Photos by Victoria Schneps
Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced (third from right) receives an award at the Entre Nosotras luncheon.

Last year I was invited by my friend Todd Shapiro to attend the multi-day SOMOS conference in Puerto Rico. It was such an extraordinary networking and learning opportunity that I decided to go again this year. I’m so glad I did.

Besides escaping the cold New York weather, I knew my friends Joyce and Frank Seddio (my lawyer) would be there and I love their company.

The purpose of the conference is to bring New York State leaders to celebrate Puerto Rico, provide aid to the residents of the island and attend workshops, which were as diverse as the people who attended.

Vibrant, informative speakers “educated” us on many issues, from discussing the Jones Act about shipping issues, to new workshops about the LBGTQ community, and discussing women’s influence with the recovery efforts on the island.

This was the first year a woman headed the conference, and the conference subjects reflected her sensitivities. 

Maritza Davila, the smart and savvy Assemblywoman from Bushwick, Brooklyn, who looked stunning in her sparkling sequined silver dress, lead the conference by welcoming Governor Cuomo to begin the powerful weekend. 

Part of SOMOS’ (which is translated to “we are”) mission is to give back to Puerto Rican citizens who are still suffering from the tragic Hurricane Dorian.

Most of the conference was held at the El San Juan Hotel, which has been restored; but at the end of our stay, the hotel and several other tourist locations lost water due to a broken city water main. The InterContinental San Juan hotel next door was closed due to renovations and the Ritz Carlton was closed. Tourism is down 25 percent following the hurricane and Puerto Rico needs our dollars and tourism — the beaches are beautiful and the streets are safe. Several humanitarian efforts were brought to the island, too.

Rabbi Mendel and Rachel Zarchi at the Chabad House of San Juan hosted with the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty a dessert party honoring New York State Speaker Carl Heastie, U.S. Congressman Adriano Espillat, and Henry Garrido (Executive Director of DC 37).

I love how the conference has grown to bring people together from many faiths, races and nationalities. I got to meet the new Governor of Puerto Rico, a stunning well-spoken woman Wanda Vázquez Garced.

Maritza Davila recognized her at an awards ceremony with Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo, the honorary chair of Entre Nosotras.

The highlight for me was the opportunity to sit in the hotel lobby and at the pool while mingling with many of our state’s labor, business and political leaders while also enjoying the sun. It doesn’t get better than that!

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