Hispanic Heritage Month 2016

Back to Commemorative Programs

On Sept. 27 at 11:30 a.m. at the Council Office Building in Rockville, Councilmember Nancy Navarro hosted a panel discussion with Hispanic and Latino leaders in Montgomery County whose work in community development and business expansion has helped to shape our community. Panelists shared their life experiences and achievements and discussed issues of importance for Hispanic and Latino residents in the County. Those who shared their experiences with Councilmembers, invited guests and the public included: Marla Bilonick, Executive Director, Latino Economic Development Center; Angela Buitrago Neira, Senior Loan Officer, Life Asset; Gracie Rivera-Oven, Principal, GRO LLC; Cindy Monge, student at Montgomery College; and Armando Trull, Senior Reporter, WAMU 88.5 FM.

The theme of the 2016 Hispanic Heritage Month commemoration was “Honoring our Heritage. Building our Future. The Council event recognized the histories, cultures and contributions of residents whose ancestors came from the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, South America and Spain. The event included pre-recorded interviews with community stakeholders and a panel discussion focused on entrepreneurship, community development and socio-economic equality.

Last year 197,396 residents identified themselves as Hispanic in our community. To learn more watch this quick video provided by Montgomery County’s Planning Department: Hispanics in Montgomery County 2016.

To watch the full 2016 Hispanic Heritage Month Commemoration at the Council

Watch a quick snapshot of the Council’s 2016 Hispanic Heritage Month commemoration (In English)

El Mes de la Herencia Hispana en el Condado de Montgomery (In Spanish)

Watch: Snapshots of Hispanic Life in Montgomery County

Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month - Alejandro Carrasco

Hispanic Heritage Month - Carmen Hernandez

Hispanic Heritage Month - Marla Bilonick

Hispanic Heritage Month - Angela Neira

Hispanic Heritage Month - Maria, Luis, and Augustina

Hispanic Heritage Month - Nancy Lazo

Hispanic Heritage Month - Mónica Burgos

Hispanic Heritage Month - Cindy Monge

Hispanic Heritage Month - Luis Rosales

Hispanic Heritage Month Pictures

Pictures taken by: Pete Vidal | Click here for more pictures

Marla Bilonick

Executive Director
Latino Economic Development Center

Ms. Marla Bilonick became executive director of the Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC) in 2014. Prior to taking this position, she served as the organization's interim executive director. Ms. Bilonick rejoined LEDC in 2012, as director of small business development, after first working at the organization in 1999 as a microloan officer.

As executive director, Ms. Bilonick works with her team to provide high-quality bilingual training and technical assistance to entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Washington metropolitan area. In addition, she is leading LEDC's regional efforts to drive the economic and social advancement of low- to moderate-income Latinos and other area residents by equipping them with the skills and tools to achieve financial independence.

Before becoming executive director of LEDC, Ms. Bilonick worked for Seedco in New York. She worked with entrepreneurs who were impacted by the 2001 attacks of September 11. She helped refocus business owners to seek retraining which allowed them to grow despite the effects of the tragedy. As the former director of the Upper Manhattan Business Solutions Center, her team was able to work closely with community entrepreneurs in Harlem to launch and expand their businesses.

Ms. Bilonick is also experienced in international microenterprise development and microfinance through her work with Development Alternatives Incorporated (DAI). This job included work in Bolivia, El Salvador, Mexico, and her native Panama, and has enhanced her cultural sensitivity and awareness.

Ms. Bilonick is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She received her Master of Arts degree in International Economics and Latin American Studies from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

Ms. Bilonick is a member of the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development’s (CNHED) Board of Directors and is a member of the Montgomery County Comprehensive Economic Strategy Advisory Group. She was recently appointed to the National Housing Trust's Institute for Community Economics’ Board of Directors. She is a 2014 Aspen Institute Emerging Leaders in Microbusiness-ELM2 Fellow and is a graduate of the Citi/Opportunity Finance Network’s Leadership Program for Opportunity Finance at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. She also currently serves on Capital One Bank's Community Advisory Council and is a member of the Equity Committee of the Opportunity Finance Network (OFN)'s Board of Directors, and of the Policy Committee of the National Association of Latino Community Asset Builders (NALCAB)'s Board of Directors. She was named a Community Champion for the Washington metropolitan area by Capital One Bank in 2015.

Armando Trull

Senior Reporter
WAMU 88.5 FM

Mr. Armando Trull is an Emmy award winning Hispanic/Latino broadcast journalist with more than two decades of experience covering local, national and international news for TV, radio, wire services and the internet. He's currently a senior reporter at WAMU 88.5 FM. DC’s National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate is one of the most popular stations in the area. Mr. Trull contributes to NPR, Telemundo DC and El Tiempo Latino. He is the lead reporter on the race/ethnicity beat specializing in the U.S. Latino/Hispanic communities.

Mr. Trull has worked as anchor, reporter, field producer and news manager for WUSA9 TV, UPI Radio, Univision, Telemundo, the Miami Herald and the Hispanic Radio Network. His freelance experience includes CBS Radio, the BBC, Radio France International, NPR, Reuters and TV Azteca. He has reported from Argentina, Bahrain, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Norway, Peru, Puerto Rico and Spain as well as Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Raleigh, Richmond, Santa Fe and Washington DC. He has covered major political and athletic events from the White House to the United Nations, political conventions, the Olympics, the Pan American Games and the World Cup.

In addition, Mr. Trull is a director/producer of Spanish films, videos and radio. He writes engaging and culturally appropriate Spanish scripts, casts talent for the project, directs on-camera and voice-over talent and works with editors and sound engineers. His work has been seen on Discovery, Univision, Telemundo, TV Azteca and heard on top rated Spanish language radio stations. It has also been distributed to millions via the internet. He also has provided strategic/crisis communications counsel and media training to major public relations agencies, associations, NGOs and government organizations.

Angela Buitrago Neira

Senior Loan Officer
Life Asset

Ms. Neira has empowered more than 3,000 small business owners in the Washington metropolitan area and has helped to create more than 400 businesses of which at least 98 percent are still open and thriving in our community.

Originally from Bogota, Colombia, Ms. Neira obtained her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the Universidad Externado de Colombia and earned her master’s degree in Project Management from the American Intercontinental University. In Colombia, Ms. Neira had the opportunity to work in the financial sector with different banks and with multinational Microsoft, where she was in charge of one of the customer service teams.

Eight years ago, Ms. Neira immigrated to the U.S. and began working with financial entities. She quickly realized that Latin communities were sorely lacking financial education. As she began her job search in the U.S., Ms. Neira focused on jobs that permitted her to educate the Latin population and develop the financial futures of working families. Ms. Neira began working as a portfolio manager for the Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC) and was promoted to the position of small business manager for Maryland. In this role, her responsibilities included consulting and providing training to small business owners in the area. Thanks to these positions, for five years she was able to support and guide many small business owners in the start-up process and ongoing operations management.

After this experience, Ms. Neira had the opportunity to become involved with Ana G. Mendez University as its operations manager. This experience allowed her to view the Latin community from a different angle. She decided to return to the non-profit sector and continue her passion of helping immigrant small business owners achieve their dreams.

Currently, Ms. Neira is working with Life Asset as a senior loan officer and small business specialist. She continues her work with immigrant small business owners. A great majority of her clients are women business owners. This position has allowed her to continue developing two important areas of economic development--technical assistance and microcredit analysis for small businesses.

Cindy Monge

Montgomery College
Picture of Cindy Rosales

Cindy Monge is a sophomore at Montgomery College who is majoring in Political Science and Communications. She is originally from Guatemala and has lived in Maryland for ten years. While a student at Blair High School she volunteered for the political campaigns of President Barack Obama, Vice Presidential Candidate Tim Kaine and Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez.

Ms. Monge mentored members of the first wave of unaccompanied minor at Blair High School and was a field organizer and leader in the student advocacy campaign to pass the Maryland Dream Act with CASA de Maryland’s youth committee. She is a current recipient of the Herb Block Foundation Scholarship. Ms. Monge is also President of the Student Success Guides Club at Montgomery College, a peer-mentor club for students, and has recently become an intern with El Tiempo Latino.

Graciela Rivera-Oven


Grace Rivera-Oven is the principal and owner of GRO, LLC Public Relations. While Ms. Rivera-Oven’s professional life is focused on public relations and marketing, she is also a highly-respected and esteemed member of Montgomery County’s advocacy community. Some of the projects she has worked on include the County’s Wheaton Redevelopment Project, the Johns Hopkins University Science Center in Gaithersburg, and the opening of Ana G. Mendez University in Wheaton.

Ms. Rivera-Oven’s life-long commitment to helping others is evidenced by her various community activities and her roots in the County. She has served as a member of the Board of Directors for Leadership Montgomery, Casa De Maryland, and Friends of the Library. Ms. Rivera-Oven is also a member of the Latino Community Advisory Committee to Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger and serves as a member on the board of directors of Strathmore. In addition, she has served as co-chair the Montgomery County Latino Health Initiative Committee and chair of the Inter County Board (ICB). Over the last two decades, Ms. Rivera-Oven has served on numerous other committees, commissions and task forces related to child welfare, education, juvenile justice, domestic violence, and youth violence.

For 12 years, Mr. Rivera-Oven has hosted her own television program, Revista Semanal Montgomery. She uses these half-hour segments to educate and empower the Latino community with important information on everything from domestic violence prevention to the importance of voter registration.

Ms. Rivera-Oven received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Hood College in Frederick, Maryland. She is also a certified mediator.