Each year, between September 15th and October 15th we observe Hispanic Heritage Month to honor the rich histories and cultures, as well as contributions made by members of our community whose family lineage can be traced to Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, Spain and South America.
When I think about my personal and professional journey as a Hispanic whose parents both moved to New York City from Puerto Rico when they were very young, I am thankful for the many Hispanic leaders who, whether they realized it or not, served as Mentors and Navigators for me during my journey from youth to adulthood.
Seeing people that identify with your culture in executive and senior roles serve as powerful images, because one can imagine themselves serving in the same professional capacities and having the ability to achieve the same personal accomplishments, such as serving in the military, in academic achievements, the arts, and the importance of staying connected to one’s culture.
There were many people from a diverse background that contributed to my professional and personal success, but during this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month I want to thank the Hispanic women and men whom over time, or just for a moment, set me on a life trajectory that has rewarded me with so many opportunities.
First my parents, Louis and Migdalia Molina, who reinforced with me and my siblings that no matter what we wanted to be in life, we should strive to be the best at it. My Dad worked two jobs most times and my Mom, as far back as I can remember, always had a part-time position in retail. But like many kids like us in our neighborhood of the Bronx, my Grandparents (my Mother’s parents) lived with us; so family was an important part of my upbringing.
While family is important, equally as important were the many Hispanics that I met along the journey that were the navigators. I would go, as far as to state they were the architects of my professional choices, leading me to where I am today. As a kid, literally from kindergarten, I grew up and spent as much time in my best friend Steve Negron’s house as much as I did my own; his dad, Retired NYPD Sgt. Noel Negron was a profound influence in my life and sparked in me a desire to have a career in Law Enforcement; in March 2000 that dream came true when I joined the NYPD.
During my time in the NYPD I had a blessed career and the opportunity to work in a number of units within the Department and received a great deal of support from many colleagues and supervisors during my time with the Department. Vital were the moments when NYPD Hispanic leaders took their time to give me advice on how to do my job and navigate the available opportunities, both professional as well as academic, which was priceless. More importantly observing them in their positions of authority reinforced in me that I could achieve these same professional opportunities and more. Their success, their advice and sharing their own personal stories helped me design my own roadmap and I could visually see myself achieving this largely because someone who had a similar background to me did it first. I want to thank retired First Deputy Commissioner Rafael Pineiro, retired Assistant Commissioner Joseph M. Ramos, retired Assistant Commissioner Dr. Robert Gonzalez, Assistant Commissioner Maria Otero, Inspector Eddie Caban, Deputy Inspector Emmanuel Gonzalez, Deputy Inspector Luis Colon, retired Deputy Inspector Jose Navarro, retired Deputy Inspector Manuel Batista, retired Captain Wilfredo Maldonado, retired Lieutenant Manuel Hernandez, retired Lieutenant Luis Garcia, retired Lieutenant Israel Linares, retired Lieutenant Maria Salas, retired Lieutenant Ruben Castro, retired Sgt. Anthony Miranda, and retired Sgt. Arnold Aramos. There are too many Hispanic Detectives and Police Officers to mention, but your friendship, support, solicited and unsolicited advice (lol) was what and still keeps me going.
The NYPD along with my time in the Marine Corps built a solid foundation of discipline for achieving success. This discipline gave me the structure I needed to continue working full-time and attend graduate school. As vital as it is to have your Hispanic culture represented in the leadership roles in a profession, it is equally as important in education. With the exception of one Spanish language course during my undergraduate studies, the only other times I interacted with Professors with Hispanic descent was in graduate school. The following Academic Professors were also critical in me believing in myself that I could tackle the challenges of graduate study and also offered professional career advice when sought. Thank you Professors: Dr. Tony J. Carrizales, Marist College School of Management; Dr. Pablo Piccato, Columbia University; and Dr. Feniosky A. Pena-Mora, Columbia University. Whether it was course instruction, taking time out of your day to meet with me to discuss a professional career decision, or a moment of recognition, you all paved the way for me and countless other Hispanics that will follow in your footsteps.
In my twenty years of public service, I have been fortunate to engage with these Hispanic leaders through conversations, chance encounters at an event or just hearing them speak at public forums. And they have shown by their presence, actions and accomplishments the impact their images have in building confidence and allowing young Hispanics to witness that they too can achieve great success. So thank you Angelo Falcon, National Institute for Latino Policy; NYS Secretary of State Rossana Rosado; Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel LatinoJustice PRLDEF; Fernando Ferrer, former Bronx Borough President; Dan Gonzales; Arnie Segarra; Robin Bikkal, Hispanic Democrats of Westchester; Louis Cobarruviaz, Former Police Chief City of San Jose California; Arturo Venegas Jr., Former Police Chief, City of Sacramento California; Judge Walter Rivera; Judge Thomas Quinones; WCDOC Sgt. Hector Lopez; Dr. Edwin M. Quezada, Superintendent of the Yonkers Public Schools; Carmen Gomez-Goldberg; Marisol Mancebo; Marisol Alcantara; Judge Fernando Tapia; NYS DOCCS Sgt. William Perez; Blanca Lopez, Advisor to County Executive; Dr. Nancy Rodriguez, Former Director National Institute of Justice; Willie Colon, Legendary Salsa Artist; Michael Greco, United States Marshall Southern District of New York, Martha Lopez, Candidate New Rochelle City Council; Monica Miranda, President & CEO The Hispanic Coalition of New York; WCDOC Sgt. Ray Moniz; WCDOC Sgt. Ivan Lopez; Lorraine Lopez; Tasha Diaz, Candidate Yonkers City Council; Elena Goldberg-Velazquez, Candidate Yonkers City Court Judge; WCDOC Sgt. Jose Chevere; Leandro Diaz, WCDOC Deputy Commissioner of Operations; Nory Padilla, WCDOC Director of Programs; Kim Ramos, NYS AG Office; retired FBI Special Agent Ed Mirles and many more. The risk of naming people is that you always end up missing someone, as I am sure I have. But as I reflect on the pivotal moments, and these moments could have only lasted seconds, the people mentioned had an impact for which I will forever be grateful.
As we celebrate 2019 Hispanic Heritage Month I am proud of the accomplishments and the rich cultures of all our diverse Hispanic communities that hail from around the world. Like the many races and cultures that make up America, we are part of the ethos that makes our Country great.