DANR Leaders Meet with Ex-President Leonel Fernandez Reyna to Follow up on Collaboration Priorities


With President Leonel Fernandez Reyna

Washington, DC.– In the afternoon of Wednesday, April 26, 2017, DANR Chairman Nestor Montilla Sr., DANR Senior Vice President Alejandro Benjamin, professor at Bergen County Community College, Dr. Maria Teresa Montilla, President of the Institute for Latino Studies and businessman Fernando Aguasvivas met with Dr. Leonel Fernandez Reyna, former President of the Dominican Republic (DR) at the headquarters of the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (FUNGLODE) in New York City.

President Fernandez welcomed the officers and showed good disposition to continue, as he has been for many years, collaborating on matters of mutual interest for FUNGLODE and the Dominican American National Roundtable. The meeting was a follow-up conversation on advancing priorities of the Dominican Republic and its Diaspora.

DANR Senior Vice President Benjamin elaborated on strategies in higher education and particularly on the promise and role of community colleges in preparing and retooling the labor force in both, the USA and Dominican Republic.

“The idea of a collaborative project between universities such as Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo and Community Colleges in New Jersey and other states was discussed, and put on the agenda for consideration,” said DANR Senior VP Benjamin who, on behalf of Bergen Community College President, B. Kaye Walter, Ph.D., extended President Fernandez a formal invitation to speak at the college in the Fall of 2017. President Fernandez gladly accepted.

President Fernandez discussed the need to advance identity scholarship by promoting the essence of Dominicanness.

He invited DANR to join him and FUNGLODE in the coordination of advocacy fora throughout the United States; and also a two-part initiative that will go a long away in making information about all aspects of Dominican society available: a soon to-be-published Dictionary of Dominicanisms, and The Dominican Encyclopedia, an online clearinghouse of all things Dominican, from history to geography, and including culture – arts, music, cuisine, etc., that will serve as educational resource and general information to the world. This multi-purpose tool will assist in the efforts to counter international misinformation about the Dominican Republic.

Dr. Leonel Fernandez and Dr. Maria Teresa Montilla conversing after meeting.
Dr. Leonel Fernandez and Dr. Maria Teresa Montilla conversing after meeting.

Dr. Maria Teresa Montilla expressed to Dr. fernandez her concerns about the preservation of Dominican Republic’s national patrimony and cultural heritage.  Fresh from a trip to some historical sites, she shared her observations of the advanced state of deterioration of many historical sites, including the ruins of Ingenio Boca de Nigua, which she visited in the company of her husband Nestor Montilla, Sr. and Dr. Irma Nicasio, Professor at Universidad Autonomy de Santo Domingo.

DANR Chairman Nestor Montilla, Sr. proposed collaboration between FUNGLODE and DANR to conduct research about the first, and second generations of Dominican immigrants in the United States. A survey/census will bring forth an accurate account of how many such children are there, and where are they in the United States.

Considering that Dominicans seem compelled to permanent interaction with their motherland and vice versa, Chairman Montilla’s discussion with President Leonel Fernandez centered on the need for US-born Dominican children to ‘formalize’ their ties with the Dominican Republic by claiming their dual citizenship rights and privileges, including participation in the electoral process of both countries.

“As of 2013, US Census reports estimated the Dominican US-born population (806,000) was approaching parity with the Dominican foreign born population (982,000),” said Chairman Montilla.  “The average age of the Dominican US-born population was estimated at 15 and the foreign born at 43. In practical terms, by 2013 there were 180,000 US-born Dominicans under the age of 18 and 345,000 older than 18 years of age.”

“Children born in the United States with at least a Dominican parent have the option to acquire their Dominican citizenship at 18 years of age,” Chairman Montilla indicated.

“Tackling the hurdles of motivating the U.S. born Dominicans to claim and exercise their dual citizenship rights will be crucial,” said Chairman Montilla. “It will entail restoring confidence in the Dominican social, economic and political system as well as improving safety, civil rights protections and promoting good governance, to improve DR reputation in its Diaspora and in the international community.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, President Fernandez expressed his gratitude to DANR officers for their time and efforts on behalf of all Dominicans in the United States and the Dominican Republic, and commissioned Ms. Yamile Eusebio Paulino, FUNGLODE NY Office Director, to follow up on what was discussed and outline next steps.

The Dominican American National Roundtable is the only non-profit, non-partisan 501 (c) (3) Corporation based in Washington, DC advocating for the educational, socio-economic and political development of our diverse communities and all people of Dominican origin in the United States of America, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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Background information:

President Leonel Fernandez Praises DANR’s Initiative to Convene 100,000 Dominicans in Washington, DC in Summer 2012

Washington, DC (May 22, 2011). Dr. Leonel Fernandez Reyna, President of the Dominican Republic delivered a spellbinding speech at a forum held on Saturday, May 21st by the Dominican American National Roundtable at the Hispanic Society of America in Washington Heights, New York.

“We welcome President Leonel Fernandez addressing such an important issue to both Dominican Americans and Dominicans in the Dominican Republic, as is the relation between US Dominican Elected Officials and the Dominican Republic,” said DANR President Maria Teresa Montilla.

“Despite the disparity in geographical and demographic size, the affinity between the Dominican Republic and the United States draws on a long standing relationship and various historical facts, including a sizable migration that teeters on 2,000,000, at the present time. On a personal basis, the two nations also share strong ties, as an overwhelming majority of Dominicans have relatives and friends in the United States with whom they maintain close contact. In fact, the number of phone calls between the Dominican Republic and the United States ranks as one of the highest per capita in the world.”

“Developing meaningful connections between DR and US, in trade, education and other exchanges, including government, will strengthen that relationship and benefit both nations. The role of elected officials in this interaction is of paramount importance. I would say that the measure in which the Dominican Republic, as a country, can benefit from its relationship with its northern neighbor hinges on the level of political empowerment Dominican Americans can attain,” concluded President Feliciano before introducing President Fernandez.

President Montilla met with President Fernandez regarding DANR’s strategic plans, including a massive gathering DANR and its National Dominican American Council (NDAC) is currently coordinating to bring over 100,000 Dominicans living in USA to Washington, DC in the summer 2012 to celebrate their presence and contributions to America and the Dominican Republic.

“In doing the math, of the 2 million Dominicans living currently in the United States, DANR could bring at least 100,000 to Washington, DC,” said President Fernandez.

President Fernandez addressed the audience for about 40 minutes regarding the relation of Dominican American elected officials and the Dominican Republic. He offered an account of Dominican Republic’s advancements over the past five decades in demographics, trade and partnership with the United states.

He gave a glimpse of what the future holds for Dominicans in the United States and the Dominican Republic, and highlighted the role the Dominican American National Roundtable and Dominican American elected officials are playing in the socio-economic and political empowerment of Dominicans in the US and its territories including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

After his lecture, President Fernandez met with elected officials present including U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel, NYS Senator Adriano Espaillat, NYS Senator Jose Peralta, NYS Senator Gustavo Rivera, NJ Freeholder Tilo Rivas, NYC Councilwoman Julisa Ferreras, NJ Councilman Julio Tavarez, NJ Councilman Rey Martinez, NY Yonkers Councilman Wilson A. Terrero, NJ Commissioner Fiordaliza Frias, and among others NJ Commissioner Ruben Vargas.

The event concluded with a reception attended by DANR friends, dignitaries, supporters and members of the DANR’s Trinitarios Circle, a select group of friends and major supporters of the research and advocacy mission of the DANR. The list of dignitaries, leaders and academics attending included the Hon. Roberto Saladin Selin, Ambassador of the Dominican Republic to the US, Dominican Republic Counsul General Rafael Evans and several officers of the Dominican Republic’s executive cabinet including Alejandro Santos, Minister and Secretary of State of the Consejos Nacionales para las Comunidades Dominicanas en el Exterior de La República Dominicana (CONDEX), Dr. Ramona Hernandez, Executive Director of the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, Dr. Rafael Lantigua, Attorney Manny Matos, Attorney Peter Cedeno, Hon. Maria Luna, Cira Angeles, Nelson Valdez representing SEIU-1199, members of the National Supermarket Association, Nelson Eusebio, Rudy Fuertes, Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, President of Hostos Community College, and among dozens of others, Dr. Dilcia Granvilla.

Reflecting on the event, Trinitarios Circle member Cira Angeles, a well-kwnon business woman in the US said, “I attended the event with my son who is an alumnus of the DANR Fellowship program and he said to me: ‘Mommy, I am glad to see the direction the Roundtable has taken.’ The event was of the highest caliber, with power brokers present. We all felt empowered. For the first time I felt that we have indeed a powerful organization representing the interests of our community and we must continue to support it. Se sintió que estamos empoderados,” she said.

DANR officers present included DANR Chairman and Chief Development & Communication Officer Nestor Montilla, Sr. who was the master of ceremonies, Treasurer & NYS Vice President Luis Facundo, NYS Vice President Miguel Santana, and among other members, Amaris Guzman, DANR National Youth President.