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Latin Americans Make Canada A Better Place

Latin Americans Make Canada A Better Place

Posted by Bruce McDougall on March 24, 2014

Latin Americans in Canada have something in common with Canadians in Latin America: Even though thousands of them have moved far away from their birthplace, only a few people in their own countries know who they are. Yet many of these individuals have distinguished themselves in their adopted countries. Here are a just a few:

More than 15 years ago, a top-ranked jockey named Eurico Rosa da Silva moved to Canada from Sao Paulo, Brazil, to race at Woodbine Racetrack near Toronto. Since then, he has started in almost 7,000 races in North America, won two Queen’s Plates, emblematic of Canada’s most prestigious horse race, and recorded more than $55 million in purse earnings. Last year, at the age of 38, he ranked 19th in earnings among all North American jockeys.

In Vancouver, Carolina Ordonez works as a liaison between governments, corporations, mining subsidiaries and mining communities as vice-president of operations at Advance Central Communications Inc. Born and raised in Bolivia, she founded Comunidad Boliviana en Vancouver, which promotes cultural and charity events for the city’s Bolivian community. She is an executive member of Women in Mining-Vancouver and serves on the boards of the Vancouver Latin American Film Festival, the Latincouver Society and BCC Water Network, a non-profit organization that helps improve food security in Bolivia through ecological irrigation and sanitation.  “Promoting the strengths of Latin-American culture and business opportunities is one of my greatest passions,” she says.

In Edmonton, Max Caravan founded The Latino Canadian Chamber of Commerce and is currently its first President. Born in 1967 in Santiago, Chile, he moved to Edmonton at the age of 20 and founded the city’s First Hispano-American Scout group while studying engineering at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. Now a licensed real-estate salesman, he also owns and operates The Professional Cleaning Services company, which provides building maintenance for commercial properties in the city, and contributes freelance articles to El Hispano Newsmagazine and La Prensa newspaper.

Another Chilean ex-pat from Santiago, Rodrigo Bascuñán, is a writer, former editor-in-chief at Pound Magazine and associate producer with the CBC in Toronto. In 2007, Bascuñán and co-author Christian Pearce published Enter The Babylon System: Unpacking Gun Culture from Samuel Colt To 50 Cent, an investigation of gun culture in the hip-hop community, which was nominated for a Governor General’s Award.

Colombians may recognize the name of Gil Penalosa, 59, a former Commissioner of Parks, Sport and Recreation for the City of Bogota. Under his leadership, the city created 200 parks and set up a program called the new Ciclovia, which currently enables more than 1 million people on Sundays and holidays to use 121 km of Bogota’s roads for cycling, walking, running and skating.

Recently profiled in The Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper, Penalosa now lives in Toronto and has worked on urban revitalization projects in more than 150 cities as executive director of a non-profit organization called 8-80 Cities. The organization’s name is based on the idea that, if you create a city that’s good for an 8-year-old and good for an 80-year-old, you will create a successful city for everyone. “I love [Toronto],” he says. “It’s so multicultural that I feel at home. I never really have felt like that in any other city.”

Another Colombian in Toronto, Alex Betancur, works as a project manager for Hydrogenics Corp., a manufacturer of fuel cell systems for electric vehicles, such as urban transit buses, and hydrogen generators for industrial processes. A former president of the Canadian Colombian Professional Association, Betancur worked for almost five years as a senior business analyst for Toronto’s Transit Commission on a project to replace an aging mainframe computer system used to track bus maintenance.

The son of nightclub owners in Mexico City, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, moved to Montreal from Mexico City and now creates interactive artworks using robotics, real-time computer graphics, film projections, positional sound, internet links, cell phone interfaces, video and ultrasonic sensors, LED screens and other devices. At 47, he has installed his interactive creations in public spaces in Europe, Asia and North America and has sold pieces to The Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Tate Collection in the United Kingdom.

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