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Photo: Peter Fitzpatrick/AL DÍA News
Photo: Peter Fitzpatrick/AL DÍA News

Hispanic chamber fundraiser highlights Philly's Latino business community

The chamber's annual Alegría Ball was on last week after being canceled in January due to the large snowstorm late that month.

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Despite barriers to growth, Latinos are creating businesses at twice the rate of the rest of the population, says Jennifer Rodriguez, president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (GPHCC). 

Rodriguez was speaking at the chamber’s annual Alegría Ball, a fundraising event and ceremony. 

“There are over 18,000 Latino business in the Philadelphia region,” she said. “You heard me right. I did not say 18. I said 18,0000. These businesses need an umbrella organization that makes sure they have access to capital and all the resources they need to grow.”

With no snow or state of emergency in sight this time around, the GPHCC held the event last week after it was canceled back in January due to a state of emergency declared because of the large blizzard that month. 

“Nothing says challenging like having an annual fundraiser on the 22nd day of your new job to have to cancel it because of a snowstorm,” said Rodriguez. 

Present at the Alegría Ball were many members of the Latino business community in Philadelphia as well as politicians and other guests. Along with the presenting of this year’s Excelencia awards, the chamber paid special tribute to Varsovia Fernandez, former president and CEO of the GPHCC. 

Fernandez was identified by the chamber as a pillar of the Latino community. Most recently she has taken a Senior Vice President position at Customer’s Bank. 

For her part, Fernandez said she continues to be committed to the Latino community and that she has been committed to helping since she first began her career. 

“I remember working in South Philly some 13 years ago, I remember launching the (Professional Mentoring Network) I remember turning a one-man band with a few consultants grow his business,” she said.

Though there were barriers, Fernandez said, she felt it was necessary to break through them to provide the Latino business community with the help they needed. 

She was presented with the chamber’s Keystone Award and recognized by Mayor Jim Kenney who was present at the event. 

“Philadelphia is growing,” said Kenney. “And it is growing for two reasons. Millennials are moving in… and immigration. Documented, undocumented and frankly I don’t care. Philadelphia is and will remain a sanctuary city.”

Banco Santander was recognized as the corporate advocate of the year, Antonio Fiol-Silva was recognized as the Hispanic professional of the year and Casa Papel was awarded with the Hispanic Business of the Year Award.

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