Mi gente: A who’s who of the 2019 NAHJ conference in San Antonio

Every year the NAHJ Latino Reporter features the people from around the convention. These are the 2019 Gente de NAHJ.

‘It’s not just a job:’ Angelica Serrano-Román

Angelica Serrano-Román wears her patriotism proudly: In the Puerto Rican flag tattooed on her left arm. In the three banners in her room. In the other souvenirs she collects.

The 21-year-old journalism major at Universidad Sagrado Corazon was born and raised on the island and loves “the beautiful people” there.

She is no stranger to taking all the opportunities that come her way. Since living on her own when she turned 18, Serrano-Román has become the first Puerto Rican to receive the Facebook Journalism Project scholarship, founded the NAHJ Sagrado Student Chapter and received the Salazar scholarship, which helped her attend this year’s conference. 

Since January, Serrano-Román has been in her dream job — working as a fact-checker and social media manager for the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo (the nonprofit that exposed secret chats between former Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and his cabinet members) — since January — the only student working for the center.

“It’s not just a job,” said Serrano-Román. “It’s more than that.” 

Patsy Montesinos

Don’t wait to do good work: Melissa Adan

Before she even heard her name, Melissa Adan had tears in her eyes. On Friday afternoon, she received her first professional award – this coveted Al Neuharth Award – for her investigation on San Diego County migrant shelters. 

Despite not being part of the investigative team, she pitched the story to her editor and worked on her off time to put it together. It’s advice she gives to all young journalists: Don’t wait to do good work. Push forward now.

As a first-generation Cuban-American from Miami, Adan grew up not taking the press for granted. 

“That was something, you know, both of my parents respected so much in the United States,” said Adan. “Something that was taken away from them in their home country.”

Patsy Montesinos

A passion for music: Jose Ledezma

Jose Ledezma learned how to play the violin eight years ago. 

He’s been playing in a mariachi band for five years. You can see his love for music when he begins to play, a giant smile forms on his face.

He stands outside a restaurant on the River Walk, wearing a white shirt with a navy blue bow and an embroidered vest. It’s sweltering hot, but he isn’t sweating.

It’s more than a job for him. It’s a fun way to practice his passion for music.

Breybinda Zurisaday Alvarez

Ambassador of San Antonio: David Martinez

David Martinez, a San Antonio native, wears a bright yellow shirt and a khaki hat. A name tag reads: David Ambassador.

That’s not his last name; it’s his job. Martinez moved back to his hometown eight years ago and became an “ambassador” for the seventh most visited city in the country.

Martinez enjoys meeting new people — he even met someone from Moldova, Russia. 

The most difficult thing about the job, he said, is keeping up with new things, knowing about daily events and being informed about expansions along the River Walk.

Breybinda Zurisaday Alvarez

A DACA journalist: Yunuen Bonaparte

Yunuen Bonaparte has always been nervous about her status. 

A DACA recipient, Bonaparte immigrated from Mexico to the U.S. when she was 12 with her two brothers and her parents. Although Bonaparte has a work visa, her DACA status continues to worry her.

“It has been more difficult for us to plan for the future,” said Bonaparte, a freelance photographer and photo editor at Narratively.

She believes the Trump administration’s actions and rhetoric towards immigrants has brought uncertainty in her life. Although Bonaparte has family members who have dealt with similar situations for about 20 years, she feels attacks towards Latinos are now more direct and more aggressive. 

“It affects your day to day, your personal life,” Bonaparte said. “But I’m Mexican, so I don’t let it affect my professional life.”

Laura Romero

Wooden crosses depicting the Virgin Mary: Veronica Segura

Tucked away from the River Walk, constantly passed by boats of tourists, is Veronica Segura’s Texas souvenir gift shop. 

Segura hails from the East Coast, but has lived nearly her whole life in San Antonio and considers the city her home.

Despite growing up in a military family, Segura considers herself relatively laid back when it comes to problems at her shop. When a customer drops a couple of souvenir keychains in a dark corner Segura waves it off, telling her to leave it — she’ll pick it up later. 

Segura’s favorite item in her shop are wooden crosses with colorful hand-painted depictions of the Virgin Mary. When the seller drops them off, Segura sits on the gift shop floor and examines every cross. She chooses which ones to hang in her shop, taking part in the delicate process of scrutinizing Virgin Marys to make sure their eyes are perfect.

“(I have a) type A personality. I’ve always got something going on,” Segura says, standing in front of her hand-picked mosaic of crucifixes. “Always! I don’t know how to handle idle time.” 

Stefania Lugli

‘Money. Dolla, dolla bills:’ Desmond Court

Inside Rivercenter Mall, Desmond Court balls hard.

Sitting on a low bench at the ShoeMGK! Stand, Court scrubs furiously at a woman’s cherry red sneakers. He works quickly and efficiently, polishing and wiping away. He sweet-talks the woman whose shoes he’s cleaning, trying to convince her to buy the $60 MVP kit to maintain the shine as he rubs a rag across the toe of the sneaker. 

He leans back in his seat and throws his hands up with the satisfied smile of completion. He’s worked at ShoeMGK! since March, and he knows he’s good. 

The customer, with gleaming soles, walks away empty-handed.

When asked what he enjoyed about working at the rickety shoeshine stand, Court speaks bluntly. 

“I don’t really care about shoes, I’m a salesman,” Court says. “Money. Dolla, dolla bills, y’all.”

Stefania Lugli

Patsy Montesinos is a 2019 NAHJ Student Project participant. She is a senior at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where she is studying journalism with an emphasis on Spanish-language broadcast. She spent her summer in Colombia producing a documentary about Afro-Colombians. Reach her at pmontes2@live.unc.edu and on Twitter at @montesinospatsy.

Breybinda Zurisaday Alvarez is a second-year graduate student at the University of Arkansas, studying journalism. Breybinda has interned for a Spanish-language newspaper, La Prensa Libre in Springdale, Arkansas. Reach her at brey2412@gmail.com and on Twitter at @breybinda.

Laura Romero is a 2019 NAHJ Student Project participant. She is a junior at American University with a major in communications, law, economics and government. She is an intern at ABC News with the investigative and justice department. Reach her at lr6714a@student.american.edu and on Twitter at @lauraromero1207.

Stefania Lugli is a 2019 NAHJ Student Project participant. She is a journalism student at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, where she is also the school’s NAHJ chapter president. Lugli is an intern for the GroundTruth Project, a nonprofit news organization. Reach her at stefanialuglis@gmail.com and on Twitter at @steflugli.

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