By Deyanira Martinez
Whether fighting in behalf of people affected by rent increases, trying to help bodegueros in Washington Heights or dancing merengue in the street with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Senator Adriano Espaillat is present in everything that has to do with the benefit of our community.
Adriano Espaillat, who is poised to make history as the first Dominican-American to serve in the U.S. Congress, after being the first one elected to a state legislature, was once an undocumented immigrant, as he himself expressed, full of pride, during his speech at the Democratic National Convention.
The 61 year-old born in the city of Santiago de los Caballeros came to New York with his family when he was only 9. In the early years, Espaillat and his parents experienced all the uncertainty of an undefined legal status – “sin papeles.”
It was a real challenge for his family adapting to a new country with a cold climate and an unknown language, especially in the 1960s, when the Hispanic presence in the city was still very limited.
These obstacles were partly what motivated Espaillat to become involved in community activities and youth programs since he was a teenager.
From his own experience, the State Senator knows the hardships and difficulties faced by the people of the district he represents, which includes areas such as Washington Heights, Harlem, Hamilton Heights and the Bronx. His agenda reflects the needs of its people and focuses on the problems of housing, employment and education opportunities.
The immigration reform is also one of the points Espaillat will bring to Congress. Espaillat trusts that under a Hillary Clinton-led government, there will be an immigration reform or an executive order to alleviate the legal situation of more than 13 million undocumented immigrants.
LT: What would you point to as notable progress among Dominicans in the U.S.?
AE: The enrollment more than 25,000 students of Dominican origin in CUNY. This is a great achievement and a testament to the great effort of our community in the last 20-30 years.
LT: Are you connected to the island and if so, how do you maintain that connection?
AE: I try to travel as a tourist or when they call me for any government matter. I don’t belong to any Dominican party. I’m a Democrat. I hope to be an auxiliary or support for any Dominican government.
LT: How are Dominicans in NY different from Dominicans on the island?
AE: We here have adapted to a more urban environment, which demands more of us. In America life is very fast. In The Dominican Republic, life is a little more pleasant and quiet but also has its demands.
LT: Do you think Dominicans are united as a group?
AE: I would say yes, where there is the largest division is within the leadership. I think the general population is very intelligent. They understand what they have to do and what is important for them. They joined with me in this political contest and they gave me a vote of confidence to be the next U.S. Congressman for District 13.
LT: Do you have a message for our readers?
AE: Thanks to the community again. This victory is their victory. It is a collective triumph. I hope this victory will serve to encourage and support each person who at some point has encountered obstacles and barriers to achieve their goals and objectives.
→See for more of this story in this month’s issue of LatinTRENDS Magazine.
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