Hispanic-serving colleges in Mass. support Latino students, but some schools fall short 

When Jennifer Reyes emigrated from the Dominican Republic in 2016, she wanted to make a better future for herself. Upon entering the United States, she listed a few of her goals: to continue her education, find a better job and make more money. But at the time, she couldn’t speak English. 

“One of the reasons why I chose the Urban College was because they have Spanish classes, something that I thought was impossible to find in this city,� she said. “I can say that it was the biggest motivation.�

The Urban College of Boston is one of the state’s seven Hispanic-Serving Institutions, or HSIs, federally recognized colleges whose enrollment is at least 25% Latino. Achieving that recognition opens the door for specially designated federal funding.

A broader look at statewide degree achievement presents a mixed picture of Latinos in higher education. Though Latinos in Massachusetts graduate from four-year institutions at a higher rate than those nationally, they still lag behind the state’s whites in college degrees. Only 27% of Latino adults in the state had earned an associate degree or higher as of 2018, about half of the rate for white adults, according to Excelencia in Education.

“The Latinx population is the fastest growing in the state. In a region like New England, where the overall population is getting lower, it’s absolutely essential,� said Massachusetts Higher Education Commissioner Carlos Santiago. “If we don’t educate the fastest-growing group, we’re going to be at a real disadvantage.�

Diane Adame, production assistant with GBH News’ Higher Education desk explores why making schools of higher learning financially accessible ro Hispanics-Latinos isn’t enough.

Read more by clicking on Hispanic-serving colleges in Mass. support Latino students, but some schools fall short.


Cover Photo: Urban College of Boston student Jennifer Reyes sits in front of the school’s main building on April 27, 2022.

Photo by Meredith Nierman.

MALN Opinion+: Gladys Vega

Welcome to another edition of Massachusetts Latino News +, a segment where we have conversations of most interest to the Hispanic-Latino community.

Our guest this week is a leader who has been nicknamed Chelsea’s “Superwoman.”

Gladys Vega is the Executive Director of La Colaborativa, an organization with a mission to “empower Latinx immigrants to enhance the social and economic health of the community and its people; and to hold institutional decision-makers accountable to the community.”

The organization’s six-month program focuses on survival, stability, and empowerment in working with individuals. The goal is then for the person to take those skills and reinvest them. “Once we help you…how do you give back to the community,’ said Vega in the interview. “Why don’t you get involved in community organizing?’ she asks participants. “So we can do social justice changes.”

A native of Puerto Rico, Vega moved to Massachusetts with her family at a young age. The experience of witnessing first-hand from her parents the challenges facing Hispanic-Latino residents in the United States inspired her to work with immigrant workers.

“Their rights are being violated,” said Vega about workers (many of them undocumented) who are getting paid below minimum wage and are exposed to dangerous working conditions. “In the United States, regardless of immigration status, you (employers) need to pay the state’s minimum wage.” Massachusetts has a $14.25/hour minimum wage.

In 1990, Vega joined the Chelsea Collaborative, later renamed La Colaborativa, as Office Manager. She wore many hats, working as a receptionist, tenant organizer, and immigrant rights advocate. 

In 2006, Vega became the organization’s executive director. She successfully urged the City Council to make Chelsea the third sanctuary city in Massachusetts in her tenure. In addition, she helped found Centro Latino, the only direct service for Hispanics-Latinos in Chelsea at the time. Vega gave her time to the Chelsea Board of Health and United Way Committee and served as a Democratic delegate for the National Convention in 2000.

La Colaborativa leads community-based COVID testing and vaccinations as Hispanics-Latinos continue to struggle with inequities in Massachusetts’ health care system. The organization provides reliable, healthy, and culturally familiar food distributions five days a week.

“In addition to providing yuca, platanos, aguacate…we also use the food line (pantry) as a lifeline,” she said. “We used the food line to organize our community in terms of vaccinations.” La Colaborativa leads community-based COVID testing and vaccinations as Hispanics-Latinos continue to struggle with inequities in Massachusetts’ health care system.

 In 2007 and 2008, she was named one of Massachusetts’s one hundred most influential leaders.

Last year, Vega was recognized by the Eastern Bank Foundation with the 2021 Social Justice Award. The award recognizes community leaders who have made an outstanding impact in addressing critical social justice issues.

Nancy Huntington Stager, President and CEO of the Eastern Bank Foundation. Said of you, “She is an extraordinary leader and community trailblazer who leads by example and continues to be a social justice champion. She empowers individuals to realize they can affect change and make the difference they seek….�

“We are especially honored to receive the 2021 Social Justice Award from the Eastern Bank Foundation because it understands all too well that relationships and trust in the community are always necessary to create justice, equality, and opportunity and especially during a pandemic,� said Vega in accepting the award.

For more information on La Colaborativa, click on this link:

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.

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 LatinoChamberMA@gmail.com 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)

MALN Opinion+: Roberto Jimenez

This week on MALN Opinion+ we spoke with Roberto Jimenez-Rivera who is running for State Representative of Massachusetts in the new 11th Suffolk District.

Jimenez-Rivera said that watching his mother, a former teacher, and his father, a funeral director, dedicate their careers to helping people in vulnerable positions taught him the importance of building community and valuing servicework. It essentially planted the seeds that would eventually sprout into the transition from a career in education to running for office.

“I kind of grew up knowing that caring for people and making sure that you’re there to help and support is one of the most important things that you can do,� he said.

His career in politics started in 2018, as a volunteer for Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley’s first congressional campaign. 

“That was really the first time that I was able to see politics as a way to build the movement that’s ultimately gonna bring people together, to help us achieve what we know that we need for our people to move forward and have the opportunities that they need,â€� he said.

He decided to run for Chelsea School Committee in 2019, was elected and currently serves on the board. He says that if he was chosen as State Representative he would continue to vouch for better education for the children of Chelsea through funding, more minority representation in teachers and diversifying school curriculum to better reflect the lived experiences of students.

Being inclusive to Chelsea’s diverse citizens is important to Jimenez-Rivera who says that he has worked to ensure that his campaign is completely bilingual and accessible to multilingual families as well.

“Sometimes you have a couple where one of them speaks Spanish and the other one speaks both languages, and then the kids only know English, but then maybe the grandma lives there and she only speaks Spanish and so I think it’s really important to me that we’re prepared to engage with whatever household, whether it’s all English, all Spanish or somewhere in between, to make sure that we’re able to approach everybody,� he said.

Jimenez-Rivera speaks on the importance of candidates being both inclusive and hands-on in their attempt to reach people. He says that during his last campaign he personally knocked on one-thousand doors out of the two-thousand his team reached. He says that he hopes to double his outreach this time around and shares his excitement to speak with people face-to-face, listen to the issues that matter to them and let them know that he wants to help.

“I might not have the solutions to everything but together we can work on finding those solutions and I’m more than happy to do the homework and make sure that we are finding the solutions and advocating for them together with the people of this community, but also together with other communities that will want to partner with us, because they know that the solutions that we find will be good not just for this district but for everybody in Massachusetts.�

Resources mentioned in this video:

Campaign Website: https://electroberto.org

Roberto Jimenez-Rivera’s Twitter:https://twitter.com/hashtagRoberto

More information: https://malatinonews.com/roberto-jimenez-rivera-the-candidate/

Email: roberto@electroberto.org

Yvette Modestin: “Racism within the Latino community is such a painful thing”

Not enough Hispanic-Latino, and not enough Black. Afro-Latinos are often made to feel like outsiders by the biases of communities who force them to choose one identity over the other.

In the past ten years, the number of people across the country who identify as Black and Hispanic-Latino has increased 11.6 percent, according to a CNN analysis of census data.

â€�It hasn’t been easier for me to say that I am Afro-Latino because Latinos themselves don’t accept the term Afro-Latino. Because we do not accept that we are Afro-descendants,â€� said Yvette Modestin, founder and director of Encuentro Diaspora Afro in an interview with NHPR.

Modestin was born in Colon, Panama. A writer and activist who focuses on the Afro-descendant experience in Latin America, Modestin came to Boston as a student.

“Afro-Latinos� is a term barely known in the Hispanic-Latino community because of its rejection of Blackness. Modestin said Hispanic-Latinos often forget this population is a part of the community.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, many people of African origin were brought to the Americas by the Spanish and Portuguese. Those who were directly from West Africa mostly arrived in Latin America as part of the Atlantic slave trade, as agricultural, domestic, and menial laborers and as mineworkers. The Caribbean and South America received 95 percent of the Africans arriving in the Americas with only 5 percent going to Northern America.

“Immigrant Latinos are walking in this country free and with rights [because] of the African American civil movement,� Modesin said. But the exclusion is not only from Hispanic-Latinos. Some African Americans also see Afro-Latino people as not belonging. Modestin says during the Black Lives Matter protests, Afro-Latinos felt displaced from the cause. Some didn’t embrace it because they didn’t recognize their own Black life.

The term Afro-Latino traces to the 1970s, when Black activists in Brazil sparked a social political movement to fight for recognition in the country’s census because Brazil — at the time — did not recognize its Black citizens in the census, said Solsiree Del Moral, a professor at Amherst College who studies Latin America and the Caribbean modern history told CNN.

Created in 2004, Encuentro Diaspora Afro provides a space for Afro-Latinos and all people of African descent to explore and embrace their complex and multiple socio-political identities across the U.S. and throughout the world.

Some of the young people Modestin works with are from families who tell them to not present themselves as Black so people don’t mistreat them.

Ultimately, defining what it means to be Afro-Latino is personal. “I have stood in front of Latinos, and they are the ones who question me the most,� Modestin said. “Racism within the Latino community is such a painful thing,�


Publisher’s Note: This story is an aggregate from NHPR and CNN.

Cover Photo Credit: AMPLIFY LATINXtggt c c

Remembering Lauro Cavazos, First Latino Cabinet Member

“I don’t like politics,� Dr. Cavazos told Texas Tech Today in 2015. “I went there really to try and improve education, and I think we did a pretty good job.

Lauro F. Cavazos Jr., a Texas ranch foreman’s son who rose to become the first Latino to serve in a presidential Cabinet as U.S. Secretary of Education during the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, died this month at his Concord, Massachusetts home.

Dr. Cavazos was a sixth-generation Mexican American, born on Jan. 4, 1927, the oldest of five children of Lauro Sr. and Tomasa (Quintanilla) Cavazos, whose ancestors settled in Texas long before it became a state in 1845. Lauro and his siblings were born on the King Ranch, the state’s largest spread, near Kingsville. It is now a National Historic Landmark.

On Aug. 9, 1988, President Ronald Reagan announced that he would nominate Dr. Cavazos to be Secretary of Education, a position he would hold until his resignation in 1990. On his first day as a Cabinet secretary, Dr. Cavazos conducted a news conference in both English and Spanish.

Dr. Cavazos aimed to improve dropout rates among minority students and to make bilingual education a federal priority. But he angered Hispanic leaders and onetime educational allies by saying in a 1990 speech in Texas, “If that child cannot speak English the first day of school, that child is not ready to learn.�

Dr. Cavazos was president of Texas Tech University from 1980-1988. As president of the university, he was the first alumnus and Hispanic-Latino to serve in the role. 

Dr. Cavazos was 95.


Cover Photo: Legacy.com

Publisher’s Note: This story is an aggregate from Associated Press, NY Times, The Hill, and The Washington Post.

Immigrant families demand investigation, alleging discriminatory treatment at clinic

“No mother wants to lose her child. It’s something extremely painful, that has no cure and there’s no replacement,â€� Ligia Guardado said. “Nothing they say will bring my baby back.â€�

Immigrant women and mothers in Massachusetts are calling on state officials to investigate complaints of discriminatory and substandard care at East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC).

In July 2020, Guardado noticed her 40-day-old baby, David, seemed tired, listless, and his lips were turning purple. She took him to EBNHC, where she said they listened to his heart and lungs.

“They said it wasn’t significant,� Guardado said in a Spanish-language interview, reported GBH News. She explained that the appointment lasted around 20 minutes before clinic staff told her son was fine, and to take him home.

David had the same symptoms the following morning, so Guardado returned to the clinic. This time, she said, he was put into an ambulance. David stopped breathing en route to Boston Medical Center and was revived once, but then he stopped breathing completely. 

“When we arrived, they said ‘There was nothing we could do. Your son is deceased,’â€� Guardado remembered.

Patricia Montes, head of Centro Presente, a Boston-based Latino organization assisting the families, says immigrant patients have repeatedly reported substandard, discriminatory treatment at the clinic, resulting in “misdiagnosis, worsened health conditions, even death.�

“The experiences of these families lay bare not just these broader, systemic issues, but some specific concerns relating to such a trusted institution as the East Boston Neighborhood Health Clinic which was created specifically to address the health care needs of populations such as these Central American immigrant families,� she said.

Advocates say they’ve identified about ten impacted families and individuals and are interviewing others.

“State law forbids health care providers from discriminating on the basis of race, national origin, sex, or MassHealth insurance status,� Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of Lawyers for Civil Rights said in a statement. At a news conference this week, Espinoza-Madrigal argued that the state should still conduct a civil rights inquiry because their evidence shows that immigrants, women and those on public health benefits have borne the brunt of the substandard care.

East Boston Neighborhood Health Center declined to comment on those and other examples cited by the advocates, reported the Associated Press. The clinic said it sought a meeting with Centro Presente and the families it represents when they first raised the complaints last month, but none agreed to meet.

It also said it’s launching a patient advocate office as part of a broader effort to “listen to our patient voicesâ€� that also includes cultural awareness and diversity trainings for medical staff.

State Attorney General Maura Healey’s office  said it plans to meet with the families to hear their concerns; the public health department confirmed it received the complaint and is investigating.

EBNHC is the largest community health center in Massachusetts.

“More than 70,000 of our patients identify as Latinx, and more than 65% of our office visits are with patients whose primary language is Spanish,� the organization said in a statement. EBNHC‘s Interpreter Services Department conducted more than 190,000 interpretations last year in nine different languages using its in-house interpreters alone.


Cover Photo: Patricia Montes, executive director of Centro Presente, stands outside East Boston Neighborhood Health Center as part of a protest in repose to allegations that immigrants have received poor quality care. Photo by Sarah Betancourt.

Publisher’s Note: This story is an aggregate from GBH News, Associated Press, WJAR.

MALN Opinion+: Ellyn Ruthstrom

Welcome back for another episode of MALN Opinion+.

This week on the show we have returning guest Ellyn Ruthstrom, the executive director of SpeakOUT. Speak OUT is a diverse community of LGBTQIA+ individuals who have come together to share their truth with the world. The organization was formed in 1972 when two early gay-rights groups—the Daughters of Bilitis and the Homophile Union of Boston—came together to create the Gay Speakers Bureau with hopes that by telling stories of their experiences and sharing their deepest truths they could push to rid the world of prejudice often held toward LGBTQIA+ people. 

Despite the name change aimed to emphasize inclusivity their mission remains the same to this day. SpeakOUT continues to push for change through their hosting of educational programs about LGBTQIA+ lives and issues, and sharing their stories at events for public audiences. 

Director Ruthstrom, who has been advocating within the LGBTQIA+ community for over 25 years and as an activist for even longer, pointed out that no matter how much positive change we see happen there are still unfortunately many actions threatening the LGBTQ+ community. Ellyn said these actions can be seen “In Florida where they’re passing a horrible bill that is silencing people in schools from talking about LGBTQ+ lives and In Texas they are criminalizaing the parents of transgender children.� This sort of backlash is often seen when any sort of marginalized and oppressed community gains new rights or protections, or progresses in any way. People are always waiting in opposition and that is why it is so important for us to stay vigilant and strengthen our own communities so we can continue to push against those trying to weaken us. 

To hear more about SpeakOUT and Ellyn’s journey as a speaker and activist be sure to watch this week’s episode of MALN Opinion+

Latino Businesses Credited For Resurgence of Shopping Mall

Business owners and local leaders celebrated the opening of 16 new businesses at the Eastfield Mall in Springfield on Tuesday, all Hispanic-Latino-owned.

Borisushi, a self-described Latin-style sushi restaurant, was among the businesses celebrated by the Massachusetts Latino Chamber of Commerce at the ribbon-cutting ceremony and given citations from the Massachusetts Senate.

“The resurgence of the Eastfield Mall from Latino and Black-owned businesses sets the tone for transitioning malls, shopping plazas, and downtown storefronts all over Springfield and Massachusetts. The pandemic has only increased the motivation for our community to take the leap and become their own boss as business owners,� said Andrew Melendez, Director of the Massachusetts Latino Chamber of Commerce.

BoriSushi, Eastfield Mall, Springfield, MA
Photo Courtesy: BoriSushi

In all, there are 22 Hispanic-Latino-owned businesses at the Eastfield Mall. The feat comes amid statistics that show Hispanic-Latino businesses in Massachusetts lag behind the national average.

Hispanics-Latinos and the Black community make up more than a fifth of the state’s population but own just over 3 percent of businesses with employees — less than half the national rate of Hispanic-Latino and Black business ownership, according to a U.S. Census survey of entrepreneurs released in 2018.

GBH News reports that if the self-employed are factored in, Hispanic-Latino and Black people own about 9 percent of all businesses in the state, also less than half the national average, according to the Census survey in 2012.

 Part of the problem is that Hispanic-Latino businesses face higher demands for collateral from lenders and are turned down for loans more often than their white counterparts.


SUGGESTION: Latino Entrepreneurs, Often Shunned By Banks, Band Together To Build Their Businesses


In a December study, the consulting firm McKinsey found that “Latinos have the lowest rate of using bank and financial institution loans to start their businesses compared with other racial and ethnic groups,� rely more on personal funds and receive a tiny fraction of the billions of dollars invested each year by venture capital firms.