Celebrating Hispanic heritage while remembering a hurricane’s devastation.
Maimonides Medical Center, 4802 Tenth Avenue, hosted its annual Hispanic Heritage Month celebration on Thursday, September 20. The day featured speakers who celebrated the culture, musical performances by Grupo Tumbao and giveaways.
“This our third event,” said Alexander Alvarez, who was part of the planning committee and served as the master of ceremonies. “Every year, we get bigger and stronger, and we provide more and more information to the community. Today is a very special day. It happens to mark the one year anniversary of Hurricane Maria hitting Puerto Rico.”
After a moment of silence to remember those affected by the massive devastation, Deacon Julio Barrenche addressed the crowd.
“This is an opportunity to meet with your Maimonides family to celebrate this significant contribution made by Hispanics that will help shaped this community,” he said. “We, as Hispanics, understand our responsibilities and are always ready to work hard to help those in need. We are grateful for the opportunity that has been given to us, the challenges we face and our great network.”
Diana Reyna, former councilmember for the 24th District and former deputy borough president, was the keynote speaker.
“Today we are embracing culture and diversity and recognizing the beautiful Latino Diaspora, a mixed race,” she said. “Personally, I’ve been asked if I’m Indian or if I speak Spanish because most don’t think that I am Latina. Here lies my journey, one that is deeply rooted in this great borough of Brooklyn. Thanks to the love and sacrifice of my Dominican parents, opportunities blossomed.”
During her speech, she discussed the hardship her parents faced with minimal education. Her mother was a seamstress, her father a factory worker and pizzeria owner.
“I know where I come from,” she said. “I am one generation away from a family of farmers. As a Latina, I celebrate with you our accomplishments in arts and culture, film and media, politics and business.”
The majority of the ceremony was heavily focused on the one year anniversary of Hurricane Maria hitting Puerto Rico, which is reported to have claimed the lives over 3,000 people.
Executive Director of UPROSE Elizabeth Yeampierre spoke about the devastation and climate change.
“I am so grateful that this is happening today in a hospital because we are living in the age of climate change and health care providers are not prepared for the impacts of climate change,” she said. “People think when a hurricane hits and people die, that number is finite. They don’t understand the implications of climate change.”
The hospital awarded Yeampierre and Reyna plaques and flowers.
Luz Fonseca of Maimonides was also recognized for relief efforts following the hurricane.
“When Hurricane Maria occurred, we got together to talk about what Maimonides’ response was and what we could do to support folks, and the devastation of that impacted island,” she said. “We all just chipped in. Maimonides has the solidarity to come through and help out in time of need. This is a family hospital where anything that affects any of us, whether it’s students or nurses, it’s a time for helping.”