April 2010, Volume 14, Number 2


Senator Bob Menéndez

Senator Menéndez speaks on hispanics crucial role in our nation

Even though she moved to Miami from Cuba at age 10, Raquel Puig Zaldívar had never really thought of herself as an immigrant until she heard U.S. Senator Bob Menéndez lecture recently at Miami Dade College’s National Historic Landmark Freedom Tower.

“In South Florida we tend to forget our position as immigrants,” said Zaldívar, MDC professor of English and communications. “But we are immigrants.”

Zaldivar had not been familiar with the New Jersey lawmaker’s work prior to his discussion of his book, Growing American Roots: Why Our Nation Will Thrive As Our Largest Minority Flourishes. But the title of the book, and its implied message, piqued her interest. The presentation was sponsored by MDC’s Florida Center for the Literary Arts.

“Had I not heard him speak, I might not have read his book,” she said of Menéndez, who grew up the son of Cuban immigrants in a Union City, NJ, tenement building and rose to become the third-highest ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives before taking office in the Senate in 2006. “It was really impacting.”

The book examines how far we have come as a country and, in particular, how much the Hispanic population has achieved. It offers a comprehensive look at the influence of the Hispanic population and culture in the United States, and calls for sweeping social and economic legislation, immigration reform, improved healthcare, and an end to the discrimination and prejudice that
Hispanics face.

“Being Cuban, the immigration experience for me was very smooth,” Zaldívar said. “Like me, the immigrant community in Miami is kind of ­iso­lated.”

Menéndez’s book gave Zaldívar a new perspective on her own experience as well as a broader view of immigration in the United States. Also, it helped her feel solidarity with the rest of the immigrants in this country.

“It has made me feel like part of the community of immigrants,” she said. “It has made me more sensitive to the plight of immigrants nationwide and has motivated me to help this cause.”


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