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.

Reaching Latino Voters Is All About The Message

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As the population of Hispanics-Latinos increases in the United States, and with it the number of eligible voters, so does the debate on how to best reach them.

Some thought leaders favor spatial over racial voting techniques, arguing that what a candidate says is more important than who says it.

Democrats are re-evaluating their messaging to Hispanics-Latinos in this year’s midterm elections after the 2020 election saw a substantial vote shift, with 63 percent of Hispanic-Latinos voting for President Joe Biden, down from 71 percent of them voting for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Republicans are working to build on the success of former President Donald Trump, who made gains among Hispanic-Latino voters in 2020 compared with his 2016 performance. Trump increased votes in heavily Hispanic-Latino Hartford and Bridgeport by five and three percent.

Campaigns traditionally use symbolic cultural messaging like speaking a few words in Spanish, overemphasizing immigration reform, and playing mariachi music in order to engage the constituency. A mistake that ignores life experiences says Antonio Arellano, interim executive director of Jolt Action, a progressive organization in Texas that aims to increase Latino political engagement.

“Both political parties need to recognize that Latinx folks across the country have been here for decades, for centuries and have…for generations been overlooked, neglected and underrepresented,� Arellano told Time.

The assumption is that the Hispanic-Latino electorate is a monolith. As if, for example, what motivates Puerto Ricans in Willimantic, Connecticut to vote isn’t very different than Mexican Americans in Imperial County, California.

The nuances range in age, race, gender, religion, socio-economic status, political ideology and educational attainment. And since most of the more than 60 million Hispanics-Latinos in the U.S. are born in the country, many social scientists don’t believe language is a common barrier.

“For some Latino voters, it’s not that they don’t understand English,” said Valeriano Ramos, Director of Strategic Alliances, Everyday Democracy. “It is that they don’t identify with those candidates.”

CTLatinoNews.com (CTLN) s participating in Advancing Democracy: Connecticut Solutions Journalism Initiative as part of eight reporting projects in 10 newsrooms across the United States. The six-month program is sponsored by the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN); its mission is to spread the practice of solutions journalism: rigorous reporting on responses to social problems.

CTLN is exploring solutions to why Hispanics-Latinos don’t vote by engaging with thought leaders in Connecticut and drawing from the best practices and lessons learned in communities across the country.


Studies find that messaging is paramount for Hispanic-Latino voters, especially when the candidate is not a member of the ethnic group. In Racial or Spatial Voting? The Effects of Candidate Ethnicity and Ethnic Group Endorsements in Local Elections, Cheryl Boudreau, Christopher S. Elmendorf, and Scott A. MacKenzie’s analysis demonstrate that candidates’ ideological positions powerfully shape voters’ choices in local elections, even when they must choose between candidates of different ethnicities.

The theory of spatial voting concludes that candidates take positions in an ideological space and that voters choose the candidate who is closest to their own ideological position. Thus, spatial voting produces a close alignment between voters’ policy views and those of the candidates they choose.

Boudreau, Elmendorf, and MacKenzie studied the 2011 mayoral election in San Francisco, a minority-majority population, as non-Hispanic whites comprise less than half of the people, 42 percent, according to the 2010 Census. The Asian population at the time was 33 percent, and Hispanics-Latinos were 15 percent. Incumbent Ed Lee successfully defeated John Avalos and Dennis Herrera to become the first elected Asian-American mayor of a major American city.

Their analysis indicates that Lee’s ideology strongly affected voters’ choices, even after accounting for the impact of race/ethnicity, partisanship, evaluations of local government performance, and other factors.

Gains and losses notwithstanding, most Americans eligible to vote in 2020 said they were contacted by a campaign or a group supporting a campaign in the month before the November election. Fewer Hispanic-Latino and Asian American citizens reported such contacts, according to the Pew Research Center. A mistake Republicans are working to make sure doesn’t happen again this year.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) has opened Hispanic Community Centers across the U.S., including one in the city of New Britain. Overall, conservatives are aware that Democrats do better with Hispanic-Latino voters; the Integrated Communications and Research (ICR) poll found that 23 percent identify as Republican. So, the GOP is taking an active role in nurturing Hispanic-Latino support.

Ruben Rodriguez, Chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly of Connecticut, leads the statewide efforts. “We need to change the way Latinos vote in Connecticut,” said Rodriguez.

Republicans are eyeing the 5th Congressional seat, the Governor’s seat, and the Senate seat. Democrats currently hold all. The party thinks the state is ready for change.

“As chairman of the group, the biggest goal is to increase the participation in all of the political levels. We want the candidates to represent the true value of what we want to bring,” said Rodriguez.

Trump was successful in mobilizing conservative Hispanics-Latinos in 2020. Republicans are focusing their messaging to Hispanics-Latinos on strengthening the economy, religious and traditional values.

“Our message of family, faith, and free enterprise is one that resonates with all people, regardless of race, creed, or religion,� said George Logan, a former Republican state senator running for the 5th district seat.

Whether engagement with Hispanic-Latino voters by candidates from either party focused on policy positions will be successful in resonating with them, one thing is certain; both need them to go out and vote. Unfortunately, that’s not an easy task, as midterm elections typically result in lower turnout rates across all voting groups.


Cover Photo: Photo by cottonbro.

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CTLN Opinion+: Marilyn Alverio

This week, CTLN Opinion+ had the opportunity to speak with Marilyn Alverio, the founder & CEO of Latinas and Power Corporation and the producer of the Latinas & Power Symposium annual event.

We had an informative discussion about Alverio’s motivation for creating Latinas and Power Corporation, the research report findings on Latinas’ barriers in today’s workforce, and her ultimate goal for connecting with women to become leaders.  

In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Latinas and Power Corporation team released results from their report “The Latina Pathway to Excellence in a Post-Pandemic World,” showing women’s challenges in the workplace. 

Looking to support, motivate and inspire women and amplify Latinas’ voices in Connecticut and beyond, Alverio uses her report findings to create a leadership Institute that would enable Latinas to succeed as leaders and advocates.

“One of the inequities that we found is that Latinas often start off on a not leveled playing field, and so we are still dealing with challenges as it relates to cultural expectations,” said Alverio referring to the messages still heard in the communities that women should not exceed men in a corporate environment.

Marilyn Alverio is a nationally recognized expert and speaker in multicultural marketing. She is known for her work as the former National Director of Ethnic Marketing for a Fortune 100 company. As an entrepreneur, she led Ethnic Marketing Solutions for nine years, an agency that focused on strategic marketing for companies interested in learning about and tapping into multicultural markets.

She brings invaluable insights into the corporate arena and has laid the groundwork to increase and retain business in ethnic markets for numerous companies around the country. She has held multiple management positions within the airlines, pharmaceutical, education, financial, and health insurance industries for more than twenty years, applying her vast knowledge in strategic marketing and branding strategies. 

Alverio has been active in Connecticut communities for more than 30 years. She has served on or is serving as an advisory committee for the Connecticut Health Foundation, World Affairs Council, Spanish American Merchants Association Marketing team, Urban League of Greater Hartford, and United Way of Greater Hartford marketing committee. 

Latinas & Power is a non-profit organization that continues to grow at the local, national, and global levels with in-person and new virtual platforms throughout the world and a mission to develop influential leaders and community advocates.

Latinas & Power Symposium 2022 event is taking place on June 22nd in Hartford, Connecticut. 

Key points of discussion:

  • About Latina and Power Non-profit Organization
  • Discussion of “Latinas Pathway to excellence in a post Pandemic world” report
  • Process of report findings
  • Latinas Leadership Institute for 2023
  • The continued support for women in a corporate environment
  • Where to find the report

Resources: 

Here is the link to register through eventbrite. https://latinasandpower2022.eventbrite.com

The report can be downloaded on our website as well: https://latinasandpower.com

The organization is in the early bird stage so be sure to take advantage of the $50.00 off during this period.

Registration is $125.00 until May 13th

Race and culture to motivate Latinos to vote

Publisher’s Note: Please participate in a short survey at the end of the story. Knowing how this story may have influenced, you will help guide our future reporting...Thank you!


With the Hispanic-Latino population in the United States rising, there is a growing concern that systemic barriers prevent the community from engaging in active democratic participation.

Some thought leaders believe that better representation of political candidates who are from the marginalized group will inspire Hispanics-Latinos to vote.

Maritza Bond Credit: Paul Bass / New Haven Independent

“It is not about having English and Spanish on platforms and (in) content. You got to think about the culture”, said Maritza Bond, health director for the City of New Haven, seeking the office of Connecticut Secretary of the State in the upcoming November election.

“I want this exploratory committee to be an inspiration for all young girls, all Latinos and Latinas, and all young people across the state to never hold back from your dreams and aspirations,” she said.

Bond, who has Puerto Rican roots, believes it is critical for representatives in government to reflect the diverse Hispanic-Latino communities in Connecticut.

A lack of rapport with politicians is an issue abetting the notable lower voter turnout of Hispanics-Latinos, according to liberal activists.

Whether or not Hispanic-Latino voters are motivated to vote based on candidates’ race and ethnicity (racial voting) is an idea that has merit and is being tested.


CTLatinoNews.com (CTLN) s participating in Advancing Democracy: Connecticut Solutions Journalism Initiative as part of eight reporting projects in 10 newsrooms across the United States. The six-month program is sponsored by the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN); its mission is to spread the practice of solutions journalism: rigorous reporting on responses to social problems.

CTLN is exploring solutions to why Hispanics-Latinos don’t vote by engaging with thought leaders in Connecticut and drawing from the best practices and lessons learned in communities across the country.

Solutions Journalism Network logo - The CT Mirror

Historically, the Hispanic-Latino voter turnout has been relatively low. The group reached a milestone in the 2020 presidential election with a record 32 million eligible voters, the largest minority voting group, and the country’s second-largest voter bloc by ethnicity.

While Hispanic-Latino voters going to the polls grew to 54 percent nationally compared to 48 percent in 2016, the number fell short of its potential.

Hispanics-Latinos make up nearly 20 percent of the country’s population. Still, about 67-hundred elected officials are Hispanic-Latino, according to a 2018 analysis by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, NALEO. That amounts to a political representation rate of just over 1-percent in local, state, and federal elected offices.

No Hispanic-Latino has ever held one of Connecticut’s six constitutional statewide offices. The same goes for the five Congressional seats. And except for 2001 to 2015 in Hartford, Hispanics-Latinos have not been visible in mayor’s offices.

Approximately 48 percent of Hispanics-Latinos nationwide consider themselves Democrats, according to the pollster, Integrated Communications and Research (ICR). Still, party leaders fear support may be waning as Republicans double down on gains following the 2020 election.

“If you are not at the table, you are on the menu,” said former democratic Connecticut legislator Chris Soto. “Until our federal and state delegations reflect our communities, we can always do better.”

Soto and fellow liberals support mentoring programs like “Representation Matters: Are You Ready to Run for State Office?” co-hosted by The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM). The nonpartisan organization of municipal leaders representing towns and cities aims to help people from diverse groups break into politics.

Groton Town Councilor Aundré Bumgardner, a Democrat and formerly a member of the Republican party, talked about the importance of mentoring Hispanic-Latino candidates at the March event. “When there’s no track record or precedent of somebody like you serving in an elected capacity as significant as state representative, you don’t know who to turn to when you have a question, or you’re struggling with issues unique to your role,” he said. “I was fortunate and blessed to have members offer their mentorship in my first term, and that made a world of difference in my ability to get things done.”

Studies point to increased voting among Hispanic-Latinos when competitive Hispanic-Latino candidates run for office. In Metropolitan Latino Political Behavior: Voter Turnout and Candidate Preference in Los Angeles, political scientist Matt Barreto and colleagues argued that, given the appropriate circumstances, the number of Hispanic-Latino voters would increase because of a preference for a co-ethnic candidate.

Political analyst Eli Valentin used an analysis like Barreto’s to investigate Hispanic-Latino voting patterns in New York and found that the electorate’s voting participation increased when a viable Hispanic-Latino had been at the top of the ballot.

When observing Fernando Ferrer’s candidacy for mayor of New York City in 2001, Valentin noted an increase in voter participation within the New York precincts with the highest Hispanic-Latino populations compared to other mayoral primaries when a viable Hispanic-Latino was not on the ballot. For example, voter participation in heavily Latino precincts increased 30-40 percent in 2005, when Ferrer became the first Hispanic-Latino to win a Democratic mayoral primary, compared to years with no Hispanic-Latino candidate at the top of the ballot.

Racial or Spatial Voting? The Effects of Candidate Ethnicity and Ethnic Group Endorsements in Local Elections also finds a strong relationship between voters’ race/ethnicity and the candidates they choose, even if their ideological positions are different. That is to say, a Hispanic-Latino will vote for another Hispanic-Latino candidate regardless of fundamental differences.

State Rep. Hilda E. Santiago, D-Meriden

“I am a Latina. I am a woman,â€� State Rep. Hilda E. Santiago, D-Meriden, said. â€‹â€œI’ve been fighting in the trenches. I have the experience.â€�

In 2005, Santiago became the first Puerto Rican woman to win an open seat on Meriden’s City Council, she said highlighting her ethnicity. “I am proud to say that I am the first Latina to be named Assistant Deputy Speaker Pro-Tempore — a high-ranking leadership post in the House of Representatives.â€�

Vowing to fight for voting rights and help her party attract the state’s growing Hispanic-Latino population, Santiago officially announced her candidacy for secretary of the state in December.

Whether featuring a candidate’s common racial, national, tribal, religious, linguistic, or cultural origin or background is enough to inspire Hispanics-Latinos to vote this year is uncertain.

What is certain is that Democrats and Republicans cannot afford the growing electorate to sit this one out. Unfortunately, that’s not an easy task, as midterm elections typically result in lower turnout rates across all voting groups.


Cover Photo by Edmond Dantès

Publisher’s Note: This story was done in collaboration with Nicole Zappone and Hugo Balta.

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Hispanic children continue to have higher rates of lead poisoning

More than 1,000 Connecticut children under age 6 were reported poisoned by lead in 2020, according to a report released this month by the state Department of Public Health (DPH).

Of the children tested that year, 649 were new cases.

As has been the case for many years, nearly half of the 1,024 lead-poisoned children lived in the state’s cities. New Haven had the highest number of lead-poisoned children, with 171, followed by Bridgeport, 148; Waterbury, 81; Hartford, 71; and Meriden, 35. These five cities had 49% of all lead-poisoned children in Connecticut in 2020.

Following suit, health disparities also continued. Black and Hispanic-Latino children continued to have higher rates of lead poisoning than non-Hispanic white children. Non-Hispanic Black children were 2.6 times more likely to be poisoned than white children, according to a report on the 2020 lead poisoning numbers on the state’s Open Data website.

DPH Commissioner Manisha Juthani, M.D., said, “Protecting the youngest residents of our state from lead poisoning is a priority for DPH. And even though the numbers show that we are heading in the right direction, our work — including linking families to vital resources and building awareness in our inner cities — is far from done.�

But these latest numbers are based on a calculation that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the state have used since 2012. That calculation defines lead poisoning as 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood in a child’s body.

In October, the CDC lowered its definition of lead poisoning to 3.5 micrograms per deciliter.

If the state had used the CDC’s new measurement, or “reference value,� the number of Connecticut children considered lead poisoned would triple, to 3,000.

Even without the CDC’s adjustment, the pandemic complicates how to compare the numbers released to those from earlier years.

The DPH says in its report that “there was a sharp decline in screeningâ€� in April 2020, a month after the country started shutting down. A total of 61,700 children in Connecticut received lead blood tests in 2020, compared with 72,000 in 2019 and 73,000 in 2018.  In addition, less than 60% of the state’s children under 3 years old were tested twice, as required by state law.

Although lead poisoning is notoriously linked to the water crisis in Flint, Mich., in 2014, lead poisoning in the Northeast and in other older parts of the country is usually the result of deteriorating interior and exterior house paint.

For close to a century, before the federal government finally banned its use in 1978, lead was added to paint to increase its durability. Although walls may be painted over, chips from the degrading paint can be leaded. Of particular concern is leaded paint dust, created as paint breaks down and is left behind when doors and windows of older homes are opened and shut.

Babies and toddlers are particularly vulnerable to deteriorating paint because they are close to the ground and their breathing rates are higher than that of adults. And, as any parent knows, young children typically explore their new worlds, quite literally, through hand-to-mouth activities, turning a floor with leaded paint chips and leaded dust into dangerous terrain.

Exposure to the heavy metal, particularly during these early years when children’s brains are developing, can cause permanent cognitive damage, including an irreversible loss in IQ points. The toxin is also linked to speech and developmental delays, hearing loss and hyperactivity.

In addition to the 2020 numbers, DPH this week issued the numbers of lead-poisoned children in 2019 – 1,188; and 2018 — 1,333.

To view the 2018 and 2019 childhood lead reports go here.

To read the 2020 childhood lead poisoning report, please click here: DPH Report: More Than 1,000 Children Were Poisoned By Lead In 2020, and then scroll down.


Cover Photo: In October 2020, Charles Tate, a Bridgeport lead inspector, scanned the peeling side of a second-floor porch and found high levels of lead in the paint. (Melanie Stengel photo)

Publisher’s Note: CTLN and c-hit.org collaborate to best serve the Connecticut Hispanic, Latino communities.

Hartford public schools recruit bilingual teachers ‘Paso a Paso’

Hartford Public Schools (HPS) have over 17,000 students, and more than half are Hispanic-Latino; more than 1 in 5 are English language learners.

Struggling with the same staffing shortages faced by districts across the country, HPS is recruiting bilingual educators from Puerto Rico to fill teacher vacancies ahead of the 2022-2023 school year.

Through the Paso a Paso Puerto Rico Recruitment Program (step by step) — the district plans to recruit as many as 15 teachers from the island who would become full-time educators.

Adriana Beltran-Rodriguez is one of them, “I was interested in helping the students feel like they’re not completely alienated in the school.â€� The Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) educator told WBUR, “For them (students) to know that there’s someone that cares about them and wants them not only to succeed in English but to honor their culture and their language.â€�

Adriana Beltran-Rodriguez in her classroom in Hartford, Connecticut. (Joe Amon/Connecticut Public)

Beltran-Rodriguez is one of two TESOL teachers who make up a team of seven at Michael D. Fox Elementary School to support about 230 multilingual learners from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, the U.S. Virgin Island and worldwide.

Research shows that academic outcomes for English language learners are better when students are first taught in their native language and English.

“So, this is a novel approach to help Puerto Rican bilingual teaching talent gain certification in Connecticut, and specifically bolster the Hartford Public Schools teaching force,� Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez said.

Paso a Paso will include two years of support services for teachers to relocate and adjust to Hartford’s community. Selected candidates receive a competitive salary, a $5,000 signing bonus and a moving stipend. 

Dr. Madeline Negrón, Chief of Academics, Teaching & Learning in the Hartford Public Schools also expects Paso a Paso will help diversify the teaching workforce. �Because a place like Hartford, we have to ensure that our students can see themselves reflected in the teachers that are in front of them,� Negrón said in an interview with NBC Connecticut.


Publisher’s Note: This story is an aggregate from WBUR, NBC Connecticut, and The Hartford Courant.

Santiago among 4 Latinas making an impact in Meriden

State Rep. Hilda E. Santiago, D-Meriden, said serving people and working in state government is her biggest passion. Her involvement in local government started in 1990, Santiago said. In 2005, she became the first Puerto Rican female to win an open seat on Meriden’s City Council, she said. 

With March celebrating Women’s History Month, the Latino Communities Reporting Lab interviewed Santiago and three other Latinas who are making an impact in the Meriden community.

“Today, I am proud to say that I am the first Latina to be named Assistant Deputy Speaker Pro-Tempore — a high ranking leadership post in the House of Representatives,â€� Santiago said.

“Every vote I cast in the legislature represents the voice of the people in my district and the state. Securing critical safety net services and ensuring a better Connecticut for all residents and their families have always been top priorities for me,� Santiago said.

Vowing to fight for voting rights and help her party attract the state’s growing Hispanic-Latino population, Santiago officially announced her candidacy for secretary of the state in December.

People are still facing obstacles and barriers when they go to vote,� Santiago said on WNHH FM’s ​“Dateline New Haven� program. �We still have a lot of work to do.�

Hilda Santiago announces her candidacy for secretary of the state.on WNHH FM’s ​“Dateline New Haven� program.

If she emerges from a crowded field of Democrats seeking the open secretary of the state nomination, Santiago would become the first-ever Hispanic-Latino on the statewide Democratic ticket, at a time when the group are Connecticut’s fastest-growing group.

While the majority of Connecticut residents are white, the U.S. Census reports the number of Hispanic-Latino residents have grown by approximately 30 percent over the last decade. The state’s Hispanic-Latino population increased by 144,206 people for a total of more than 600,000 from 2010 to 2020.

“I am a Latina. I am a woman,� Santiago said in an interview with New Haven Independent. ​“I’ve been fighting in the trenches. I have the experience.�


CTLatinoNews partners with the Latino Communities Reporting Lab in best serving the Hispanic-Latino communities of Connecticut.

CTLN Opinion+: Selia Mosquera-Bruno

This week CTLN Opinion+ had the opportunity to speak with Commissioner Seila Mosquera-Bruno, of the Connecticut Department of Housing.

We had an informative discussion on the importance of providing access to affordable housing, the challenges behind the lack of affordable housing, and the state’s new program available for rental and homeownership.

Commissioner Seila Mosquera-Bruno brings a wealth of knowledge to the Department of housing. Before her appointment, she was the President and chief executive officer of NeighborWorks New Horizons (NWNH), a non-profit organization dedicated to providing affordable housing opportunities to help build strong communities and revitalize neighborhoods. Under her leadership, the organization expanded operations beyond New Haven County to New London and Fairfield counties.

Mosquera-Bruno has vast and extensive experience advocating for affordable housing on a state and national level. She also served on the National NeighborWorks Association board and is co-chair of their National Real Estate Development Advisory Council.

Mosquera-Bruno’s goal is to continue the state’s production of creating more affordable units by increasing resources to developers where they can continue building quality housing for those most in need.

Key points of discussion:

·          Connecticut Department of housing mission statement

·          The problem behind the lack of affordable housing and what CDOH is doing to help   solve this issue

·          Discussion about some of the affordable housing programs/resources  

·          How CDOH educate and inform communities about affordable housing

·          The importance of making affordable housing available

·          The status of the emergency rental assistance program UniteCT

·          What can communities or an individual do to address CT housing inequalities

·          The new emergency program MyHomeCT to help homeowners pay their mortgage

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Connecticut Department of Housing

Commissioners Biography (ct.gov)

https://portal.ct.gov/DOH/DOH/Programs/UniteCT

https://www.chfa.org/myhomect/

Making Small Business A BIG Success

Small businesses are making a comeback after two challenging years under COVID-19. There were more than 47,000 new business registrations in Connecticut in 2021; a 20 percent increase from 2020, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

CT Latino News spoke with Sonia Alvelo, CEO of Latin Financial, a family-owned and operated brokerage firm in Newington with offices in Puerto Rico. “Everybody was lost, everybody was overwhelmed,” said Alvelo on the Latino News Network’s podcast, â€œ3 Questions With…â€� about the early days of the pandemic when small businesses were scrambling to get financial help in order to stay afloat. “There was so much miscommunication,” she said.

Alvelo described the beginning of the pandemic as a tense and stressful situation as her firm scrambled to help their clients access Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding.

Many members of the Hispanic-Latino community weren’t aware of COVID financial aid, including the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program until Alvelo told them. She worked with dozens of business owners submitting first-time applications, loan increase requests, and reconsiderations of denied requests – many times translating information in Spanish.


SUGGESTION: Small Businesses Surviving And Thriving Through COVID-19


Alvelo said there are three things that make any small business successful: passion, logistics, and a good accountant.

“Start a business that you’re good at and love,” she said. “The second is logistics – have a solid plan of action,” Alvelo advises. And the third is a good CPA because it sets you up for success she said.

Much of the work Alvelo provides is at no cost, an investment in the community that she says is paying dividends in new clients for her company. She plans to hire new employees and expand her business beyond Connecticut and Puerto Rico.

Removing language barriers in voting

Publisher’s Note: Please participate in a short survey at the end of the story. Knowing how this story may have influenced you can help guide our future reporting...Thank you!


“People feel excluded in not having the knowledge because of the language barrier,� said Luis Lorenzo, a resident of Bristol, about what he thinks keeps new Americans like himself from participating in the electoral process. Lorenzo is originally from Mexico.

Lorenzo was featured in Voting System Fails Immigrants, as part of the Advancing Democracy: Connecticut Solutions Journalism Initiative that CTLatinoNews.com (CTLN) is undertaking as part of eight reporting projects in 10 newsrooms across the United States. The six-month program is sponsored by the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN); its mission is to spread the practice of solutions journalism: rigorous reporting on responses to social problems.

CTLN is exploring solutions to these problems by engaging with thought leaders in Connecticut and drawing from the best practices and lessons learned in communities across the country.

“Now, with me becoming a citizen, it gave me the opportunity to contribute, to have a voice – not only for me but other people”, said Luis Lorenzo, Bristol.
WATCH the Interview.

“Inability to speak or read English cannot be a barrier to the most cherished right of a U.S. citizen, the right to vote,â€� said Arturo Vargas, the executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, in an interview with NBC. Vargas cited the example of Puerto Ricans, the majority of Hispanics-Latinos in Connecticut, who are not required to read or write English if they live in Puerto Rico.

A Puerto Rican who moves to the U.S. mainland and is not proficient in English “is a fully franchised U.S. citizen and must have free and complete access to the ballot,” said Vargas, regardless of language proficiency.

As a way to make voting more accessible, the U.S. Census Bureau notified 10 Connecticut towns and cities last December that they had to provide language assistance for eligible Hispanic-Latino voters whose English skills were deemed inadequate to participate in the electoral process.

This federal mandate emanated from Section 203 of the 1975 revision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and is based on American Community Survey figures. The criteria are a minority language group comprising at least 5 percent or 10,000 members of the eligible voter population.

For 2021, the Census Bureau designated 331 jurisdictions across the United States that must provide bilingual voting assistance compared to 263 in 2016. This list ranges from entire states, such as Florida and California, with large Hispanic and Asian populations, to central Alaskan villages where Yup’ik is a prevalent language.

Ricardo Negron-Almodovar, All Voting is Local’s Florida campaign manager says new language accessibility determinations under Section 203 are hindered by U.S. laws that do not fully remove language barriers in elections. “These disparities in language provisions ultimately have a discriminatory effect on our multiracial democracy, leaving out entire swaths of people,” Negron-Almodovar said. He believes over a million Floridians find themselves at a disadvantage when voting because English isn’t their primary language.

In many cases, compliance has been an ongoing process spanning more than one five-year consent periods. In Connecticut, the Section 203 towns include nine designated in 2016: Bridgeport, East Hartford. Hartford, Meriden, New Britain, New Haven, New London, Waterbury, and Windham. Norwalk was added this time.

Section 203 serves as a double-edged tool in removing the language speed bump inhibiting and complicating Hispanic-Latino voter turnout.

Whether Section 203 compliance can positively increase the number of Hispanics-Latinos going to the polls, Teresa Begnal, Waterbury’s Democratic Register, says “absolutely.” And without these structures, she said, “there would definitely be more confusion.

A primary reason that Congress included minority language provisions in the Voting Rights Act was an awareness that many members of these groups had been effectively excluded from participation in the electoral process.

U.S. Rep. John Larson, whose constituency includes Hartford and East Hartford, sees the provision’s call to action as integral to the current debate about voting rights. He noted these mandates are strengthened in the John R. Lewis Voting Act, which is currently stalled in the Senate.

“We must do everything we can to make voting as accessible as possible,” Larson said. He also suggests that if anyone has any concerns, they should report them to their local election board and the Secretary of the State.

Mark Hugo Lopez, Director of Hispanic Research at the Pew Research Center on language barriers immigrant voters face

“There are many Hispanic immigrants, including those who are U.S. citizens, who aren’t necessarily comfortable in their English speaking abilities,” said Mark Hugo Lopez, Director of Hispanic Research at the Pew Research Center, in a recent interview with CTLN. “Spanish (information) might help those folks.”

More than 23 million U.S. immigrants were eligible to vote in the 2020 presidential election, making up roughly 10 percent of the nation’s overall electorate – both record highs, according to Pew Research Center estimates based on Census Bureau data.

Fifteen percent of Connecticut residents are born in another country, according to the American Immigration Council.

The Census Bureau uses the American Community Survey to determine every five years who is covered rather than every ten years as was the standard in the past. Compliance is required if more than five percent or more than 10,000 voting-age citizens are limited-English proficient.

In Connecticut, the affected jurisdictions include the state’s eight largest cities, the home of many eligible HispanicLatino voters whose English skills are insufficient reside. Citizens whose primary language is Spanish comprise the population requiring assistance in all ten of the affected jurisdictions. However, five years ago, a Native American cluster in Kent was covered.

Nearby Massachusetts had the most communities added to the list, increasing from 12 to 19.

Spanish also is the language of most of the citizens of the three states and many of the 300 towns and counties requiring compliance. Still, Section 203 also applies to Asians, American Indians, and Alaska Native voting-age citizens.

The five percent criteria can represent a low hurdle in cities such as Hartford and Bridgeport. In the latter, one-third of the households are categorized as having Spanish as the primary language.

The U.S. Department of Justice monitors elections as needed to determine whether programs required under the Voting Rights Act are being implemented, although ultimately, local election officials ensure their jurisdiction complies.

In Dallas, where nearly 21,000 citizens of voting age speak Vietnamese, some 400 locations will be outfitted with cell phones that voters can use to access translators in the March primary.

Philadelphia, where more than 24 percent of the city’s citizens are speakers of a non-English language, Spanish being the most common – use voting machines, touted for their ability to accommodate at least 12 languages.

Both good ideas say supporters of grassroots organizations demanding the state make the voting process more accessible to naturalized citizens in Connecticut; the challenge is the financial means in realizing them.

The Connecticut Office of the Secretary of State in meeting federal law requirements will supply the translated materials to the Section 203 towns.

Language assistance includes the bilingual signs posted at a polling place, said Begnal. What a town is required to do can be extensive. For example, New Britain plans to do the following activities according to Rachel Zaniewski, public affairs specialist, Office of Mayor Erin E. Stewart:

1. Individuals choosing to register to vote can register using a registration form in Spanish

2. Voters choosing to vote can cast a ballot that is bilingual.

3. All election materials are printed in both Spanish and English. That includes not only the ballot but instructional posters that not only instruct voters on how to vote but also speak to their rights.

4. All legal notices of elections and polling locations are in English and Spanish.

5. Spanish-speaking poll workers and moderators are hired to help with elections.

In Waterbury, all letters and other written materials are in English and Spanish, and there is someone bilingual at each polling local, Begnal said. She has reached out to the local Spanish Coalition for help at the polls. Or, on occasion at the office, the English-speaking official has gone across the hall to a Spanish program for a translator.

Whether or not assistance in Spanish language will increase the number of Hispanic-Latino voters at the polls at this year’s midterm election and in the 2024 presidential election is yet to be seen, but new voters like Lorenzo are optimistic.

“Now, with me becoming a citizen, it gave me the opportunity to contribute, to have a voice – not only for me but other people,” said Lorenzo.

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Cover Photo by Nitish Meena on Unsplash

Removing Language Barriers In Voting is supported by a grant from the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN).