SOMOS We Are! I Am: My Witness to This Key Hispanic Conference

Posted on March 29, 2017 by Catholic Charities Admin  |  Share

By Fanny Gomez

Catholic Charities Marketing & Communications Assistant

Somos Chairman Marcos Crespo gives Catholic Charities Centennial Award to  Msgr. Sullivan surrounded by staff including Fanny Gomez (in tan sweater).

I’ve been to conferences and trade shows before. I’ve worked the booth and spoken to attendees. That wasn’t new to me, but I’ve never before been to a conference like the 2017 Somos Albany Conference this past weekend, March 24th – 26th, with people from my Hispanic heritage who are such an inspiration to my culture. That was a first for me.

Somos, Inc., is a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c) 3 organization committed to addressing the needs of the Hispanic population of New York State. The Somos Conference gathers assemblymen and women of New York and other influential people to talk about these needs and challenges in order to better serve the Hispanic community.

While driving up to Albany for 2 hours on Friday, I had no idea how much fun I was going to have during that weekend. We mostly stayed at the booth – it’s true – but you wouldn’t realize that with all the events we attended.

Catholic Charities Honored

Catholic Charities was honored at the Governor’s Executive Mansion by Governor Cuomo and at the Welcome Reception by Marcos Crespo, Chariman of Somos, Inc. for our 100 years of service to New Yorkers. I’m just getting started at Catholic Charities – I was hired three months ago – so it was a particular honor to be part of a team that recognized for serving New Yorkers in need for a century.

After that we celebrated at a concert with Gilberto Santa Rosa, known as "El Caballero de la Salsa" (The Gentleman of Salsa). The concert was fun and intimate and Gilberto Santa Rosa really made it seems as though he was just performing for a few of his friends. I also had no idea that going to a concert was going to be part of my job!

Our Own Luz Tavarez Singled Out

On Saturday, we went to work shops and attended luncheons. Our Director of Government & Community Relations Luz Tavarez was honored at Entre Nosotras, whose annual luncheon serves as an awards ceremony to recognize the many achievements of Hispanic/Latino women throughout the state. Luz and seven other women were honored for their great accomplishments in their perspective fields. It was truly an inspiration to see these women, some who were born outside of the United States, come together and talk about their passion in what they do.

During the day, we all attended a workshop with a group of panelists which included Esmeralda Hoscoy, Regional Supervisor of Westchester County. The panelists spoke about the challenges facing immigration in the state of New York and what the needs are of each of the panelists’ organization. One of the biggest needs I noticed was for immigration attorneys. I didn’t realize how much these organizations needed the help of these attorneys and although many have attorneys, there aren’t enough of them. I left the workshop with a better understanding of the hard work that is accomplished around immigrants.

Alianza Dominicana Dancers

During the Dominican Reception later that day dancers of our affiliate agency, Alianza Dominicana, performed a traditional folkloric dance. The reception also had a merengue tipico band playing most of the event. Tipico is much like merengue – a genre of music from the Dominican Republic – but it’s played at a much faster pace. The genre isn’t listened to by many people outside of the Dominican culture so it was great have the band play. They served traditional Domincan food like pastelitos, or empanadas. I definitely felt at home.

After all the events we still had one more left – the gala. Msgr. Kevin Sullivan gave the invocation which was inspiring and in a way transmitted peace throughout the enormous ballroom. My favorite part of his invocation was the following:

“Strengthen us to persevere as messengers of your goodness.

Bless us so that the proper righteousness against with the cruelties of word and deed we witness these days at even the highest levels.  Lord, help us resist the temptation of a paralyzing self-righteous anger, and  rather, Lord turn us toward  a passionate commitment for building formidable communities for the common good that, just might, with your help persuade even the most hardened of hearts - which might sometimes even be our own.”

It resonated with me because it dares us to look within ourselves and fix what needs fixing. We often stay away from fixing our weaknesses because it may be the most difficult thing to do.

My biggest take away from this weekend has been that my parents were not alone when they emigrated from the Dominican Republic to this country with a one year old – me - and another baby on the way. I feel blessed that we are now all U.S. citizens. At SOMOS I met successful and inspirational people who had the same challenges as my parents have had. It was great to relate to so many stories of these people that eventually made them who they are today.