UNF professor who launched campaign for obesity prevention among 16 prominent Hispanic leaders honored in exhibit

The city of Jacksonville kicked off the Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations Monday morning at City Hall with a special exhibit.

“Voces Hispanas” is an oral history project that aims to embrace the legacy of the Hispanic community in Northeast Florida.

The exhibit, hosted by the First Coast Hispanic Chamber Of Commerce (FCHCC) and created by oral historian Dr. Rebecca Dominguez-Karimi, features the cultural, historical and economic contributions of local Hispanic leaders spanning the last 100 years.

“My goal is to continue gathering oral histories to fill in as many gaps in history as possible so future Latinos will have a visible, historical footprint,” said Dr. Karimi.

So far, Dr. Karimi has collected the testimonies of almost 70 prominent Hispanic leaders across Duval, St. John’s, Baker, Clay, and Nassau counties. In order to be featured, Hispanic leaders have to meet certain criteria such as having been active in the Northeast Florida community for at least 10 years and having created original works, among other requirements.

“Diversity is in fact, our city,” said Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan.

During the ceremony, Mayor Deegan proclaimed Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 as “Hispanic Heritage Month in Jacksonville” and encouraged all Jacksonville residents to take the time to learn more about the growing community. The Hispanic/Latino population has nearly tripled from 2000 to 2020, Deegan said.

“Through their hard work, they make our city better, they make it richer, and they make it culturally more diverse,” said Mayor Deegan.

According to the FCHCC, Jacksonville is now home to over 150,000 Latinos. Moreover, the Hispanic community has been showing a growth of approximately 5% per year.

“Jacksonville is proud to be home to a vibrant, growing, and thriving Hispanic-owned business community,” said Mayor Deegan.

From doctors to professors, to musicians and business owners, the Voces Hispanas exhibit features the contributions of 16 prominent Hispanic leaders.

Judith Rodriguez, an Emeritus Professor at the University of North Florida and Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist, is one of the honorees.

“You do what you do because you love it, and it just so happens that it becomes a little part of many things that become important,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez has launched Spanish-language media campaigns for obesity prevention and contributed to a Hispanic Health Series aimed at health practitioners and local leaders.

“It’s important for everybody to know that if you don’t have good health, nothing else really matters,” Rodriguez said.

Dr. Karimi said the Voces Hispanas exhibit is a work in progress, and it symbolizes the beginning of a greater effort to preserve, embrace and honor the legacy of local Hispanic leaders. She hopes to reach at least 100 testimonies.

“There is a place for everyone here,” Dr. Karimi said.

The Voces Hispanas exhibit will be on display only on Sept. 18 at City Hall. However, Dr. Karimi said she is working to take the exhibit to a different location for the remaining of Hispanic Heritage Month so that more residents get to see it.

Voces Hispanas honorees

Here’s a list of the Voces Hispanas exhibit honorees:

Ing. Clark Vargas, P.E.Ken AmaroDr. Norberto BenitezAnn Browning Masters, Ph.D.Andres del RosalDr. Andres GalloWilfredo “Willie” J. GonzalezTomas A. Jimenez Sr.Constanza López BaqueroJorge LopezIndira MoranJorge PeñaEd PerezJose “Pepe” PerezJudith RodriguezDerby Ulloa

Click here to learn more about the Voces Hispanas honorees.

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