September 29, 2021
Hispanic Heritage Month Opportunity To Celebrate Diversity That Makes Profession, Communities Stronger
Co-Chair, ACS Central Florida Lawyer Chapter
I was born and raised in the beautiful island and U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. Back home, we are taught that our culture is an amalgamation of the Spanish, indigenous (taíno), and African cultures. However, when I moved to Florida to attend law school, I quickly learned that, outside of the Puerto Rican community, there was little understanding of the unique, intricate culture I grew up cherishing. I am no stranger to discrimination, which is often paired with a lack of knowledge of history and the U.S. Constitution. These personal experiences led me to volunteer early in my career with the Florida Supreme Court’s Justice Teaching program, through which I visited middle schools and high schools to enhance Civics lessons each school year. When young students saw someone who looked like me, talked like me, and came from my island, they too could aspire to love the law and become lawyers or judges one day.
I have had the privilege to represent Fortune 500 companies through my entire career, and in the last five years, I have also been able to represent individuals in all matters involving employment and workplace accidents. For all of the mental and physical demands of a legal job, it seldom provides the satisfaction that volunteer work has given me. I will always be proud of my work over many years with the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Florida, my contributions to the founding of the Legal Services Clinic of the Puerto Rican Community in Orlando after hurricane Maria, and the continuing efforts to bring light into the constitutionality of Puerto Rico’s political status.
After the grueling 2020 election cycle ended, I reflected on my roles as private sector lawyer, volunteer election observer, and Hispanic community activist. Like so many of my colleagues, I felt the need for change when I saw our democracy imperiled by steady blows to the rule of law and Constitutional precedents. This day and age invariably points us toward social media when we search for news, sources of hope, and opportunities. While browsing LinkedIn, the American Constitution Society popped up on my feed through a post by a law school connection, who also happens to work for ACS. I immediately recalled ACS’s mission and purpose, and thus, my search for other ways to make an impactful contribution considering all my former roles and experience was over.
Central Florida has been my home for the last decade and I am proud to be a co-chair of the ACS Central Florida Lawyer Chapter. Our community is one of the most diverse in the entire State of Florida and its resilience in the wake of adversity has been historic. Our chapter aims at creating change in small and steady steps, with the goal to be a significant source of progressive legal policies and a beacon to fair-minded judicial aspirants of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. ACS’ Path to the Bench Initiative provides a unique opportunity for minority lawyers like myself to identify and assist judicial candidates on their way to a career in the judiciary, especially those who show exceptional qualifications. Most importantly, judicial candidates and Path to the Bench workgroup members share the same objective of prioritizing diversity in the areas of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and legal practice fields.
Hispanic Heritage month is a special time to celebrate the qualities that make the legal profession more diverse and in turn make our communities stronger. I look forward to continuing ACS’ work with the Central Florida Lawyer Chapter.