Whether it was baseball great Roberto Clemente, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Sotomayor or San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, Hispanic Heritage event speaker Bobby Gonzalez did not run short on examples of Latinos who have not forgotten to keep connected to their roots, and he urged a standing-room-only crowd last Thursday at Bunker Hill Community College’s (BHCC) Chelsea Campus to “create a new future by drawing on their own heritage.”
Gonzalez, who is Puerto Rican by ethnicity and grew up in New York City, is a nationally known multi-cultural speaker, storyteller and poet. He draws upon his Native American and Latino roots for discourses and readings and academic lectures.
As a poet and performer, he has drawn on the inspiration of notable Latinos and that was just what he did last Thursday.
“Young people who are here; why is it possible you’re here?” he asked the crowd. “It’s because your families, your ancestors, coming along before you sacrificed – some who may have died – so you could be here. You have a responsibility to your ancestors and families and great responsibility to those who will come. You will all graduate and achieve a lot, but as you climb up that ladder, don’t forget those who are coming up behind you. Helping those coming behind you is helping yourself.
“I am proud to be a Latino,” he concluded.
But before issuing that challenge, Gonzalez illustrated the point by speaking of his hero, former Pittsburgh Pirates slugger Roberto Clemente – who was born and raised in Puerto Rico.
He recalled how Clemente never failed to remember those in Puerto Rico and other Latin countries. In fact, he recalled how Clemente died on a plane that was delivering aid to an ailing Latin country.
Then he spoke about how Sotomayor’s mother raised two children in a housing project after her husband died. Sotomayor’s mother didn’t give up, he said, but rather she rolled up her sleeves and went to work. She didn’t let her family become a victim, he said, but rather she pushed them to become successful, to become college graduates.
“I grew up in a housing project too, also in the South Bronx, and people used to put me down, but I didn’t let it bother me,” he said. “You shouldn’t let things like that bother you either…It doesn’t matter where you live or how humble you began. You can move all the way to the top – just like Sandra Sotomayor and just like Roberto Clemente.”