Bethlehem Press

Thursday, November 21, 2019
press photos by douglas gravesAurea Ortiz and Olga Negrón with some of the 20 flags representing the countries of origin of attendees at the second annual Pennsylvania Latino Convention. press photos by douglas gravesAurea Ortiz and Olga Negrón with some of the 20 flags representing the countries of origin of attendees at the second annual Pennsylvania Latino Convention.
Norman Bristol-Colon speaks to the delegates and guests at the opening ceremony of the second annual Pennsylvania Latino Convention. “Our basic roots – our spirit, is our conviction that through our Lord is the only way things happen,” said Colón. “Every time a Latino is suffering, he goes down on his knees and prays.” Norman Bristol-Colon speaks to the delegates and guests at the opening ceremony of the second annual Pennsylvania Latino Convention. “Our basic roots – our spirit, is our conviction that through our Lord is the only way things happen,” said Colón. “Every time a Latino is suffering, he goes down on his knees and prays.”
Bethlehem City Councilwoman Olga Negrón speaks during the opening ceremony for the Second Annual Pennsylvania Latino Convention. Bethlehem City Councilwoman Olga Negrón speaks during the opening ceremony for the Second Annual Pennsylvania Latino Convention.
At the reception following the opening ceremonies Vanessa Cruz of Miami, Florida sings as Roberto Vargas and Sergio Perez, both from Reading, accompany her. At the reception following the opening ceremonies Vanessa Cruz of Miami, Florida sings as Roberto Vargas and Sergio Perez, both from Reading, accompany her.
Area clergy offer prayers at the opening of the Second Annual Pennsylvania Latino Convention. From the left: Rev. Marilyn A Hartman of the Center Lehigh Valley church in Bethlehem, Rev. Dr. Gregory J. Edwards or Resurrected Life Community Church, and Rev. rcy and want to do right by all the people,” said Rev. Edwards. Area clergy offer prayers at the opening of the Second Annual Pennsylvania Latino Convention. From the left: Rev. Marilyn A Hartman of the Center Lehigh Valley church in Bethlehem, Rev. Dr. Gregory J. Edwards or Resurrected Life Community Church, and Rev. rcy and want to do right by all the people,” said Rev. Edwards.
Bethlehem Area School District Director of Student Services and Minority Affairs Vivian Robledo of Fountain Hill, Giselle Aldrete of Emmaus, Lucy Giboyeaux of New Cumberland, Pa., Maria Afanador of Puerto Rico, Selina Winchester of Allentown, Indira Bautista of Macungie, and Maryanell Agosto of Allentown enjoy drinks at the reception following the opening ceremony of the second annual Pennsylvania Bethlehem Area School District Director of Student Services and Minority Affairs Vivian Robledo of Fountain Hill, Giselle Aldrete of Emmaus, Lucy Giboyeaux of New Cumberland, Pa., Maria Afanador of Puerto Rico, Selina Winchester of Allentown, Indira Bautista of Macungie, and Maryanell Agosto of Allentown enjoy drinks at the reception following the opening ceremony of the second annual Pennsylvania

City hosts state Latino convention

Tuesday, November 5, 2019 by Douglas Graves Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

The deep religious underpinnings of Latino culture came to the forefront in the opening ceremony of the second annual Pennsylvania Latino Convention held at Bethlehem city hall Oct. 29.

Prayer, music and dancing were foremost on the evening’s agenda, as speakers welcomed delegates, and invocations and calls for unity were voiced by local religious leaders heading into the three-day event.

The Rev. Dr. Gregory J. Edwards underscored the need for unity as he called upon Divine guidance to help the delegates to the convention do their work in a “nation yet to be united because of this deep divide.

“Those founding documents and the statements therein, we have yet to actually substantiate: one nation under god, liberty and truth, and justice for all,” proclaimed Edwards in tones reminiscent of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s oratory.

He prayed that national leaders have a “spirit of humility and excellence” and to fight “injustice in all of its many forms.

“Give us legislators who do justice, love mercy and want to do right by all the people. “We pray for those who are suffering at the border because of unjust legislation. You are not a God that builds walls, but you are a God that builds bridges,” said Rev. Edwards.

Norman Bristol Colón, founder and chairman of the Pennsylvania Latino Convention, echoed the theme set by the pastors.

“Our basic roots – our spirit, is our conviction that through our Lord is the only way things happen,” said Colón. “Every time a Latino is suffering, he goes down on his knees and prays.

“We have many broken Latino communities across this state and across this nation. When you are part of something bigger than yourself, bigger than your struggles and sacrifices you know – you know the best days are always ahead.”

Colón took a more humorous tack with his audience when he reminded them that, “Spanish is the language of God,” apparently a reference to the Pope being Latino.

Then he turned to history. “Spanish was the first language spoken in what is now the United States.” (St. Augustine in Florida was established as a Spanish fort in 1565, the first permanent settlement in what would become the United States. That was 42 years before the English founded Jamestown in Virginia.)

He turned to demographics as he predicted that in 100 years, “Spanish will be the number-one language spoken in the United States.”

City of Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez said, “Latinos represent 30 percent of our population.” He said their importance to the community “cannot be over- emphasized” and praised their “dedication to faith, family and community.”

Donchez urged the Latino community to participate in the 2020 census because, “We felt Bethlehem was undercounted by 10,000 people” in the last census.

Easton City Mayor Sal Panto welcomed the delegates, saying, “We grow out of diversity.”

Panto also urged Latinos to apply for work with the City of Easton; “We are recruiting Latinos for our workforce.”

Music was provided by the group, Herencia Jibara, and, for a few minutes, dancers swirled around the wood-paneled and carpeted city hall meeting room.

On the following day began the planned three-day convention held in the Hotel Bethlehem, featuring prominent speakers who addressed “cornerstone issues” of PA’s Latino community: Census 2020, education, economic development, leadership development, health, civic engagement, diversity and inclusion, criminal justice reform, mental health, faith-based leadership development, housing trauma care, and immigration.

“Give us legislators who do justice, love mercy and want to do right by all the people,” said Rev. Edwards.