Latinos Honored in Central New York

WCNY honors 5 local Latino Americans with Latino American of Central York Awards

WCNY, Central New York’s public broadcasting company, honored the contributions of five Latino Americans with its Latino American of Central New York Awards Sept. 17 at WCNY’s new Broadcast and Education Center.

The awards were presented to Latino Americans who have made Central New York their home and are working to make a difference in the community. The honorees are role models for others, individuals who may have triumphed over struggles and challenges, individuals who are community leaders or business professionals and individuals who are enriching Central New York with their talents, accomplishments or volunteer efforts.

The awards were presented as part of a local effort to coincide with the airing of the new national PBS documentary, “Latino Americans,” a landmark six-hour documentary that features interviews with nearly 100 Latinos and covers more than 500 years of History. It’s the first major documentary series for television to chronicle the rich and varied history and experiences of Latinos.

The documentary started airing Sept. 17 and will continue from 8 to 10 p.m. Sept. 24 and Oct. 1 on WCNY.

The honorees’ profiles, including short videos, are featured on WCNY-TV and online at


Maria Lourdes Fallace, of Syracuse, is a leader and trailblazer. She was the first Latina to head a city department, she served as the Executive Director of the Syracuse Commission for Women, and she managed a successful Youth Mentor Program for middle and high school female students attending city schools. Fallace developed the “Medical Spanish” program for students at SUNY Upstate Medical University, teaching them about Hispanic culture and how to develop trust with patients by communicating in Spanish. She has also assisted migrant workers with health and labor issues.



Bethaida “Bea” Gonzalez, of Syracuse, was born in Puerto Rico, and her migrant farm worker parents settled in Syracuse when she was three years old. Gonzalez was the first in her family to receive a high school diploma and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science and Latin America studies from SUNY Binghamton and a master’s degree in public affairs from Syracuse University. For the past 30 years, Gonzalez has worked at Syracuse University, starting as an academic counselor and rising through the ranks to become Dean of University College, a position she holds today. In addition, Bea has served on the Syracuse City School Board and became the first Latina to be elected president of the City of Syracuse Common Council. Her leadership extends to a number of non-profit organizations. She serves on the New York State Fair Advisory Board, is vice president of the Eleanor Roosevelt Committee and president of the University Professional & Continuing Education Association. Gonzalez has won numerous awards for her work in and for the Hispanic community including the Hispanic American of Distinction in New York State Award.

Elisa Morales, of Solvay, has been called a spitfire for her fighting spirit. She works hard in her position at La Liga, also known as the Syracuse Spanish Action League, helping members of the local Hispanic community find housing. Morales works with victims of human trafficking who find themselves in Central New York. She works hard to help these victims unshackle themselves from the horrors of this modern-day form of slavery. Morales’ work has taken her to the state capitol, where she has spoken in support of the creation of a Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act, and to the United Nations. Her work has earned her the New York State 21st Century Abolitionist Award. Morales says, “we weren’t put on this earth to see through each other, but rather to see each other through.”

Volunteerism is an important ingredient in community life, and Nestor Rivera has earned recognition for his selfless volunteer efforts. Rivera, of Syracuse, was born in Puerto Rico and came to the United States as a young child. He lived in New York City until 1977, when he came to Syracuse to live with his Aunt Ana and other family after the death of his mother. As a man with a developmental disability, Rivera has been employed through Monarch Enterprises for many years, but he wanted to be busier. He became a volunteer at St. Lucy’s Food Pantry, beginning by working one day a week. Today, he works three days each week stocking shelves, cleaning and, most importantly, serving as an interpreter for the pantry’s Spanish-speaking guests and its non-Spanish-speaking staff and volunteers. He is a link that connects people in our community.

Iluminada “Lucy” Tedeschi, of Liverpool, was born in Havana, Cuba, and came to the United States in 2004 through the government’s refugee program. Her accounting experience in Cuba landed her a job in Syracuse at La Liga. She continues to work there as a Housing Specialist/First Time Home Buyer Educator, assisting members of the Hispanic community to find suitable safe and affordable homes and advocating for housing rights. Tedeschi is also a friend to her clients, instilling optimism and confidence in them. She has received the agency’s Employee of the Year award in recognition of her commitment and dedication. In 2009, Tedeschi proudly became a U.S. citizen. For nine years she tirelessly worked to be reunited with her daughter – a goal she happily achieved in 2012.

(Caption for photo LA4563) Pictured from left are Bethaida “Bea” Gonzalez, Iluminada “Lucy” Tedeschi, Nestor Rivera, Maria Lourdes Fallace and Elisa Morales.

Each separate honoree photo is with Robert J. Daino, WCNY President and CEO.

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