By Michelle Bedoya Barnett, JBA President
What do Sofia Vergara, James Rodriguez, Shakira and Circuit Judge Tatiana Salvador have in common?
It’s not their soccer skills (although I happen to know Judge Salvador’s son is a very talented soccer player), their acting skills or their dance moves (although I’ve heard the judge can salsa).
Rather, it’s that their roots all stem from the country of Colombia.
Each year in the U.S., we observe Hispanic Heritage Month, from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
It gave me great pleasure to present The Florida Jurist: Recognizing Hispanic Excellence Award to Judge Salvador on Sept. 17 to kick off Hispanic Heritage Month.
She was recognized, along with circuit judges in Broward and Dade counties, Palm Beach and St. Petersburg.
With keynote remarks from state Supreme Court Justice John Couriel, the inaugural virtual event was a coalition of Bar associations including the Broward County Bar Association, Broward County Hispanic Bar Association, Hispanic National Bar Association, Cuban American Bar Association, North Dade Bar Association, South Palm Beach Bar Association, Palm Beach Bar Association, Palm Beach Hispanic Bar Association, St. Petersburg Bar Association, Puerto Rican Bar Association, Escambia Santa Rosa Bar Association and Jacksonville Bar Association.
In preparing my introduction of Judge Salvador, I was reminded of how credentialed she is and was overcome by the same pride I had in 2012 when I had the privilege of serving on the Judicial Nominating Commission for the 4th Circuit and reviewed her application for the bench.
In addition to outstanding academic credentials, including graduating with honors from The Bolles School, Duke University and the University of Florida Levin College of Law, Judge Salvador’s professional career mirrors the success of her academic achievements.
She is the first Hispanic circuit judge in Clay, Duval and Nassau counties. I appreciate the path that led her to serve our circuit and the people of this great state.
Over the years, I have heard my parents (also from Colombia) speak of the many sacrifices they endured coming to America and charting a path in a new country with a new language and a different culture.
These are sacrifices that they endured for their childrens’ benefit more so than for theirs.
Despite their many sacrifices, I have no doubt that our parents would tell you that leaving their homeland and moving to this country is the best decision they ever made.
This month, I proudly celebrate my Hispanic heritage. The celebration is one of gratitude for the bravery of my parents and gratitude for a country and a people who have allowed immigrants, like Judge Salvador’s family and my family, to contribute in a meaningful way while still embracing our Hispanic culture.
It also is gratitude for the many people along the way who have embraced our cultures and celebrated our differences and gratitude for immigrants, and children of immigrants like Judge Salvador, who have seized the opportunities presented to them to contribute in a positive way and help make this country the land that it is.
Michelle Bedoya Barnett is a founding partner of Alexander DeGance Barnett, focusing on labor and employment law.