"One day, upon my arrival in Broward,
I felt very lonely, and so did many other people.
It was difficult to
adapt to life in Florida.
Hispanics did not have
much political influence (if any) and everything was difficult for us."
In the 1980s in Florida, on Saturdays and Sundays, people would approach me to ask for my help in creating an agency that could defend their rights. They had heard about my previous work and the agencies I had founded, but I refused to do it. The pressure became such that, on one such Sunday, accompanied by a group of friends at home, I formed what is, today, Hispanic Unity of Florida Inc. (HUF).
Among those friends were co-founders Miriam Ruiz, José Rodríguez, Ajenol Fernández, María Rivera, and Eduardo Pagan. Sometime after we had already begun our work, the priest of the local San Isidro Catholic Church gave us sixty dollars to incorporate the new agency. Since the population we served was so diverse, we decided that the word Unity was appropriate for the name.
We soon began meeting with politicians at local, state and federal levels, which was a great help in getting HUF off the ground. I took a position serving on the Board of Catholic Charities. Because San Isidro was the only Hispanic Church in the county, and the central meeting place for Hispanics, I was able to access funds for community assistance, such as buying food for the poor. For this I owe so much to Dr. William Stone, a dedicated community activist, who lent his time and effort to our cause.
The "Ellis Island" for new immigrants arriving in South Florida, Hispanic Unity celebrates 35 years of Empowering a New Generation of Americans.
Back then, there was a newspaper called El
Heraldo de Broward
, which helped us to spread the news of our work and mission. Both English and Spanish newspapers were interested in what we were doing. In the early days of HUF, we operated from my office at the Henderson Clinic. We held our meetings there in the evenings. All of us at the agency were there as volunteers, with day jobs, but our labors saw great fruits: More and more people began to join us, and new leadership developed as we worked to benefit the community, helping anyone who needed our services.
Community service can be challenging. Between 1980 and 1982, amid constant criticism despite their great effort and accomplishments, most community leaders did not last more than... Continue Reading.