Esta página no está disponible en español.
The Post Standard/Herald-Journal
Helping Hand For Hispanics; Puerto Rican Transplant Establishes Center In Auburn
By Dave Tobin Staff writer
May 27, 2004
Yolanda Rivera wanted a better life for her children, better than they could get in Puerto Rico. So in 1992, she moved her five children to Auburn.
Her sister, Awilda Gonzalez, had arrived here first, moving to Auburn with her husband, and praised the community where she had settled.
"She liked the town," Rivera said. "She said, "It's really good. It's quiet and it's a good place to raise kids. They have a good school.' I really wanted to give my kids an opportunity to have a good education."
Rivera, 47, recently started Auburn's first Hispanic Community Center, which aims to make things easier for Hispanics who've just arrived in the area. She could have used such a center, she said, when she moved here.
Rivera said the transition from Puerto Rico to Auburn is easier, in some ways, than some immigrant transitions might be. Citizens of Puerto Rico are citizens of the United States. Puerto Rico uses U.S. currency and the U.S. postal system. Once Puerto Ricans are in the United States, they can vote in presidential elections.
But learning English was a challenge for Rivera and her family, especially for her.
"It's a process," she said. "It's not easy. In the beginning, I watched TV and listened to the radio and didn't understand what they were saying. I used to carry a dictionary." All five of her children went through the Auburn school system. All five children and Rivera attended Cayuga Community College. Next fall, her four daughters will be enrolled at Oral Roberts University, in Tulsa, Okla. They aspire to be a pediatrician, a nurse, a spa owner and a psychologist. Rivera's son wants to work with computers.
In Puerto Rico, Rivera was a bank teller. In Auburn, she landed work as a teller at Cayuga Bank, then at Fleet Bank. Rivera studied English as a second language and received help from bank workers.
But struggling with language difficulties prompted Rivera to start the community center. She said she models some of her programs, like providing help with home buying or translators for doctor visits, on programs offered by the Spanish Action League, in Syracuse.
"I thought, why can't we have one (a Hispanic community center) here?" Rivera said. "Not everybody has a car, not everybody can get to Syracuse."
As might be expected, Rivera misses her father, still in Puerto Rico, and she misses Puerto Rican beaches.
"I used to go to the beach with my kids every Saturday and Sunday," she said. "I miss it so bad."
But she loves Upstate New York's seasons - even snow.
"I'd see all the movies, like "White Christmas,' and I always wanted to see snow, see the fireplaces and stuff," she said. "I love the colors of the trees, the change of seasons. It's not boring. It's always changing. But when it gets really cold, I want to go to Puerto Rico.
"I guess everybody does."
Hispanic Community Center
Where: Ss. Peter & John Parish House, 169 Genesee St., Auburn
Hours: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday
Services: The center offers English as a Second Language, Spanish for English-speaking people, translation services, computer classes in Spanish, seminars on how to buy a house, motivational seminars and other programs, looking for the best way to help the Hispanic community get better job opportunities and training.
For further information: 252-5721