Light the Torches of other Women’s Intellect
by Talia Rodríguez
Sometimes God doesn’t give you what you want. He gives you what you need. Trials and tribulations, you later realize, are blessings. One such blessing – the ability to speak two languages at varied levels of confidence- unites me with so many of my readers. In a deep breathe I reflect -my life has been -linguistically fluid. In my mind I see all my readers. Smiling, waving at me. People who, the papers I contribute to, are heart of beat of neighborhoods- that like smell like sofrito and casas that start their day before the sun rises with Cafecito and una oración de Dios. Readers with souls full of music and pain. Every time I write -It’s about centered around one girl- a version of my inner child, a “Nena”.
In her life our papers are the most relevant and most identity affirming publication she has. She struggles to access digital material outside of school. She has a sharp tongue, too impulsive, a dreamer’s spirit in a gray town and in when she grabs our paper, and she sees herself in the stories. She’s less than ten but she knows she’s bigger than her hometown and her dreams stretch further than the highways that isolate her. It’s all for her – really. I know she’s out there. If you know that little girl; lift her up. If you are her grandmother, or if you are mother, or if you know a little girl (inside yourself) or in your community. Give her our paper. It’s a gift to give someone a reason to dream. I described that girl to Marisol when we first zoomed- she just smiled- she knew. I knew God sent Marisol to my life.
Marisol- was waiting for me, before I met her. Her path aligned with mine, a bright thinker, empathetic, a leader. A graduate of SUNY Empire State College’s – like me, a fighter- like me. Marisol’s spirit was created to light the torches of other women’s intellect across the world. 1,400 miles away from her homeland of Puerto Rico there is something wild about her refinement almost exotic about her deliberateness in speech. She is a woman with many different chapters inside her writer’s soul. All of those chapters leading up to the creation of the most humble and significant Puerto Rican literary minds in the state. Marisol- (the version of her I love the most- Marisol my editor).
The lead editor of CNY Latino with a circulation 6,000 papers she is the leading lady of public opinion for one of the fastest growing Latino communities in our state. Love independent papers, advertise in them, submit to them, blog about them, just love them. And know- when you talk papers- in New York State, la Reina de todos esto- is Marisol Hernandez, Senior Editor and my role model. On periodt.
Read Marisol’s full interview below, a woman with many different chapters inside her writer’s soul.
- Where were you raised, What were the values taught in your home? – I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. When I was 12 years old, we moved to the tiny island of Vieques. That is when my parents divorced. I am the middle child of seven. For us family comes first, even now as adults and living in different countries/states, my siblings and I are very close. Faith has always been a strong value in my family but also integrity, honesty and humility. One thing that I also learn growing up is to have fun, enjoy life and help others. When we were struggling, I remember my mother saying “has bien y no mires a quien, las cosas se hacen bien o no se hacen and mañana será otro día”. With that said, we as a family pray for others which is a habit, I have included in my daily prayer’s ritual.
- What was your experience as a student? – My first experience in kindergarten was not good and I struggled in school. I didn’t learn how to read and write until 3rd grade. I remember hearing my mom say “pobrecita Marisol, déjala tranquila, ella no puede dar más”. That made feel really bad about myself and my own abilities to do things. I was one of those students that pass thru school under the radar. I finished high school with low grades and entered college on a special program at the InterAmerican University of Puerto Rico. When I move to the Bronx in 1984, I met my aunt’s “Comadre”. As the manager of a women’s clothing store, she hired me to do inventory, merchandise pricing and to keep an eye on thieves. I didn’t know any English and I already had 2 years of college in Puerto Rico that was when I realized that if I didn’t learn English, I was not going to be successful in New York. She encouraged me to get back into college, I enrolled in Eugenio María de Hostos Community College and within a year, I was fully bilingual. I worked very hard every day that year but it felt very empowering to make the honors roll. My outlook about school, myself and my own abilities changed forever on that moment. I realized that I can make things happen, that I can do anything I put my mind to do. In 1999, I completed my bachelor’s degree from Empire State College, State University of New York Auburn, New York’s branch with a degree in Human and Community Services and a concentration in Child and Family Studies. It took me 18 years on and off from college to finish my bachelor’s degree but I feel very proud of the things I accomplish at work and for my community all those years while pursuing my education.
- When did you start working and what was your first or favorite job? – My first job was babysitting my neighbor’s daughter and cleaning my boyfriend’s bosses’ house, feeding their cats, etc. I was just 16 years old, with them I learn to be responsible and do what I promised I was going to do. I have had many jobs since then. I have been an outreach worker, a family support specialist, an interpreter/translator, a youth program development center director, a coalitions’ coordinator, a healthy lifestyle coach and a business coach. In all of those roles, I gave my 100% and did my best to excel and make an impact in my client’s life’s. But my favorite job is running CNY Latino Media with Hugo Acosta who is my partner in life as well. As the Editor in Chief of the CNY Latino Newspaper and the Radio/Podcast Producer, I get to have an impact in people’s lives in a different way. I enjoy celebrating our culture, highlighting the great things our people do for their communities. I get to meet amazing Latinos and non-Latinos, attend events and network. I get to be the voice and represent my community, my people everywhere I go but most importantly since the beginning the CNY Latino Media has been a venue for connecting the Latino community with everyone else in Central New York. I can’t think of anything more powerful than a community newspaper in both English and Spanish to impact our community, to represent our culture, and to empower our people.
- What was the moment that you were inspired to take control of your future? – There have been many moments in my life where the decisions I made helped me take control of my future. Attending college, learning English, running for a political office, changing my eating and lifestyle habits to take control of my diabetes to name a few. I feel that I really took control of my future when I decided to leave the non-for-profit work to run CNY Latino with Hugo.
- What advise do you have for other Latinx people who want their voices to be heard in their community? – I will say to be yourself, find your passion and figure out what you are good at. Then, use it to help others, to speak up, to make a difference in your community. For me it was putting time and effort to serve as the second Latina elected official in the history of Syracuse City School Board, to created WISE Latina, an annual luncheon to motivate, empower and connect Latina women in Central New York by supporting their existing and developing entrepreneurial objectives. This is an effort to reach the Latinas in Central New York and provide them with the resources and connections to build successful enterprises and contribute to the economy in this area. As time change and opportunities come, I jump in to make an impact in my community by partnering with the WISE Women Business Center to translate and co-facilitate at no cost to attendees the Éxito! program and during the pandemic the WISE WBC Small Business Resilience Program (COVID-19). So, once you figure out what you are passionate about or what programs in your community you want to impact, jump in and be yourself. Advocate for others, open doors for others, help bring awareness.
- What is your theory on human potential? – As a God’s child and a believer, I know that everyone has a purpose in life. God made us all equal, and gave us the potential (the power within) to seek the truth in our life’s, to be the best we can be. Everyone has the potential to overcome any obstacles and achieve success. They just have to find the motivation within to do it.
- What is your opinion on the fact that Latinx women are the most underpaid demographic in the United States? – It makes me feel sad that Latinas are so underpaid. This impact the social and economic resources Latinas and their children have to make it in this country. We must close the wage gab in order to advance as a community. I also have seeing that many Latinas are opening their business as a rapid pace. This is one way, we can also help to close the wage gab because, I know that we will not underpay our workers.
- What experience do you have as a businessperson? – As a business person I learn that if I don’t plan and stick to my plans, my business will not succeed. I love to have the flexibility of not having to request time off for vacation or to spend time with my family or to help a family member or a friend. As a business person, you make the decisions but you are also accountable for it. When I met my partner in life, we both realized that he needed help with “his Spanish”, and my ability to find mistakes – along with the feminine touch of a Latina perfectionist, make him realize, the value I bring to our business. Once I started it, I could not think of anything more powerful than a community newspaper in both English and Spanish, to impact my community, to represent my culture, and my people. With time, I realized that being my own boss will give me the flexibility to spend my time doing things that are important to me, and at the same time, I am able to make a difference in many people’s life. In February 2022 we celebrated the 18th Anniversary of the CNY Latino Newspaper. In my mind, to be celebrating another anniversary edition in the ‘newspaper’ industry, AND in our culture, as a small ethnic publication and a small minority business, is a “HUGE” accomplishment.
- How would you define a business person? – A business person is one that uses his/her skills and talents to sale and market products or services to others making financial gains. A business person has a passion for what he/she does, takes risks, seeks to achieve goals. I also realized that you have to be self-reliant, confident and motivated. A business person is willing to seek advice, is willing to ask for and accepts help when needed. One last thing and most important trade you have to have is to accept your mistakes, learn from them so it wouldn’t happen again. I also see that successful business people contribute money or time to causes and missions that align with their values. They also find a balance between family and business.
- Is there a local business person you look up to? – There are many business owners I admired or look up to. In my own journey, I admire those who take the leap even if they think they are not ready like Hugo did in 2004. I see women (many of whom are Latinas) all the time doing this as I work with the Éxito! program at the WISE Women Business Center, as I interview many of them for our newspaper or radio show. I also see and hear their stories as we do Amigas Conectadas every Monday.
- What is your vision for your future? – The vision for my future is to continue taking care of my health and wellbeing as I get older and continue to grow and spend time with our family. I certainly believe that CNY Latino will continue to be the voice for our community. I look forward to having as part of what we do a Podcast, a Digital Radio Show, our own TV Show. We have so many plans and as we are able to implement them, I know for sure that Hugo and I will certainly continue to make it fun, exciting and definitely about our culture (and hopefully profitable). I believe we are the bridge that connects – as our slogan says – the Hispanic community with everyone else in Central New York. I think we have done a great job at helping our community cross that bridge and we in the future will continue to be that bridge.
Talia Rodriguez is a bi-racial, bi-cultural, and bi-lingual Latina from Buffalo. Ms. Rodriguez’s mission is to write about Latina’s, who have shaped the face of our city and our region. It is Ms. Rodriguez’s believes that our own people should inspire us and in telling our collective stories, we push our community forward. Ms. Rodriguez is a community advocate and organizer. She is a 5th generation West Sider, a graduate of SUNY Buffalo Law School, and an avid baseball fan. She lives on the West Side with her young son A.J… Ms. Rodriguez sits on the board of several organizations including the Belle Center, where she attended daycare. Ms. Rodriguez loves art, music, food, and her neighbors.