August 31, 2013

Woman defies odds to help other Latinos

She overcame a diagnosis of paralysis to found the organization that she'd envisioned while ill.

By SIMON RIOS The Standard Times

(Continued from page 1)

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Mariangeli Vargas, founder of the recently-formed Puerto Rican and Latin American Art and Culture Committee, stands in the office at her New Bedford, Mass., home, in June.

The Associated Press

Vargas quickly showed signs of recovery, getting permission to continue and spending the next year and a half in physical therapy. It was time to make good on her promise.

"I made a promise that if one day I come out and I walked again that I was going to do things in a better way to help others, so they don't go through what I (did)," she said.

She began reaching out to the Latino community and spreading the word of an organization she hoped to form. She said many Latinos were without a proper sense of unification. There was poverty, immigration troubles and a lack of services that kept them apart, and she saw herself as a catalyst for change.

She remembers the day that would result in the formation of her group, the Puerto Rican and Latin American Art and Culture Committee. Twenty people attended and several would assume leadership positions in the newly founded PRLAACC.

"It was a good boom, a good explosion of ideas," Vargas said.

The majority of attendees were Puerto Rican and called for a Puerto Rican organization. But Vargas argued that similar efforts had failed in the past, with many nationality-based groups forming but none of them lasting. In order to succeed, the new group would represent all Latinos.

Asked if she feels she's delivered on her promise, Vargas was humble yet confident.


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