“Puerto Ricans have long been an essential part of America’s fabric, and their contributions span across every field. This year, we’ve chosen to honor the many contributions of the Puerto Rican people by recognizing pioneers who have made historical contributions to society and the communities they represent.” With this statement, Michael D. Nieves, President and CEO of Hispanic Information Telecommunications Network (HITN), opened the event, debuting the special Voces series featuring short clips that highlight the transformative success stories of Puerto Rican leaders and visionaries.
Thursday, Nov. 17th, over 50 elected officials, community leaders, activists, El Centro faculty and students, and local Puerto Rican organizations gathered for the premiere screening. MC Gerson Borrero began the program by underlining the significance of Puerto Rican Heritage Month. He introduced HITN President and CEO Michael D. Nieves, who welcomed guests, including New York Mayor Eric Adams and other elected officials and community leaders. Dr. Yarimar Bonilla Ramos, Interim Director of El Centro, gave greetings on behalf of Hunter College, President Raab. In her remarks, Dr. Bonilla Ramos thanked Mike and HITN for the invitation to collaborate on this special premiere screening. The audience then viewed the five video clips without interruption, pausing to punctuate the silence with applause after the end of each capsule.
In culmination, each pioneer received a special commemorative plaque from HITN, with a short bio of their achievements. They briefly spoke, thanking Mike and HITN for the honor. One of the pioneers, José E. López, made a statement in the presence of another pioneer, Assemblyman José Rivera, who was sitting in the back with his omnipresent video camera. Although he shyly waved at the audience at first, José was quickly forced to stand as the entire audience rose to their feet in applause and gave him a standing ovation at the mention of his name. Mike then assured guests that this would become an annual tradition, and everyone could look forward to a “save the date” for next year.
Timed to debut during Puerto Rican Heritage Month, the program showcased Puerto Rican pioneers and changemakers, both past and present.