritage Awards.

Pat DeCarlo

Patricia DeCarlo, a native of Puerto Rico, has dedicated most of her life to the struggle for justice and the empowerment of all people. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, DeCarlo became an attorney with Camden Regional Legal Services in New Jersey. "I want people to know that they have in their own hands the resources to change. If we just sit at home complaining or asking someone to solve our problems for us, we will never solve anything," DeCarlo told AL DÍA in 2016.

Nilda Ruiz

Nilda Iris Ruiz is the President and General Director of the Association of Puerto Ricans on the Move, Inc. (APM). After a 25 year career and her time from 1999 to 2005 as one of the directors at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), Nilda Ruiz took the reins of APM.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, she decided to take the challenge because of her motivation towards the community and because she knew the great number of opportunities that exist and that were not being distributed.

"I didn't come back for the title but for what the agency could do for the community," Ruiz said. "Philadelphia is a difficult city for any Latino, man or woman because everything tends to be black and white. There is a lack of unity that is very evident in the city.

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