Legal Aid Celebrates Latino/Hispanic Heritage
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2016
Staff members (from left) Rosa Méndez, a Paralegal in the Civil Practice, Edgar Monasterio, Administrative Coordinator in the Criminal Defense Practice, and Yissel Cabrera, a Staff Attorney in the Juvenile Rights Practice’s Manhattan office with Seymour W. James, Attorney-in-Chief at the Latino/Hispanic Heritage Celebration.

Three staff members of The Legal Aid Society shared stories of their lives and connections to their work with colleagues on Wednesday in a celebration of Latino/Hispanic Heritage Month.

Yissel Cabrera, a Staff Attorney in the Juvenile Rights Practice’s Manhattan office, Rosa Méndez, a Paralegal in the Civil Practice and Edgar Monasterio, Administrative Coordinator in the Criminal Defense Practice, recounted stories of their childhood, their immigration to America and how their roots informed and assisted the work they did for the Society every day.

Cabrera discussed the special value she found in her translations and discussions with Spanish-speaking families at work. The experience was “very meaningful for them” and it was something Cabrera said she was “very happy to do.” Cabrera, born in Cuba, also recalled her mother’s pride in her education, her career and who she was. “A couple years ago, she told me I had become everything she wanted.”

Méndez spoke of her childhood in the Dominican Republic before immigrating at the age of nine, as well as her adjustments to life in America without leaving her roots behind. Méndez also spoke of the significance of providing translations, acting as a “conduit” and bringing people together to work towards a common goal. Méndez said her work at Legal Aid and being Latina were “two things that define me.”

Meanwhile, Monasterio said at age 13, when visiting his sister in New York City on a family vacation from Bolivia, he immediately knew he could not leave. He credited people who shaped his life, including his mother, the owner of an auto parts store in Bolivia, his sister and his first English as a Second Language Science teacher – a woman who had come from Mexico, helped his English skills and encouraged his participation in a science fair where Monasterio won first place.

Monasterio said he has always felt fortunate to live in America “because it is a country that is always striving to improve.” Organizations like Legal Aid “are extremely important to our society’s betterment, providing help for struggling new Americans and minorities,” he said.