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Prominent Puerto Ricans of 2001

DECEMBER 28, 2001
Copyright © 2001
PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

Sila Calderón, Governor, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico’s first woman governor began her four-year term in January of this year and finished it with an excellent approval rating among island voters, in some polls as high as 59%. Her efforts to force the US Navy off its training facility on Vieques were overtaken by the events of September 11th and her efforts to gain Washington approval for US tax credits for overseas investors fizzled. She did make progress with the US Congress in gaining acceptance of equal treatment for Puerto Ricans when it comes to the apportionment of Federally mandated entitlements.

Manuel A. Casiano, Publisher, Caribbean Business

Manuel A. Casiano is Editor-in-Chief and publisher of CARIBBEAN BUSINESS, the weekly English-language business paper of Puerto Rico. Founded in 1973 as a business development newsletter, the paper has been the flagship product of Casiano Communications Inc., a $31 million Puerto Rican publishing empire. Casiano continues his hands-on leadership in the business, all the while championing Puerto Rican business.

Benicio Del Toro, Actor

Benecio Del Toro has had a remarkable and varied acting career which first brought him to prominence in the role as Fred Fenster in The Usual Suspects (1995) and reached the heights of his profession this year with the winning of an Oscar and Golden Globe for his portrayal of Mexican policeman Javier Rodriguez in Traffic. Del Toro once said, "When I started acting, they wanted to change my name because it sounded too Puerto Rican. They wanted to call me Benny Dell or Benny Delaware or something. I am Puerto Rican. They can’t change that by changing my name. I told them they’d have to live with my ethnicity or just not use me."

Rosario Ferré, Author

This prolific author added another title to her growing list of literary achievements with the publication of her new novel, Flight of the Swan, released in June of 2001. The yarn is set in 1917, when a Russian ballet troupe, with its star ballerina, Anna Pavlova, are stranded in Puerto Rico as a result of political upheaval in Russia, only to witness the life and political turmoil on the island at the time. Ms. Ferré, the daughter to the former Governor, Luis Ferré, stirred controversy when a previous novel, The House on the Lagoon, was written in English. Her response to critics was, "Why limit myself to one language when I can write in both? Why use one hand when I have two?"

Hans Hertell, U.S. Ambassador to Dominican Republic

On November 29th, Hans H. Hertell, a prominent Puerto Rican lawyer and businessman, presented to Dominican President Hipólito Mejía his credentials as the new U. S. Ambassador to that country. He will be responsible to increase the already strong relationship of the two countries in trade and will need to focus new attention on building the partnership for fighting international crime, terrorism, illicit drug trafficing and copyright piracy. He will also have to help bind the wounds of the many Dominican families who lost friends and relatives in the American Airlines Flight 587 airline crash and the World Trade Center terrorist attacks in New York.

Jennifer Lopez, Singer/Actress

Jennifer Lopez established herself throughout 2001 as the dominant Puerto Rican popular performer. In both the music and cine fields, she scored multiple triumphs, highlighted by her first live performances before an enthusiastic crowd in Puerto Rico. Her Puerto Rican shows were made into a TV network special which allowed the rest of the country to enjoy her dynamic performance. The super talented and recognizable star, known simply as J-Lo, also entered the fashion field this year with a line of expressive clothing in her particular style.

William A. Navas, Jr., Assistant Secretary, U.S. Navy

On July 12th of this year, retired US Army Major General William Navas, a native of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, received Senate confirmation as Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. In that capacity he will report directly to the Secretary of the Navy on force levels for the Navy and Marine Corps. Before taking on his responsibilities in the George W. Bush Administration, Gen, Navas was Chairman of American Veterans’ Committee for Puerto Rico Self-Determination, a non-profit and volunteer group working to gain a Congressionally authorized process for a permanent political status for the island’s 3.8 million American citizens. In that capacity, he constantly stressed the patriotic contribution made to the US Armed Forces by Puerto Rican men and women, many of whom he will serve in his new post.

Denise Quiñones, Miss Universe

This twenty-year-old beauty from the mountain town of Lares, Puerto Rico, set the May 11th audience attending the 50th Anniversary Miss Universe Pageant into a frenzy of joy when she was named its 2001 winner. This year’s event, featuring Puerto Rican pop star Ricky Martin, was held in the San Juan suburb of Bayamon, and the celebration – accompanied by auto horns, flags waving and dancing in the streets - soon spread to the entire island and to the many communities of Puerto Ricans on the US mainland. Ms. Quiñones interrupted her coursework in the communications department of the University of Puerto Rico, where she is an honor student, to take on her new duties as Miss Universe.

Bernie Williams, Outfielder, New York Yankees

Bernie Williams has come a long way since he played Little League in Puerto Rico against Juan Gonzalez (Cleveland) and Pudge Rodriguez (Texas). This year, he once again helped the Yankees win the American League pennant and led his team to the World Series, though they were unable to win the exciting seventh game and the World Championship. Nonetheless, Williams batted .307 this year and maintains a .305 career batting average, which will insure that he will be one of the best to ever wear the famous Yankee pinstripes.

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