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Latino History Month: NJ Hispanic History

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Franck de las Mercedes

Franck De Las Mercedes standing in front of a splattered canvas

Franck de Las Mercedes was born in Nicaragua.  His experience with growing up during the Nicaraguan Revolution and the graffiti of New York is a source of inspiration for his work.  He is best known for his Priority Box Art Project, which has been featured in classrooms, across the globe, and as close to him as the LED Lights of Times Square.   Franck's "Post No Bills" egg was part of the Fabergé Big Egg Hunt NY 2014. A citywide public exhibit that featured over 250 large egg sculptures – placed throughout New York City, each designed by globally renowned artists and designers. On October 2014, The New Jersey Senate and General Assembly passed a joint legislative resolution honoring Franck and the Peace Boxes Project, commending him for his meritorious record of service, leadership, and commitment in the arts and his community.He also participated in the Sing For Hope Project in 2018.

He has been a resident of Weehawkin, New Jersey.

Hilda Hidalgo

Left: Former Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Right: Hilda HidalgoWhile she was not born in Newark, Hidalgo had a major impact on the city with her activism in the Puerto Rican and Latinx community and work as a professor at Rutgers-Newark.  After her retirement from Rutgers, she served as assistant commissioner of education for the State of New Jersey from 1994 to 1995.  

She was a lesbian, whose political efforts where motivated by the needs of LGBT+ people of color.  On September 22, 2010 Rutgers-Newark honored her memory and service to her community by naming a street on campus Hilda Hidalgo Way.

Paquito D'Rivera

Paquito D'Rivera, a middle aged man of cuban descent, playing an instrumentPaquito D'Rivera is a Cuban born clarinetist, saxophonist and composer of classical and jazz music.  Tutored by his father, who was friends and played music with musicians like Duke Ellington, began tutoring him at age five.  D'Rivera has played with countless Philharmonic groups, won 12 Grammy awards, as well as several other honors.  He is one of the only artist who has won awards for both classic and contemporary jazz.


D'Rivera currently lives in North Bergen, New Jersey.  

Elizabeth Vargas

Elizabeth Vargas in 2018

Best known for her work with ABC, Elizabeth Vargas was born in Patterson, New Jersey to a Puerto Rican father and Irish American mother. She was educated at the University of Missouri. She worked in television in Missouri and Chicago before moving to NBC.

She created an ABC special report based on the book The Da Vinci Code questioning many traditional ideas about Mary Magdalene.  She filled in for Peter Jennings when he was treated for lung cancer, and then with Bob Woodruff became a co-anchor to replace him. She soloed in that work when Bob Woodruff was injured in Iraq. 

Her 2016 memoir is called 'Between Breaths: A Memoir of Panic and Addiction'.  It is not directly available from the RCBC Library, but can be requested from an affiliate.

Carol-Lynn Parente

Carol-Lynn Parente in a blue suit.  She is surrounded by Grover, Elmo and another Sesame Street Muppet.Carol-Lynn Parente grew up in West Milford, New Jersey.  She graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in marketing and economics.   She started working on Sesame Street as a post production assistant.  Parente managed the animation and post production of the show's Elmo’s World segment, introduced to the show in 1998. She has also done similar work on Elmo's World: Happy Holidays and Kids Favorite Songs 2, both of which were winners of Telly Awards.

She was promoted to the position of executive producer in June 2005.  She has won multiple Emmy Awards for her work on the show. As senior producer, Parente shared the Emmy Award in 2006 for "Outstanding Pre-School Children's Series", the seventh award she has earned.

She currently lives in Union City, New Jersey.