The Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey (LLANJ) presents the list of The 55 Most Influential Latinos in New Jersey in 2015.
The objective is to spotlight Latinos, who by virtue of position and/or work, are exerting a positive influence on the Latino community of New Jersey, causing it to change and/or advance.
Selecting a list of prominent individuals with diverse talents and backgrounds, LLANJ has focused on the widest scope of influence possible in the areas of politics, education, health, economic development, and social advancement.
In alphabetical order by last name, they are (click on following link to see:
1. Fernando Alonso. Chairman of the Bergen County Republican Hispanic Association. He was a state senate candidate in LD38. His work on behalf of Latino republican candidates in Bergen County has earned him statewide respect.
2. Jose Arango. The Hudson County Republican chairman leads the party in a county where republicans have little pull. Hudson is known for its Democratic strength.
3. Alex Blanco. Mayor of Passaic, NJ. The second in the United States and only in New Jersey, Mayor of Dominican descent. Dr. Blanco serves the 15th largest municipality in New Jersey.
4. Ingrid Betancourt. Director of the Newark Library’s Sala Hispanoamericana. She has spearheaded research exhibits on history and culture of many Latin American countries at La Sala. Her Hispanic Heritage Month Celebrations at Newark Public Library have become legendary as they bring to life the richness of Latino arts and culture.
5. Rolando Bobadilla. The Essex County freeholder was first appointed to his position in 2011 to fill an unexpired term. He has been elected twice. Praised for his relentless commitment to inclusion and fair representation.
6. Carlos M. Bollard. President of the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey. Deputy Regional President for Region III of the Hispanic National Bar Association. Serves on the NJ Supreme Court’s Working Group on Judicial Fundraising. He currently serves on the Legislative and CLE Advisory committees of the New Jersey State Bar Association.
7. Gloria Bonilla-Santiago, PhD., Director of the Community Leadership Center, overseer, Board Chair of the LEAP Academy University Charter School, and Rutgers University Distinguished Professor. Leading scholar with over 25 years of experience in program development, fundraising, strategic planning, and leadership training.
8. Nestor Collazo. Principal, Perth Amboy High School. His ‘urban city principal’ approach has earned him a place in many young men and women, who will succeed because he touched their lives.
9. Juan Cartagena. President and General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. A former Municipal Court Judge in Hoboken; he is a constitutional and civil rights attorney who has vast experience litigating cases on behalf of Latino and African American communities in voting rights, employment discrimination, language rights, access to public education for poor and language minority children, and housing.
10. Ángel Cordero. Director and Co-Founder of Community Education Resource Center of Camden (CERN). Has an extensive history of grassroots organizing and militancy on behalf of Camden and NJ Latinos.
11. Dario A. Cortes, Ph.D., Senior Vice President of Strategic Alliances and the former president of Berkeley College. The only Latino to serve as president of a College in New Jersey; he helped make the path to a four- year degree more accessible to students of all backgrounds. During his tenure 27 percent of the more than 8,300 students at Berkeley were of Latino descent.
12. Norberto Curitumai. President of Transportation Corporation of Paterson, NJ, one of the four major busing companies in the Tri-Area. Challenged the NJ Transportation Department for a license to operate the private transportation business, and won. His fleet of over 200 vehicles has added 10 to 15 new vehicles each year since 2001.
13. Wilda Diaz. She was elected Mayor of Perth Amboy, New Jersey in May 2008 to become Perth Amboy’s first female Mayor and New Jersey’s first Latina Mayor. She first ran on an anti-corrupt establishment campaign, and is comfortable taking on the Middlesex County Democratic Committee, when needed, on behalf of the people of Perth Amboy.
14. Carlos Fernández, Ph.D. Director of the Center for Latino Arts and Culture at Rutgers University. He holds a doctorate in folklore from Indiana University. He is a musician from Costa Rica performing vocal and instrumental music from the Latin American renaissance. His scholarly research has focused on popular religious practice and traditional music of Central America and the Caribbean.
15. Faustino Fernandez-Vina. Associate Justice New Jersey Supreme Court. He previously served as Superior Court Judge, Presiding Judge of Camden Vicinage Civil Division, and Assignment Judge of the Camden Vicinage.
16. Joseph R. Fuentes, Colonel, the 14th Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. State Police since 1978; member of the 93A Class. Assignments: General Road Duty Trooper, Instructor at the Sea Girt Academy, Supervisor with the FBI/NJSP Joint Terrorism Task Force, Narcotics Units, and the Street Gang Unit. Former Chief of the Intelligence Bureau, overseeing nine units.
17. Conrado Guardiola, MA, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus at Rutgers. He teaches Medieval Spanish literature; Medieval Epic; didactic and political treatises; culture of Spain; Aragonensia. He has published books on Los Amantes deTeruel (1989); Gracián (1980); El Romancero (1973); and Cantares de Gesta (1971).
18. Tony Ibarria. Editor of El Especial. From his offices in Union City, Mr. Ibarria has commandeered the longest serving and most comprehensive and successful Spanish weekly in the State of New Jersey.
19. Olga Jiménez de Wagenheim. History Professor Emeritus at Rutgers University. A specialist in Caribbean and Latin American history and author of several books and articles, and director of the Puerto Rican Studies Program at Rutgers-Newark for more than 20 years. She chaired the organizing committee for the New Jersey Hispanic Research and information Center (NJHRIC).
20. Abraham Lopez. Executive Director of the New Jersey Center for Hispanic Policy, Research and Development (NJCHPRD). With an engaging smile and gentle demeanor, this political animal helped carve out a space for Latinos in the Republican Governor’s administration.
21. José Lopez. President of Hudson County Pastors Association. Rev. Lopez’ consistent and relentless work promoting the civic participation of the NJ Latino community of faith is helping transform a political ‘sleeping giant’ into a ‘well-oiled machine’ for Latino empowerment in the state.
22. Jaime Lucero. Mexican Entrepreneur and Visionary. The garment- district millionaire, owner of Gold & Silver, a New Jersey-based business, founded Casa Puebla. Señor Lucero – his nickname – speaks slowly and smoothly, but is a deep thinker. The City University of New York Mexican Studies Institute at Lehman College was named in his honor. It is now known as “The Jaime Lucero Mexican Studies Institute”.
23. Carlos Medina. The chairman of NJ Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is rumored to be a future contender for Lieutenant Governor if current Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno decides to make a gubernatorial run in 2017.
24. Analilia Mejia. Executive Director of the New Jersey Working Families Alliance, a statewide group that helps protect and lobby for the interests of working families statewide.
25. María Teresa Montilla. President of the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey (LLANJ). An author and nationally known and respected Latino leader, with an extensive history of effective advocacy and activism on behalf of U.S. Latino Community. She is also currently President of the Institute for Latino Studies, Research and Development.
26. Gabriela Mora, MA, Ph.D. Author and Professor Emeritus at Rutgers University. She specializes in Nineteenth and Twentieth-century Spanish American literature, the short-story, Modernism and women writers.
27. Iveth P. Mosquera. President of LUPE Fund, an organization that for more than 12 years has been educating, empowering, and engaging Latina women in New Jersey and beyond.
28. Isabel Nazario. Associate Vice President for Academic and Public Partnerships in the Arts and Humanities at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. She was appointed to this office in September 2004. Prior to this position, she was the founding director of the Center for Latino Arts and Culture, and executive director of the Office for Intercultural Initiatives, at Rutgers.
29. Ariagna Perello. Chair of the Newark Board of Education. First Latina chair in Newark. She is a small business owner in Newark, dedicated to mentoring and developing the artistic talents of Newark youth. She has awarded over $50,000 in college scholarships.
30. Martin Pérez. Partner at New Brunswick law firm Perez & Bombelyn. A nationally known and respected civil rights leader, who founded and presided over the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey (LLANJ) for 17 years. Currently, he is a member of Rutgers University’s Board of Governors.
31. Paul Pérez. A retired military veteran and former member of the Senior Executive Service in the Federal Government; he ran for Mayor in Trenton in 2014. During his career, he has been Special Agent in the Criminal Investigation Command; security at the Pentagon, for U.S. officials and dignitaries. With his run for Mayor, Perez changed the political dynamics of Trenton. He lost his bid 5,569 to 4,410 votes.
32. Victoria F. Pratt. Chief Judge of the Newark Municipal. She has won an international reputation for her efforts to reform the criminal justice system. Through programs like the Newark Community Solutions Court Project, and a progressive approach to procedural justice, Pratt is a pioneer of US Criminal Justice System Reform. She’s the first person of Dominican descent to become a Municipal Court Judge in the city’s history.
33. Vincent Prieto. Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto is the ranking member of the New Jersey General Assembly. He is also the chair of the Hudson County Democratic Organization. Hudson County is known for being a democratic stronghold.
34. Arlene Quinones-Perez. City Attorney for the City of Perth Amboy. She is from the Law Firm of DeCotiis, FitzPatrick & Cole, LLP. Perez is the first woman and first Latina to ever serve as City Attorney for the City of Perth Amboy.
35. Luis Quintana. Newark Councilman-at-large. He served as Newark’s acting mayor in 2013 and 2014, becoming the first Latino mayor of Newark. Council Member Quintana was elected to his first term as council member-at-large in the June 1994 run-off election. He is the first person of Latino descent to be elected to an at-large position in the Newark Municipal Council.
36. Miguel Rivera. President of National Coalition of Latino Ministers & Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC). A national leader whose presence and influence has been felt in the halls of U.S. Congress and statehouses around the nation, on issues affecting Latinos in the United States.
37. Richard Rivera. Former New Jersey police officer and recognized expert on police corruption. Has extensive experience in research and training that focuses on citizen complaints and use-of-force data in New Jersey. Has been instrumental in a large effort to make the state’s internal affairs system a national model of transparency, fairness and effectiveness.
38. Aritmedes Restituyo. President of Asociacion de Profesionales Hispanos de la Salud (APHSI). A pioneer in running health fairs that offer over 45 free medical tests and services to disadvantaged communities.
39. Christopher Rodriguez. Director of New Jersey Homeland Security and Preparedness (OHSP). Dr. Rodriguez comes to his new role from the Central Intelligence Agency in Morris County, where he has more than a decade of experience in a variety of analytical and management positions. He has been a senior analyst in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, tasked with monitoring terrorist groups in the Middle East and South Asia.
40. José Rodríguez. Pastor, Asambleas de Dios Church, Trenton N.J. A dynamic ‘old world’ pastor with a civic participation agenda for empowerment.
41. Joshua Rodríguez. Senior Pastor of The Cityline Church, in Jersey City, New Jersey. A Young and passionate afro-caribbean Pastor, Rev. Rodriguez is helping shape what a ‘politically effective Latino Evangelical Church’ should look like.
42. Teresa Ruiz. State Senator serving in district 29 which includes Newark, the state’s largest city. Her work in favor of in-state tuition within the Education Committee was outstanding. A rising star in the Democratic Party, expected to advance in her career with rumors swirling she could be the next senate president or possibly even the next Lieutenant Governor.
43. Esther Salas. Federal District Judge for the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey sitting in Newark. She had previously served as a Magistrate Judge in the same court since 2006, becoming the first Latina to serve in both positions. Known for her passion, generous spirit, and commitment to public service, Judge Salas is one of the most highly respected magistrate judges in New Jersey.
44. Mike Santiago. Mayor of Millville, NJ. A graceful and enthusiastic leader in Southern NJ. Active in the Latino Voting Power movement, with heighten awareness in the areas of politics, education, mental health, and economic development.
45. Lucilo Santos. Long-time Community leader and grass roots organizer, responsible for the ‘U.S. political assimilation’ of a large segment of NJ Dominican community. He was instrumental in the enactment of dual citizenship for Dominicans in the USA.
46. Cristina Schwarz. President and General Manager of WNJU, Telemundo’s station in Fort Lee, N.J. that serves the Tri-State Area. Schwarz was previously the vice president of Univision Cable Networks, where she oversaw several networks.
47. Milly Silva. Silva is the executive vice president of SEIU 1199. She helped the powerful labor group (which represents health care workers) take on for-profit health care. She was Barbara Buono’s running mate in the 2013 gubernatorial race.
48. Julio Tavarez. Councilman and former Paterson City Council President. A young intellectual political star in the state, with strong professional background in Business Administration, digital marketing, web design & development, and mobile application development.
49. Carlos Tejeda, MD. Specialist in Internal Medicine, Passaic. Head doctor at Center for Adult Medicine and Preventive Care, with an extensive history of promoting, maintaining and improving health in the community through prevention, education and adequate screening and early intervention.
50. Giancarlo Tello. An advocate for undocumented students in New Jersey. His efforts helped in the passage of a law that allows undocumented New Jersey’s undocumented to pay in-state tuition at state universities.
51. Jose “Joey” Torres. Mayor of the City of Paterson. He was the mayor of Paterson from 2002 to 2010, making him the first Latino mayor in New Jersey’s third largest city. In 2010, he was defeated, but won again after beating the Democratic Party in 2014.
52. Andy Unanue is the current Managing Partner of AUA Private Equity Partners, private equity firm that targets Hispanic-oriented and family-owned companies. He is the former Chief Operating Officer of the family-owned Goya Foods, the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the United States. AUA Private Equity Partners currently manages five portfolio companies: Two-Twenty Records Management, Brighter Dental Solutions LLC, a regional dental practice management company. Born and raised in New Jersey, he is the grandson of Goya Foods founders Prudencio and Carolina.
53. Camelia Valdez. Passaic County Prosecutor. Valdez became the first Latina county prosecutor in New Jersey, and first lead prosecutor of Dominican ancestry in the United States, in 2009. She served as Municipal Prosecutor in the City of Newark, Deputy Attorney General in the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, and as Assistant United States Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark. Valdez is the immediate past president of the County Prosecutors Association of New Jersey.
54. Luis Vargas. Long-time Community Activist for Education. His ‘putting your money where your mouth is’ approach to advocating for quality and fair education for all children, has taken him to found a Charter School and to serve on its board of directors.
55. Raymond Martinez, Chair and Chief Administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission. Previously, he was the Deputy U.S. Chief of Protocol and Diplomatic Affairs for the U.S. Department of State and the White House. He served as the Commissioner for the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, and Assistant General Counsel for the Long Island Power Authority, one of the largest public utilities in the nation.
The Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey (LLANJ) is the largest and only statewide non-partisan non-profit entity composed of local, regional and state community-based organizations, leaders and professionals advocating for Latino causes and for the socio-economic and political advancement of New Jersey diverse communities. www.llanj.org