Latino News Network and palabra. Announce Partnership

Latino News Network (LNN) and palabra. are proud to announce a new partnership in covering stories and communities that have been disregarded by larger news outlets. 

An initiative of the National Hispanic Journalists Association, palabra. is a multimedia platform that delivers informative journalism, both within a designated platform and syndicated across other platforms, to support NAHJ freelance journalist members by providing both a secure platform to share their voice and developmental support.

“Our mission in palabra. is to serve as a springboard to the work of Latino journalists that know very intimately the stories of their communities. Such stories are often overlooked or ignored today by traditional media,” said Valeria Fernández, a veteran freelance journalist and managing editor of palabra. “Having a partnership with the Latino News Network is an organic extension of that; we multiply visibility for the reporters as well as offer our national audience a wealth of information that is locally grounded.”

Hugo Balta, Owner and Publisher of LNN, commented on the partnership, saying, “We’re grateful to work with a publication that shares our mission of elevating the visibility and voices of the Hispanic-Latino community. The Latino News Network (LNN) is committed to amplifying the work of others in providing depth to what is often one-dimensional narratives about a people who are not only driving the population growth of this country but the cultural, political, and economic growth as well.�

Balta’s work has been featured on palabra. Most recently, his opinion piece, The Other Birthdays on organ donation featuring the experience of his wife, Adriana, was published in April.

Mr. Balta is twice the past president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), and served in that capacity when palabra. launched in 2019.


About LNN

The Latino News Network (LNN) oversees five independent statewide coverage, Hispanic-Latino editorial focus English language news and information websites under the ownership and leadership of nationally recognized journalist and media advocate, Hugo Balta. 

LNN’s mission is to provide greater visibility and voice to Hispanics-Latinos, amplify the work of others in doing the same, give young journalists mentoring and real work experience, and apply the principles of solutions journalism in its investigative reporting.

About palabra.

Through palabra., National Association of Hispanic Journalists freelance members cover stories and communities that have been disregarded in larger news outlets based on the ideology that ‘ethnic’ news is only an issue for marginalized communities and not a human issue.

For years, NAHJ has advocated for more Latinos in newsrooms, and palabra., is bringing this mission statement to life by creating an opportunity for freelance journalists to share their local stories, perspectives, and an accurate and honest representation of the Latino community.

Blood and Booze: The history of Cinco de Mayo

The images that come to mind for most United States residents when thinking of Cinco de Mayo are of Mexican flags, sombreros, long mustaches, tequila and, in general, a vibe of celebration and partying. But, where did this celebration come from and how has it changed with the passage of time?

It was late morning of May 5, 1862, when the Mexican soldiers defending the city of Puebla saw the French army marching towards their position. These were dark days for the nation of Mexico. They had lost half their lands to the United States less than two decades ago, the crippling debt to European nations had impoverished the whole country, the division between conservatives and liberals could not get any deeper and now the French army had come to claim Mexico as their own.

These young and inexperienced Mexican soldiers would never have believed that some hours later they would be celebrating as the French army, the one that had at the start of the century started a war with all of Europe and nearly won, was retreating under heavy rain.

“Yes, we celebrate the victory of the Mexican army over the French army that invaded Mexico, it is known as the Battle of Puebla,â€� said Benjamín Villanueva García, a 43-year-old resident of Cancún, Mexico. “In Mexico it is more of a patriotic celebration, in the sense that a foreign invading army was defeated.â€�

The memory of this battle brings pride to most Mexicans. At the time, the idea of Mexico as a sovereign nation was constantly being challenged both by external and internal forces. And the victory at Puebla seemed like a reason to feel pride and hope; like the impossible was possible.

Juan Mora-Torres, an associate professor of Latin American History at DePaul University and author of the book “The Making of the Mexican Border,â€� told  The DePaulia what Cinco De Mayo means to him.

“Since its independence, [Mexico] had been a divided country, no sense of nationhood, all kinds of political conflicts and military conflicts among themselves,� he said. “They lost half the territory to the U.S. Things were not going well. Right? So [the Battle of Puebla] was like the first sense of something good happening since the independence.�.

Sadly, it was short-lived. France continued its campaign to take control of Mexico and ended up succeeding in installing Maximilian I as Emperor of Mexico. But the Battle of Puebla ended up becoming a powerful symbol for Mexicans living in the United States.

Mora-Torres suggests that the date is still remembered not necessarily because the victory had important implications at the time, but because it resonated with other struggles that Mexicans — and later the whole Latino community — were facing in the U.S. As the years passed, different generations of Latinos in the U.S. could see their own struggles against immensely strong forces as parallels to what happened in Puebla centuries ago.

“Every generation gets a different meaning from the Cinco de Mayo,� he said. “And in my case, the youth of my generation found value in that because that was the moment of the Civil Rights Movement.�

Delia Cosentino, acting chair of Latin American and Latino Studies and associate professor of History of Art and Architecture at DePaul University, had a similar view on the subject.

“For those who do know the history, it makes sense to want to celebrate a David and Goliath sort of fight in which the less powerful player wins the battle (i.e. Mexico vs. France),â€� Cosentino said. “It could be an analogy for marginalized communities in the U.S. feeling empowered in the face of Anglo political and social aggressions toward Latinos and Mexican Americans in particular.â€� 

“Any holiday that brings people of a shared heritage together can serve as a form of social glue, giving an emboldened sense of commonality,� she continued.

East Los Angeles, March 5, 1968. It started with the students at Garfield High School organizing a walkout and it ended up with thousands of Latino students walking out of their own schools all around the city. Not even the police were able to silence the Chicano movement that demanded to be listened to.

These students stood against structural racism in the government that stripped them of their rights and their identities, and against the day-to-day racism that kept them away from opportunities of a better life and from the respect they deserved. They hoped that one day they would beat the odds and wake up in a country that did not treat them as second-class citizens.

Today, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in the United States with folkloric dances and Mariachis, with sombreros and fireworks, but especially copious amounts of beer and tequila. According to Nielsen, a data and market measurement firm, more than $735 million worth of beer and related malt beverages was bought in the U.S. in 2016’s Cinco de Mayo.

Mora-Torres explains when there’s money to be made, companies will take advantage. Margaritas, tequila, Mexican beers, nachos — all of these have become a part of the celebration of Cinco de Mayo. 

“You have to celebrate,� Mora-Torres said. “Now the celebration has taken over and the politics have been neglected, right? But every generation will find some value in the Cinco de Mayo.�

“In my generation, it was about civil rights,� Mora-Torres said. “And so, the young people got to find their agenda. And I think they will use the Cinco de Mayo as a metaphor, because it is an event that highlights the David against the Goliath struggle […] But I have no problem celebrating. Okay. It has been a very long winter. We have been two years with Covid.�

It is May of 2022, Chicago. While we go through a winter that does not want to end, I write this article in my room as the sun sets. As a Latino student in the U.S., I cannot keep my mind away from the current struggles: how there are still people being treated as illegal for making a hard decision to forge a better future for themselves, or how still the stereotypes around Latinos frame what we are expected to be capable of or how neighborhoods with a majority of Latino population are being neglected even in a city that prides itself of being liberal. In the end, I feel relief, because I know that the reason why David beats Goliath is because he never stops throwing stones.

Cover Graphic by La DePaulia multimedia assistant, Frankie Perez. 

Santiago Posada-Jaramillo is the Opinions Editor of La DePaulia. He enjoys politics, history, psychology, and video game design. He is from Colombia and new to the U.S. Santiago is a graduate student part of the MFA Game Design program at DePaul University. He decided to join La DePaulia because he believes that an informed community can make the world a better place. 

Email him at

Publisher’s Notes: You can read Santiago Posada-Jaramillo’s Spanish language version of Blood and Booze: The history of Cinco de Mayo by clicking on Sangre y alcohol: la historia del Cinco de Mayo.

Illinois Latino News (ILLN) and La DePaulia are partners in best serving the Hispanic-Latino community.

The post Blood and Booze: The history of Cinco de Mayo appeared first on ILLN.

Dr. Taino Palermo: Demystifying The Path To Success

Growing up as a military kid, Dr. Taino Palermo and his sisters were born in many different parts of the world but always called the Bronx, New York, home. During the ’80s and ’90s, life in New York was distinctly different from the life they knew in Puerto Rico. However, their family maintained a solid connection to their indigenous identity as Taino Indians, hence his name. It was vital that they never forgot who they were and where they came from.

In college, Dr. Palermo participated in after-school tutoring that set him on the path of becoming an educator and advocate for the coming generations. Dr. Palermo noticed that for the Latino middle school students he worked with, it was hard to believe that someone just like them was able to attend college. He knew then how important it was to serve as a model, but even more so, how important it is for those in underrepresented positions to demystify the pathway to make it easier for those who come after them.

This understanding led him to a decade-long community economic development and education reform career. Dr. Palermo points out that Rhode Island will be a majority Latino state in the future. He believes that “we are too numerous in this state and in this country not to flex our collective impact to develop policies and programs that benefit our communities.�

In a 2018 TEDxProvidence, Dr. Palermo stressed the importance of anchor institutions, defined as enduring organizations based in their localities (such as colleges, museums, and hospitals), using their resources to address critical issues in their communities. In addition, he says it is vital for these institutions to collaborate with neighborhood social anchors, what he calls the “grandmas on the block,â€� to establish and maintain credibility with the neighborhood. 

“If you don’t have the trust of the people, they will never fully embrace you, and rightfully so. These ambassadors are the ones who are critical to the success of anchor institutional work,� he said.

During his time at Roger Williams University, Dr. Palermo has worked to make his school a prime example of an anchor institution. For instance, he’s worked with RWU Center for Workforce and Professional Development to launch a prisoners’ career readiness program. He also launched Gateway to College, which allows students at risk of dropping out of school to simultaneously earn their high school diploma and Associate’s Degree at Roger Williams University.

He said, “we’re taking bold and innovative steps in hopes that other anchor institutions in the state will follow our lead.â€�He has prioritized his indigenous identity and is the current Chief, or Kasike, of the Baramaya Guainia Clan, a federally non-recognized tribal nation indigenous to modern-day Ponce, Puerto Rico. Today, Taino is a part of the Class of 2022 at Roger Williams University Law School and serves as the American Indian Law Student Association president.

Dr. Taino Palermo was first profiled in the Latino Policy Institute’s #LatinosInRI series.

LPI and RI Latino News are partners in elevating the visibility and voices of Rhode Island’s Hispanic-Latino communities.

Is there someone in the community you think we should feature? Send us your ideas to

Is New Hampshire diverse enough to lead the DNC nominating process?

The Democratic National Committee wants to ensure a nominating process that is more reflective of the party’s values and New Hampshire might not be it.

Last month, the Rules and Bylaws Committee designed an application process by which all states wanting to be the caucus and primary openers of the presidential campaign season must make their case based on “racial, ethnic, geographic and economic diversity and labor representation,â€� according to the New York Times. 

That doesn’t bode well for the Granite State that’s 89.8 percent white (not Hispanic-Latino); 4 percent are Hispanic-Latino; 3 percent Asian American; and 1.8 percent Black, according to the U.S. census. 

“A lot of people will say, ‘Oh, New Hampshire is a very white state,’� said Rep. Manny Espitia of Nashua. �In a way, whenever they say, ‘Oh, there’s no people of color who live there,’ it kind of makes us feel like the people who do live here are erased.�

The House Democratic floor leader told the New Hampshire Bulletin that while he understands the concerns about diversity, New Hampshire should remain first, citing the organization and efficiency of the state’s processes and the challenges presented to candidates.

Espitia argued presidential primary candidates shouldn’t sideline marginalized communities like Hispanics-Latinos, no matter how small the size.

“If people try to ignore the diverse populations in this state, then come primary day, they’ll see what happens,â€� he said. “I think one of the reasons Bernie (Sanders) did really well here in 2020 (is) he won a lot of the Latino districts, and he ended up doing really well in Nevada.â€� 

Presentations explaining and defending an interest in being among the top five early nominating states, must be received by June 3. The subcommittee will make its recommendation on the calendar order by July 15. The DNC will later vote on it.

Meanwhile, diversity considerations were not a concern for the Republican National Committee, that on April 14 approved New Hampshire among the first four states to vote.

Publisher’s Notes: This story is an aggregate from the New Hampshire Bulletin article: New Hampshire Democrats race to pull first-in-the-nation primary from uncertainty

Cover Photo: New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention at the SNHU Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire on September 7, 2019. Scott Eisen

Mortgage Relief Program for Connecticut Homeowners 

Governor Ned Lamont announced on Monday the launch of MyHomeCT – a new State of Connecticut program that is providing mortgage relief to homeowners who have experienced financial hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, many families have fallen behind on their regular housing payments, placing them at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure. According to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, more than one-third of Connecticut homeowners have lost employment income and more than one in nine have fallen behind on housing payments at some point during the pandemic.

As part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, Connecticut has been awarded approximately $123 million to establish MyHomeCT, a program funded by the Homeowner Assistance Fund. The Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) will be working in collaboration with the Connecticut Department of Housing to administer the program. 

“The public health crisis that we’ve experienced over the last two years has had a significant impact on the ability of many homeowners to pay for the costs of their housing, which is why we are dedicating this funding to provide much-needed support,� Governor Lamont said. “Thanks to the American Rescue Plan Act and the support of our Congressional delegation, MyHomeCT will ease some of the financial burden that homeowners have faced during this pandemic and will help ensure that their housing situation remains stable. I encourage any homeowner who has come across difficult times since the pandemic to learn more about the program and consider applying.�

50 percent of Hispanic-Latino homeowners lost income by the first quarter of 2021, the highest among any ethnic group. As a result, 16 percent of Hispanic-Latino homeowners were behind on their mortgage payments. That is more than twice the 7 percent share of white homeowners.

MyHomeCT Overview 

The program will be able to help eligible homeowners who have suffered financial hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic by offering reinstatement, up to 12 months of forward payments, or a combination of both. The assistance is meant to cure and/or prevent mortgage and housing-related delinquencies and foreclosure.

Eligibility requirements include:  

  • Applicants must live in the state of Connecticut and occupy the property as their primary residence.
  • Applicant/household member must have experienced a COVID-19-related financial hardship after January 21, 2020, or experienced a financial hardship before January 21, 2020, which was then exacerbated by the pandemic. Assistance for delinquency prior to January 21, 2020, is capped to three months.
  • Property must be an owner-occupied 1-to-4 unit house, condominium, townhouse, or manufactured home.
  • Homeowners applying for mortgage assistance must have a mortgage that had a principal balance at or below the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s conforming loan limits for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac at the time of origination.
  • Household income must be equal to or less than 150 percent area median income (AMI), adjusted for household size.

Kristin’s Story

Like so many others in Connecticut, Kristin’s family fell on hard times. With two young children at home and only one income, it was becoming difficult to keep up with housing expenses:

“…I got a call one day that saved everything. My mortgage servicer called to tell me about the MyHomeCT program and encouraged me to apply. The application process was easier than I expected, and the amazing relief the program provided was more than I could have ever hoped for. It gave my family a second chance, and we are beyond grateful. Thank you so much to CHFA for keeping my family in our home and our mortgage current!� 

“Due to many unforeseen circumstances, such as job losses or the need to care for loved ones, thousands of Connecticut homeowners are now in the situation where they need assistance or they will be in danger of losing their homes,� Seila Mosquera-Bruno, commissioner of the Department of Housing, said. “The MyHomeCT program will address a great need in our state by providing direct assistance to cure or prevent mortgage delinquencies and pay for other housing-related costs.�

How to Apply: If you are a Connecticut homeowner that has faced financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be eligible for the MyHomeCT program. Visit: to learn more and to apply.

If you need help with your application, you may call 877-894-4111 (toll-free) or visit one of the MyHomeCT Resource Centers.

The list of resource centers can be found at

Publisher’s Notes: This article was written in part by the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority.

Illinois Latina leaders pave the way forward for 2022 elections

Delia Ramirez, Illinois’s state representative for the 4th District, is poised to play a pivotal role in the 2022 congressional elections. Not only is she running for the state’s newly drawn 3rd Congressional District, but if elected, she would make history as the first Latina congresswoman from the Midwest.

“It’s about making sure that every woman can see themselves in every space of power,â€� Ramirez said. “Because when we arrive, we are that wild dream realized.â€�

Born and raised in Humboldt Park, the daughter of Guatemalan immigrants, Delia Ramirez comes from a long line of resilient women; her mother crossed the border when she was pregnant with Delia during her first trimester. “This woman wanted to be in this country because she wanted her daughter to have more than she ever had,� Ramirez said.

She started her career volunteering at shelters to help people find housing and jobs and worked her way up to become a state representative. When there was an open seat in the State House, the people she had helped through the years started asking her to run. “And I said, ‘oh, why me?’ Someone should run but not me. And part of the reason was because I hadn’t seen a young Latina in these spaces,� she said.

Ramirez was among several Illinois Latina candidates who discussed the importance of making space for Latino and female voices in the 2022 elections at the Latinas in Politics forum discussion, which took place at the Hubbard Inn on April 27th.

The panel, which was conducted by the Latina Executives and Entrepreneurs Network (LEEN), featured voices from prominent Illinois representatives such as Illinois State Senator Karina Villa, Maria Reyes, the candidate for the DuPage County Commission Board, Leticia Garcia, the candidate for the Cook County Commission Board, and Claudia Silva-Hernandez, who is running as a judge candidate in the Cook County elections.

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Latina representation in politics is more important now than ever before, as only about 3 percent of the voting senators and representatives in Congress are Latinas, despite accounting for as much as 16 percent of the female workforce, according to NBC News.

Even though there’s been a 75 percent increase in the number of Latino elected officials in the past two decades, Latinos make up less than 2 percent of all elected officials in the country, according to the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO). 

In Illinois, 17.5 percent of the total population identify as Hispanic or Latino, highlighting the need for increased Latino representation in leadership. The Illinois Latino Legislative Caucus currently has 15 elected official members, taking up 9 out of the 118 seats in the Illinois House of Representatives and 6 of the 59 seats in the Illinois Senate.

Ramirez isn’t the only Latina who had to work her way to the top from humble beginnings. State Senator Karina Villa (D-West Chicago) was a school social worker for 15 years before she decided to transition into politics.

Born and raised in DuPage County, Senator Villa only saw white male Republican representation growing up, everywhere from Congress to the State Senate. “I said, why not?” she said when asked what inspired her to run for politics. “Our students need it, our students are suffering, and I didn’t know what to do. Where are the leaders? Why aren’t they here? Why aren’t they listening to the needs of my students?”

Villa said she had never aspired to run for politics, but the need for change led her to go door-to-door, talking to voters, and eventually become a member of the Illinois State Senate for the 25th District.

Cook County Judge candidate Claudia Silva-Hernandez who is running for election in June, said, “I remember sitting in my classes when I was in grade school and feeling kind of invisible and wanting desperately for the teacher to call on me so I can read the paragraph and so they can see that I was smart too, just like everybody else.�

Silva-Hernandez felt the need to run for election because she wanted to prove to others that just because she spoke Spanish didn’t mean that she was any less capable than her peers. “So I want to provide for people who come before us for judge[ship] so that they don’t feel invisible like I did when I was a child,” she said.

The Latina leaders in the panel talked about the need to stop expecting others to step up for them and be the change they want to see in Illinois politics.

Rep. Dagmara Avelar, D-Bolingbrook discussed the tendency among Latina women to “support whoever wants to run� but shy away from running in the elections themselves and said that it was important to change that narrative.
“We never really look back and say like, why not us?� she pointed out.
This reluctance among Latina women to run for elections could be because the lack of Latina representation in state and national politics leads to feelings of uncertainty regarding their political ambitions.

“As Latinas, we can have all the master’s degrees in the world, we can pass 17 pieces of legislation, we can be the ones moving things first in the nation…and we still ask ourselves: are we good enough?â€� Ramirez said.

She looked at the crowd of people present at the panel, some of whom were journalists, some of whom were there because of an interest in Illinois politics, and many of whom were Latina women themselves, and said, “So, what I want to say to all of you here is you are more than good enough­– as entrepreneurs, as nonprofit leaders, and as women who are lifting other women, you are more than good enough.�

Cover photo: Latinas in Politics forum, Hubbard Inn, April 27 (Courtesy of Apps Mandar Bichu).

Apps Mandar Bichu is a graduate student journalist pursuing a Masters of Science in Journalism at Northwestern University.

She is currently interning at The Chicago Reporter and Illinois Latino News (ILLN).

She specializes in multimedia journalism and is passionate about social justice reporting, travel journalism, and all forms of content creation.

You can follow her on Twitter at @ApoorvaaBichu and on LinkedIn: Apoorvaa “Apps” Bichu, or check out her website to learn more about her work:

Publisher’s Notes: ILLN is collaborating with Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications in providing students with mentoring and real work experiences. As such ILLN is part of the professional partnerships within the Social Justice Specialization and as part of Medill’s Metro Media Lab.

The post Illinois Latina leaders pave the way forward for 2022 elections appeared first on ILLN.

Call For Applications: Journalism Camp 2 

The Hortencia Zavala Foundation (HZF) is pleased to sponsor, once again, the Journalism Camp: Covering Race, Ethnicity, and Culture, a first-in-class 12-week program providing practical guidelines for fair and accurate storytelling.

The FREE virtual workshop led by award-winning news media veteran and twice president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ)Hugo Balta, returns after a successful launch last Fall. 

Six young journalists from across the country participated in the inaugural class. “I have nothing but good things to say about the camp,â€� said Stephania Rodriguez, a student at Depaul University in Chicago, Illinois. “It exceeded my expectations by feeding my knowledge, allowing me to network and connect with others, and publishing my work.â€�

Boris Q’va had this to say about his experience, “I felt heard when I needed it the most.â€� Q’va is enrolled in the New Media Journalism Master of Arts degree at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. “All of the lectures were equally important to me, but I found myself thinking about Solutions Journalism, and how it builds trust with the public through transparency.â€�

SUGGESTION:Meet The 2021 Fellows

As part of the program, all of the stories produced by the fellows were published on one or all of the Latino News Network news outlets. Balta is the owner and publisher of Connecticut Latino News, part of the Latino News Network.

“It is imperative that students get real work experiences and mentoring to navigate a newsroom that more often than not is not diverse and inclusive,â€� said Balta. 

Due to a lack of equitable representation in newsrooms, there is an urgent need to train journalists to be transparent in news gathering and reporting on the complexity of racial identity, social constructs relating to ethnic terms, and cultural competence.

Covering race, ethnicity, and culture: a guideline for fair and accurate storytelling is a course designed to go beyond the inverted pyramid of basic news writing in examining the terminology, usage, and word choice of stories providing greater visibility and understanding of deep-rooted inequities in all aspects of society.

Guest speakers also share insights on networking with a purpose, strategies for managing one’s career, and the experience of often being the only person of color in the newsroom.

The Journalism Camp is open to all students (undergrad, graduate) in good standing.

The application process runs from May 1 to 29. The weekly class will begin on September 7.

For more information about HZF’s Journalism Camp curriculum, how to apply, and ask questions – please email us at hortenciazavalafoundation

The Hortencia Zavala Foundation (HZF) was founded in 2016 in honor of Hugo Balta’s maternal grandmother.

HZF is a not-for-profit organization that helps students offset the costs of higher education with scholarships. In 2021, the organization expanded its support of students to include the Journalism Camp.

Improving access and opportunities to vote in Rhode Island

In this year’s midterm elections, national Hispanic-Latino voter turnout is predicted to meet the record participation in 2018, with nearly 12 million voting in congressional and state elections, according to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund (NALEO). Still, that number falls short of the potential, given the community’s population growth increase.

On Tuesday, the Rhode Island state Senate voted 28 to 6 in favor of the Let RI Vote Act, which would permanently adopt measures used in the 2020 election during the pandemic, that resulted in the record number of voter participation.

The move is a major win for organizations like the Let RI Vote campaign that are working to advance voting rights in Rhode Island, giving more people the opportunity to vote.

Marcela Betancur, Executive Director of the Latino Policy Institute (LPI), and campaign spokesperson for the Let RI Vote Campaign was a guest on the Latino News Network podcast, â€œ3 Questions With…â€�. Betancur shared insights on how the proposed legislation will break barriers keeping the Hispanic-Latino electorate and other marginalized communities from voting.

One of the bill’s provisions Betancur says is very exciting to her is that it institutes early voting. �In 2020, we were able to go vote prior to Election Day,� she said. Not �having to stand in line for hours� makes it more convenient for people who do not have flexible schedules to go vote.

In the 2020 general election, 62 percent of the more than 522,000 Rhode Islanders who voted cast their ballots either early or by mail. By comparison, approximately 426,400 Rhode Islanders voted in 2016, and only 9 percent of them voted by mail when early voting was not an option.

Democrats celebrated the approval of the Let RI Vote Act touting it expands voter access, but Republicans warn it could lead to voter fraud. Senator Jessica de la Cruz, a North Smithfield Republican, warned that the legislation would make several “dangerous changes� such as removing notary or witness requirements for mail ballots.

Betancur said the concerns are misplaced. �Today, before this act is even passed, the Board of Election’s practice is verifying that the voter and their signature is the same one when they registered to vote,� she argued. “They’re already not checking a witness. Why do we continue to create this barrier? A lot of it is fear mongering.�

The bill also includes:

  • Allowing voters apply for mail ballots online.
  • Letting voters choose to vote by mail for any reason, without having to give an excuse.
  • Define “early votingâ€� as up to 20 days before Election Day.
  • Provide for each city or town a ballot drop box that’s maintained and regulated by the state Board of Elections.
  • Allow long-term nursing home residents to receive mail ballot applications automatically.
  • Require the secretary of state to update the voter registry at least four times a year.
  • Set up a hotline in multiple languages to provide information about voting and polling locations.

The multilingual voter information hotline, Betancur said, will provide accurate information in the language a person is most comfortable in, like foreign born Hispanics-Latinos who may not be proficient in English.

In 2020, voting by naturalized U.S. citizens was approximately the same rate as those who are Hispanics-Latinos born in the United States, according to a City University of New York study.

The next stop for the legislation is the House of Representatives.

Organ Donation: A Birthday Story  

“Cumpleaños feliz, te deseamos a ti,� our family sang “Happy Birthday,� to my wife, Adriana. “Cumpleaños felices,� we cheered, not the date when she was born, but instead the date she received a new liver. Adriana was born in April, but we also celebrate her birthday in November, thanks to a life-saving organ transplant operation. She had suffered from polycystic liver disease, a rare condition that causes cysts (fluid-filled sacs) to grow throughout the liver.

Soon after the birth of our first child in 2003, my wife’s aggressive form of the disease became even more severe, deforming her organ further. A healthy liver has a smooth appearance weighing between three and three and a half pounds. Adriana’s polycystic liver looking like a cluster of large grapes, weighed just over 20 pounds when it was removed.

The enlarged liver displaced her other organs, complicating her overall health; Adriana would surely die without a transplant. Her medical miracle happened in her native Colombia when doctors told us that an organ donor, a woman who unfortunately died in a car accident, was a match with Adriana.

In general, about 75 percent of people who undergo liver transplants live for at least five years, according to the Mayo Clinic. That means that for every 100 people who receive a liver transplant for any reason, about 75 will live for five years and 25 will die within five years. Adriana celebrated 17 years with her new liver last November.

April is National Donate Life Month. Doctors and advocates say it’s more important than ever to bring attention to the need for organ donors. Approximately every 10 minutes, another person is added to the national waiting list.

I became an organ donor soon after Adriana’s liver transplant. Before then, I was like many Hispanics-Latinos, who are less likely to donate organs than Americans as a whole, according to organ donation experts. Hispanics-Latinos are disproportionately in need of donor organs and are less likely to consent to donation than their non-Hispanic counterparts, reports the National Library of Medicine.

“We have transformed the way that they’re thinking and looking at … organ transplantation,â€� said Dr. Juan Carlos Caicedo, organ transplant surgeon and the director of the Hispanic Transplant Program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. In an interview on WTTW’s Latino Voices, Dr. Caicedo told me that his team of 50 medical professionals at Northwestern Medicine’s Hispanic Transplant Program helps break down language and cultural barriers in the Hispanic-Latino community. “To be able to do it in their own language – knowing their culture, because our team is bilingual and bicultural — and removing all the language barriers and cultural barriers, we have been able to engage them in a positive way,â€� he said.

Last year, nephrologists at Loyola University Medical Center told Adriana that her kidneys, which suffer from polycystic kidney disease (PKD), were giving out. PKD is another inherited disorder in which clusters of cysts develop primarily within one’s kidneys, causing them to enlarge and lose function over time. As a result, Adriana is fast approaching the point of needing dialysis. 

I quickly volunteered to be tested to see if I could be a living donor for my wife.

Adriana and I out on the town.

Transplant patients are often reluctant to consider an organ from their spouses because the organs may not be a good match in blood and tissue type. Poor matching can cause the recipient’s immune system to reject the organ.

But a report in the journal Dialysis and Transplantation found that kidney transplantation from spousal donors “has comparable outcomes to those of other living-unrelated donors, and shortens the time spent on the waiting list.â€� 

Adriana is on that list, and the wait could be as long as three years. Happily, Adriana and I learned that I am a solid match to donate my kidney to her. We will have the surgery in June.

There are more than 100,000 people currently on the national transplant waiting list. 

Current statistics show that Americans belonging to minority groups make up nearly 60 percent of those waiting for an organ transplant.  Although a transplant can be successful regardless of the race or ethnicity of the donor and recipient, there is a greater chance of longer-term survival for the recipient if the genetic background of the donor and recipient are closely matched.  

Please consider becoming an organ donor. Americans from every community are needed to help make a life-saving difference. Persons who register as organ donors can save up to eight lives and enhance the lives of 75 others. 

Some of those donations can take place while you’re living. For example, living donors can give a lung, kidney, or part of their liver, which can almost regrow to its original size.

Next year, my family looks forward to adding a new June birthday for Adriana, celebrating her new kidney, the gift of life, and our family’s love.

Hugo Balta is the Owner and Publisher of Connecticut Latino News. He and Adriana celebrated 21 years of marriage in February. They reside in Chicago with their two children, Isabella and Esteban.

Latino businesses in Springfield get financial boost

“It will help to enable members of the Hispanic community too be able to afford starting a business and go after their dreams,� said Eastfield Mall property manager Dave Thompson.

The Eastfield Mall and Massachusetts Latino Chamber of Commerce are working together to provide a local, Hispanic-Latino-owned business space inside the mall for one month at no cost.

The mall features a pop-up shop every month that is expected to bring in 12 new Hispanic-Latino “micro-businesses� this year. 

Massachusetts is home to more than 30,000 Hispanic-Latino businesses, 3,800 of which are employer firms that generate over $4.2 billion in annual revenue and create more than 27,000 jobs, according to Betty Francisco CEO of Boston Impact Initiative, co-founder of Amplify Latinx.

“Our economic recovery and growth depends upon the success of Latino businesses and the development of Latino talent in high-growth industries that are in need of diverse talent,� wrote Francisco in an opinion article calling for investments in Hispanic-Latino and Black businesses.

Hispanic-Latino consumer purchasing power is $1.7 trillion today and projected to grow to $2.6 trillion in just three years, according to the LDC 2020 Latino GDP Report. 

State Representative Orlando Ramos secured $100,000 to help fund the Pop-Up Shop Program. “Small and microbusinesses have struggled in the pandemic,� Ramos said. “Many were owned by Black and Latino business owners.�

Businesses can use the grants of about $1,000 to launch a marketing campaign, hire an accountant or cover unexpected expenses as the COVID recovery drags on, said Andrew Melendez, director of the Massachusetts Latino Chamber of Commerce.

“Black and Latino micro-businesses are the Commonwealths’ economic engine, and now more than ever, they are in need of direct support with capital infusion and tools to continue to be successful post-pandemic,â€� Melendez said.

More information is available from the chamber by emailing or calling 413-342-1292.

Publisher’s Note: This story is an aggregate from MASSLive, WWLP, and

Cover Photo: ‘Our Modern Love‘, candle and craft vendor, (Credit: Eastfield Mall)