Wednesday, August 17, 2005

6 of Time's 25 Most Influential Hispanics 2005

Although Cuban-Americans constitute only 5% of the US Hispanics they constitute almost 1/4 (24%) of Time's Most Influential Hispanics 2005 or 5 times their proportionate number. These are those six:

Click here: Mel Martinez -- Page 1,8599,1093619,00.html


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Mel Martinez
The Maverick Senator

Posted Saturday, Aug. 13, 2005

Mel martinez is more than the nation's first cuban-American Senator. Because he is one of only two Hispanics in the U.S. Senate (the other is Democratic Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado) and because he represents Florida and its pivotal electoral power, Martinez is perhaps the U.S.'s most important Hispanic lawmaker. But when he was elected last fall, Martinez was widely regarded as little more than a lapdog for President George W. Bush. Martinez upset that image this spring, when he suggested that the U.S. close its controversial prison camp at Guant�namo Bay�and that the Administration has neglected Latin America.

That display of independence was welcomed by many in the Hispanic community as a sign that Martinez will stump for a broader swath of Latino concerns than just those associated with Miami's long-dominant Cubans. Despite its reputation as a conservative Cuban stronghold, Florida arguably has the U.S.'s most diverse Hispanic population, including burgeoning communities of Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and Central and South Americans�who are often at odds with the President on issues like immigration and education. More than any other U.S. politician today, "Martinez has the opportunity to speak for all Hispanics," says Dario Moreno, a political expert at Florida International University.

Martinez, 58, whose parents smuggled him at age 15 out of Fidel Castro's Cuba, hitched his star to the Bush dynasty in 2000, when Florida Governor Jeb Bush tapped him to co-chair his brother's presidential campaign. The President made Martinez his Housing Secretary and then, to help secure Florida in 2004, pushed his Senate candidacy by, among other things, giving him a prime-time spot at the Republican National Convention. Martinez may disagree with Bush at times, but he still enjoys the kind of palanca inside the Oval Office that few Hispanic pols before him have been able to claim.

Click here: Jorge Perez -- Page 1,8599,1093639,00.html


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Jorge Perez
The King of Condominiums

Posted Saturday, Aug. 13, 2005

He started out as the leading builder of affordable housing in Florida, but over the past 26 years, developer Jorge Perez has become the Donald Trump of the tropics, with about 50 condo towers in various stages of completion in South Florida, Fort Myers and Las Vegas. His company, the Related Group of Florida, had $2.1 billion in revenue in 2004, putting Perez at the very top of the Hispanic Business 500.

Some of his luxurious condos command as much as $15 million a unit, and his Vegas project is a five-star hotel and casino complex, modeled after Barcelona's famed Las Ramblas. But Perez says his primary mission is to revitalize downtown Miami, which offers little in the way of a residential community, and make it a cultural and business center for the Americas. "I see it as a great international city for traders and people who are always looking for business and possibilities in other countries�sort of like the Phoenicia of old, where everybody came together to do business and cultures merged," he says.

Perez, 55, who was born in Argentina of Cuban parents and came to the U.S. in 1968, is as passionate about politics and the arts as he is about building. An active Democratic fund raiser, he advised Bill Clinton on Cuba. His art collection includes work by such Latin American masters as Fernando Botero, Frida Kahlo and Roberto Matta, among others, and he avidly promotes art in public places. Everything Perez does reflects his philosophy that "Every time you make an act, not only are you defining yourself, but you're defining the world around you." The Miami skyline shows he's doing just that.

Click here: Cristina Saralegui -- Page 1,8599,1093626,00.html


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Cristina Saralegui
The Queen of The Airwaves

Posted Saturday, Aug. 13, 2005

When fans encounter Cristina Saralegui, the vivacious, sometimes ribald talk-show host of the weekly prime-time El Show de Cristina, they tend to ask for hugs, not autographs. Her mix of glamour, humor and kitschiness, developed over 16 years of doing the program on the Univision Network, endears her to viewers, though her penchant for the provocative has shocked them at times. On the air, she has revealed her cosmetic surgery, given condom demonstrations, bemoaned her menopause symptoms, even "married" gay couples. The latter event drew bomb threats and 1,500 protesters to her Miami studio. "I have gotten into a lot of trouble in my life for being brutally honest," she says. "Sometimes I put both my feet in my mouth. But like Elton John, I'm still standing."

She's doing better than that. Saralegui, who came to the U.S. from Cuba at age 12, now sits at the center of a Hispanic empire. Like Oprah Winfrey, to whom she is often compared, Saralegui, 57, has become a brand, which includes Cristina La Revista, the magazine she started in 1991; a talk show, which has won 11 Emmys and an estimated 100 million viewers worldwide; a Miami television studio; Casa Cristina, a furniture line; an upcoming clothing line; and a burgeoning acting career that has included an appearance on ABC's George Lopez. Her bilingual website receives an average of 50,000 hits a day. Her book Cristina! My Life as a Blonde is out in Spanish and English. And she runs a foundation, Arriba la Vida/Up with Life, which aims to educate Hispanics about HIV. "Kids can diet, stop smoking, but they will never stop making love," she says.

Click here: Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez -- Page 1,8599,1093632,00.html


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Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez
The Godmother Of Chica Lit

Posted Saturday, Aug. 13, 2005

For almost three decades, U.S. Latino fiction was a realm of magic realism, stuck somewhere among clich�d visions of grandmas, mangoes and the sea. Then in 2003 Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez put pen to paper and produced a hip, fast-paced novel about six young Latinas trying to get ahead at the office and in the bedroom. Call it chica lit. The six women of The Dirty Girls Social Club are smart, funny and, most important, professionals. They include a reporter, a rock star and a news anchor�none of whom ever gets absorbed in ponderous debates about the immigrant experience.

"I didn't want this to be �Oh, here we are with our mantilla, praying to the Virgin of Guadalupe,'" says Valdes-Rodriguez, who is of Cuban-Irish descent. "That's not my reality." Born 36 years ago into a middle-class family in Albuquerque, N.M., she lives there now with her husband and young son. She has a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and has worked as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.

Valdes-Rodriguez's view of U.S. Latino life has found a diverse and willing audience. Dirty Girls has sold more than 350,000 copies and is in development to become a series on the Lifetime network next spring. Her second book, Playing with Boys, has sold 130,000 hardcover copies. Two more women's novels as well as two works of teen fiction are in the pipeline.

Since Dirty Girls made its debut, similar works by Latina authors, like Hot Tamara by Mary Castillo, have found their way into bookstores. Valdes-Rodriguez hesitates to take any credit. "These writers have always been there," she says. "It's just that the industry wasn't ready to publish them." They're ready now.

Click here: Narciso Rodriguez -- Page 1,8599,1093641,00.html


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Narciso Rodriguez
The Magical Dressmaker

Posted Saturday, Aug. 13, 2005

It was one dress that put Cuban-American designer Narciso Rodriguez on the fashion map back in September 1996. He had been toiling away for years�under Donna Karan at Anne Klein, as a design assistant at Calvin Klein and as the designer of the Cerruti label in Paris�when his good friend Carolyn Bessette asked him to design her wedding dress. With one simple matte silk crepe slip, Rodriguez made John F. Kennedy Jr.'s bride both sexy and ethereal�a look that would become his fashion hallmark and the most copied silhouette of the past decade.

"He can cut a dress better than any designer," says Kalman Ruttenstein, fashion director of Bloomingdale's, who has known Rodriguez since he started his label in 1998. The only American to be awarded the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) award for best designer two years running, Rodriguez is often cited as the heir to the mantle of American sportswear's great minimalist innovators: Anne Klein, Halston and Calvin Klein. But unlike any American designer before him, Rodriguez, 44, draws on his Latino roots to imbue his designs with a distinctive sense of color, curve and verve.

Although his father, a retired longshoreman, didn't initially approve of Rodriguez's career choice, preferring that his son study law or medicine, today he sits in the front row at most of Rodriguez's shows, right alongside the adoring buyers and celebrities.

Click here: Ysrael Seinuk -- Page 1,8599,1093654,00.html


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Ysrael Seinuk
The Master Builder

Posted Saturday, Aug. 13, 2005

Look up as you walk the streets of New York City, and you can appreciate the work of Ysrael Seinuk. As a structural engineer, he is the man who makes tall buildings stand, responsible for the steel-and-concrete core that rises dozens of stories above the earth. In a career that has spanned almost five decades, Seinuk, 73, has plenty of high-profile Manhattan high-rises to his credit, including Philip Johnson's famous "lipstick" building; Trump World Tower, which holds the title of tallest residential skyscraper in the western hemisphere; and Norman Foster's angular Hearst Tower, now under construction.

A pioneering force in the complex world of tall-building engineering, Seinuk was an early proponent of using stronger concrete in New York, a feature that has allowed subsequent generations of engineers to go higher without having to go wider. "My work," says Seinuk, "has always been about stretching the horizon." When he arrived in the U.S. from Cuba soon after Castro's revolution, Seinuk had little more than $20 in his pocket, "my slide rule and my diploma from the University of Havana." The memory of those lean years keeps him committed to a variety of causes in his adopted hometown of New York City and beyond�from cerebral-palsy research to Cuban-American political efforts. "I came to a country that welcomed me," he says. "I make an effort to give back."

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