On the last day of this year’s National Hispanic Heritage Month, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer hosted the 10th Annual Hispanic and Latinx Leadership Awards at the Thalia Spanish Theatre in Sunnyside.
“Western Queens is an amazing place. We love these neighborhoods that we call home for a reason and part of that reason, I believe, is because of our diversity — because we are so rich in so many cultures and nationalities, races, people of different sexual orientation and gender identities, all coming together to make one community,” Van Bramer said during the Oct. 15 ceremony.
The intimate event recognized six Queens-based Hispanic and Latinx community leaders.
The honorees were Beny Castro, marketer and liaison for Sunnyside Shines BID; Kevin Montalvo, founder of Queens Distance Runners and race director of Queens Marathon; Maritza Silva-Farrell, executive director of ALIGN NY; Martha Sanchez, education activist and community organizer; Memo Salazar, filmmaker and activist; and Rosalie Quinones, Queens community advocate and former public school administrator.
They all had a chance to give a short speech after Van Bramer introduced them and presented them with their framed proclamations.
Silva-Farrel said that she moved from Ecuador to the U.S. to become an activist, and has felt “very connected” to the Latin American and immigrant communities ever since.
Van Bramer credited her for being one of the leaders in the fight against Amazon’s proposed headquarters in Long Island City earlier this year.
“The thing that is amazing to see every single time, and the reason why I do this work, is the power of the people,” Silva-Farrell said. “The overwhelming power that people have when they come collectively and fight for what is right.”
Sanchez, a mother, wife and education advocate, has lived in Corona, Jackson Heights and Elmhurst for various years. She’s certain that anyone can find food from all over the world in those very neighborhoods.
The honoree, who spoke only in Spanish, talked about the importance of campaigning for better education and less overpopulation in districts 30 and 24 in Queens. But most importantly, she wanted fellow parents to understand that “language shouldn’t be a barrier.”
“Sometimes, because we might come from small villages, we think that our children do not deserve more, but all children are equal and all children deserve quality education,” she said, receiving rounds of applause from those in attendance. “If we all come together, we can accomplish even more things — that’s why I always say, ‘The united people will never be defeated.’”
The light-hearted and joyful evening, also featured enchanting performances by the Mestizo Art Center, who were introduced by the artistic director of Thalia Spanish Theatre, Angel Gil.
“Hispanic and Latinx community leaders play a critical role in strengthening our borough and enriching the cultural tapestry of our city,” Van Bramer said. “These six distinguished leaders may come from different places and work in various fields, but they all share a deep-rooted commitment to Queens values and community advocacy.”