By Linda Tishler Levinson
Speaking to Latinos in Connecticut about the year ahead, the word that comes up most is “hopeful.” CTLatinoNews.com talked with representatives of the arts, the community, education, business and health about their views on the New Year. They say they are optimistic about 2013, but remain realistic about the challenges before them.
For Felix Rodriguez, the hope for 2013 is a better education for Latino children. Rodriguez is a member of the Waterbury Board of Education and a special assistant to the deputy commissioner of the state Department of Children and Families.
What has always been important for children getting a better education is parental involvement, he said. He encourages more parents to become involved in their children’s learning and the decision making in their children’s schools.
In addition, he said he wants Latino children to focus their studies on what will lead to good jobs.
“I just hope that our Latino children focus more on the math and sciences,” he said, since that’s where the good jobs are.
In addition, he said, the community needs to recognize that not every child is college-bound and that they, too, need to be prepared for good jobs.
“This area ranks pretty well … people are overall well for health, we continue to be concerned about nutritional conditions, especially for children,” said Dr. Mario Garcia, director of the New Haven Health Department.
He pointed to a DataHaven Community Wellbeing Survey in which 85 percent of adults in Greater New Haven reported being in good, very good or excelled health. The figure rose to 94 percent among those with household incomes of $100,000 or more.
Garcia said he is concerned about obesity, especially among Latino and African-American children.
The wellbeing survey noted that that in Greater New Haven 34 percent of adults are overweight or 23 percent are obese.
The survey suggested that school gardens would be one way to improve children’s health since they would provide a platform from which to discuss and encourage healthy eating.
“They’re hopeful there will be immigration reform,” said the Most Rev. Peter Rosazza, auxiliary bishop emeritus of the Archdiocese of Hartford, who, while not Hispanic, has long been active in the Latino community.
Latinos have been encouraged by the Dream Act, which allows young people brought to the United States by their parents to obtain legal status, he said. They also are hopeful for further reforms during President Obama’s second term.
Rosazza said since more Latinos voted this November, he feels they will have greater political influence and be better represented by elected officials.
But, like everyone else, he said, “They’re concerned about the economy.”
Bessy Reyna, an opinion columnist for CTLatinoNews.com, is encouraged by the Latino actors and playwrights whose work she frequently sees on stage in the state. Reyna also is arts editor for Identidad Latina and the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Connecticut Center for the Book.
“In particular, Hartford Stage has provided a home for new Latino playwrights,” she said. “Quiara Alegria, who just won the Pulitzer for her play “Water by the Spoonful,” had that play produced and developed at the Hartford Stage. This year’s Aetna’s playwright in residence is Mathew Lopez, whose play was produced also at the stage, and his new play “Reverberations” was given a reading at the Brand New Festival in the yearly showcase for new works at Hartford stage.”
Looking to 2013, Reyna said she is disappointed when she attends arts events such as the Sunken Garden Poetry Festivals in Farmington or concerts at the Bushnell in Hartford and finds that few Latinos are in attendance.
“There is a great chasm between popular and ‘classical’ culture. It would be nice if the thousands attending salsa concerts in Bushnell Park would cross the street and visit Bushnell auditorium’s programs. As for myself, I will continue to let people know about arts programs I feel should be supported by all and to highlight the accomplishments of those who live or come to Connecticut to perform,” she said.
While the down economy has hurt many businesses, Nelson J. Rodriguez, president of the CT chapter of Hispanic MBAs and an agent for New York Life, said entrepreneurs should keep in mind that this also brings opportunities.
Rodriguez, who also writes a business column for CTLatinoNews.com, said that while the down economy has caused many businesses to fail, that brings opportunities for others to get into a business.
He said many successful companies have been formed during recessions. “Entrepreneurs need to keep that in mind.”
Hopefully, he said, jobs will be created.
Many business owners are tightening their belts, he said, but many also have a lot of cash they are holding onto. He is encouraging business owners to do cost-effective marketing, such as using social media, in 2013.