Latinas Translate for Victims’ Families


The now iconic photo of Orlando Latinas and others who volunteered to serve as counselors and translators for Pulse club victims’ families, many of whom do not speak English. From left, Nancy Colón (in glasses), Sami Haiman-Marrero, Nancy Rosado, Zoe Colón (in red) and Zoraida Riós Andino (far right). /photo courtesy of Christina Marie Fernández

After the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, friends started asking friends, “What can I do?” A group of Latinas, some of them mental health counselors, got together to provide grief counseling and translation services to the families of victims awaiting news about their loved ones at the Hampton Inn Hotel near the Orlando Regional Medical Center.

Nobody asked them to do it. They just did. Such is the can-do spirit of many in Orlando’s Hispanic community. The group has formed a coalition of over 20 Hispanic community groups to coordinate assistance to families of the shooting victims under the name Somos Orlando. The coalition plans a press conference Monday, June 13, at 2 p.m. at the offices of the Hispanic Federation on West Colonial Drive to announce its efforts (more info below).

“Some of  these people do not speak English,” said Nancy Rosado of Misión Boricua, a Puerto Rican community group that is part of the coalition.

Kicking into Action

Rosado was upset, saying that media were paying more attention to the gay component of the Pulse shooting at the expense of the Latino angle. Many Pulse victims are likely to be Hispanic because the club had hosted a Latin night. Rosado, a retired New York City police officer and a trained social worker – who happens to be gay – said she felt the Hispanic victims were being downplayed.

Law enforcement has released the names of seven victims and, thus far, all are Hispanic. In a twist of fate, Rosado and others originally were scheduled to do voter registration at Pulse the night of the shooting, but decided to postpone it for another weekend.

A police officer during the 9-11 terrorist attacks in New York City, Rosado soon was joined by community activist Zoraida Ríos Andino, also of Misión Boricua and who is always on hand for a community protest. Rosado also was in touch with Zoe Colón, head of Orlando’s Hispanic Federation. On her Facebook page, Colón directed volunteers to the organization Two Spirit, which is looking for bilingual people. Text, do not call, 504-913-5746, if you want help.

Fill the Communication Gap

Meanwhile, Sami Haiman-Marrero, an Orlando marketer and volunteer, posted on Facebook, “To all community leaders in Orlando: I don’t want to get in the way of life-saving work, but if interpreters/translators are needed tell me where I need to go if I can help. As I understand it from friends, colleagues…many families affected are Latino and we need to assist with the communication gap.”  She joined the impromptu group at the Hampton Inn. (Full disclosure: I replied, “The hospital ORMC.”)

Nancy Colón, who teaches public administration and no relation to Zoe Colón, also showed up at the Hampton Inn hotel to help. She posted on Facebook: “My FB friends: calling all my bilingual friends who are counsellors [sic]! I’m on my way to give you an update.” She also is directing volunteers to Two Spirit.

Another community activist and organizer Christina Marie Fernández messaged me asking, “Do you know if they need volunteers anywhere? I can help translate or do whatever. I just want to help.” (I said I was on my way home.)

But Fernández found her way to the Hampton Inn as well, helping to coordinate efforts to launch the Somos Orlando coalition – and taking the photo posted with this article.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

What: Somos Orlando press conference

When: Monday, June 13,  at 1:30 p.m.; press conference starts at 2 p.m.

Where: Hispanic Federation, 523 W. Colonial Drive, Orlando

Why: To provide support and coordinate efforts to help local Hispanic families affected by the shooting at Pulse

Contacts: Christina Fernández (813-300-3747) and Sami Haiman-Marrero (917-589-4229)


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