2019 Parade Honorees
Grand Marshal - Carlos Gonzales
Carlos Gonzalez is one the hardest working advocates in the Western MA community. The immense community work that Carlos has done in his career has not only benefited the community as a whole but has been of extreme benefit for the Latinx and persons of color community in Western MA. Since 2015, Carlos has served as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, representing the 10th Hampden District. During his time as State Representative he has focused on representing the minority population in Springfield along with other important causes which include children and families, persons with disabilities, economic development, small businesses, education and public and homeland security. Most recently in 2019, Carlos has lead the legislative Black and Latino Caucus, which focuses on important social justice issues in the Black and Latino communities.
Even with his tireless and nonstop work in the House, Carlos has always put his community first. Carlos served as the President of the Latino Chamber of Commerce where he worked on many events for the community, which included the Parrandon Guayabera for Three Kings Day, volunteering at senior homes in the North End and fundraising for various causes. His support and love for the Latinx community shines bright to all whether it be when he is hosting events, participating as an active and present member for various initiatives or sending resources to those in need of them, Carlos never says no to his community.
When Hurricane Maria hit in Puerto Rico two years ago, Carlos went to visit the island. Putting his people first, his need to help at that time illustrated the kind of man he is. “The important part is for people to realize that U.S. citizens are in need, and it just so happens they’re in Puerto Rico”. Carlos stated this when describing his travels. His help in Puerto Rico did not go unnoticed and was very important and appreciated by many.
Lastly, Carlos is one of the Springfield Puerto Rican Parade’s biggest supporters. He participates every year and always encourages his community to get involved in some way. He advocated at the state level for the parade to secure the funds of $30,000 to help with the planning and execution of the parade. He also hosts a cookout in Springfield that is open to the community to continue to celebrate the culture and history of Puerto Rico with pride.
With all of his accomplishments and advocacy for the Latinx community, Carlos still finds time for his loving wife, five children and grandson. There is no doubt that Carlos Gonzalez’s work is much appreciated and he is very cherished and loved in his community. This year, we are very honored and proud to name Carlos Gonzalez as this year’s Grand Marshall of the 2019 Springfield Puerto Rican Parade.
Madrina- Betty Medina Lichtenstein
Betty Medina Lichtenstein has dedicated her life and career to serving others. A New York native, Betty moved to Holyoke in the 1970’s to raise her family and immediately began serving the community by holding leadership roles in politics and social change initiatives. Along with being the first Latina to be elected into Holyoke office when she was voted into the Holyoke School Committee, Betty’s most cherished position is being the executive director of Enlace de Familias.
Enlace de Familias is a non-profit organization that provides parent programming and resources, like clothing and food, to Holyoke families, predominantly, Latino/x families. This organization has been on the forefront in helping the families who have come to Western Mass after the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017.
Many have felt the impact that Betty has had through Enlace de Familias and in her other community leadership roles. She is truly a respected and influential individual in the Western Mass community. We are honored and proud to name Betty Medina Lichtenstein as this year’s Madrina of the 2019 Springfield Puerto Rican Parade.
Maria Luisa Arroyo
Maria Luisa Arroyo is one very well known and respected woman in our community. Born in Manati, Puerto Rico and raised in the North End of Springfield, she has continuously been on the forefront in supporting her community through education, poetry and social justice work. A first-generation, multi-lingual, college graduate, Maria Luisa continuously gives back to her community in the most humble and authentic ways.
As an educator, author and performance poet she was named the inaugural Poet Laureate for the city of Springfield. Her passion for literacy and education shines bright when she participates, year after year, in the Springfield Puerto Rican Parade, pulling a cart filled with new books and handing them out, free, to children, “Juntos Leemos, Juntos Aprendemos”. She also does endless volunteer work with children and families of the community, an example being the launch of her family literacy program where she volunteers her time once a month to offer a family reading and arts workshop. She also has many published works that includes her renowned poetry.
Maria Luisa currently is an Assistant Professor of Writing and First Years Studies at Bay Path University. We are honored and proud to name Maria Luisa Arroyo as this year’s Cultural Ambassador of the 2019 Springfield Puerto Rican Parade.
Blessyd Cotto’s passion for performing has lead her to some great accomplishments in her life. While being an avid performer in various Springfield restaurants and venues, Blessyd has continued to maintain high honors in school while working a part-time job as well.
Blessyd’s strive to put 110% in everything she does is no doubt a major reason for her being the only student in Springfield to be accepted into the Berklee College of Music on scholarship for vocal performance. Along with her performing, academics and job, Blessyd still finds the time and energy to volunteer as a Teaching Assistant with the 6th grade school choir at her local middle school. Some of her other accomplishments include being a featured soloist on the WGBY’s presentation of Presencia and having the privilege of being a VIP guest at the Bay Path University’s Annual Women in Leadership Conference where she met Rita Moreno.
Blessyd continues to make her community proud by being a strong, determined and confident Latina who works extremely hard not only for her goals but to help others as well. We are honored and proud to name Blessyd Cotto as this year’s Youth Ambassador of the 2019 Springfield Puerto Rican Parade.
Padrino- Norman Roldan
Norman Roldan has been an active and respected member of the Western MA community for a very long time. His activism and push for better public schools in Springfield is one of his most passionate projects. His position on the Capital Assessment Board for the City of Springfield allows him to fight for repairs and better conditions in our Springfield Public Schools.
As part of his work with the public schools, Norman worked very hard to bring the new Brightwood/Lincoln schools. For many years, Norman was also a member of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center (PRCC) Parade and Festival committee. His specific work on the Puerto Rican Festival in Springfield was successful year after year and highly appreciated in the community.
Currently, Norman continues to fight for issues regarding the LatinX community in Western MA, which is one of the many reasons he is so deserving of this honor. We are honored and proud to name Norman Roldan as this year’s Padrino of the 2019 Springfield Puerto Rican Parade.
Civil Service Ambassador
Nelson Zayas Sr.
State Trooper Nelson Zayas, Sr. has dedicated over 20 years to Civil Service. A product of the North End of Springfield, he continues to better his community with his constant advocacy and hard work.
In his role with the Massachusetts State Police he serves the Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section / Special Tactical Operations Unit. He has received numerous awards including the George L. Hannah Award & Medal of Honor for the State and the Springfield City Council Proclamation for serving as one of the few in the state to travel and help those impacted by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
He serves as a volunteer in many community sports leagues and fosters the new generation of community and civil service leaders. Trooper Zayas, Sr. is very respected and admired in his community. We are honored and proud to name Trooper Nelson Zayas, Sr. as this year’s Civil Service Ambassador of the 2019 Springfield Puerto Rican Parade.
Juliana Templeman has been playing soccer since she was 5 years old. Throughout her life, she has played for a number of elite club teams as well as participated in the MA Olympic Development Program.
When Juliana was 15 years old she played for the u17 Puerto Rico Women's National Soccer team. While training and competing with the team, she lived in Puerto Rico, immersing herself in the rich culture and community. The team ultimately advanced to the CONCACAF Olympic qualifiers in Haiti.
Juliana has also gives back to her Western MA community by participating in the “GOALS” soccer program, coaching youth at the Holyoke YMCA. Juliana is currently a Junior at Westfield State University, playing soccer and majoring in Spanish. With her dedication to sports and coaching, mentoring and guiding the community’s youth, we are honored and proud to name Juliana Templeman as this year’s Sports Ambassador of the 2019 Springfield Puerto Rican Parade.