2020 Top Florida Latino Lideres Award Recipient
Dr. Rafael Fuentes, is a Latino Mover N’ Shaker from Tampa, Florida.
Latin Times Magazine: Where are you and your family from? What is your Hispanic heritage? Dr. Rafael E. Fuentes: I am originally from Salinas, Puerto Rico.
Latin Times Magazine: Tell us about what you do for a living and how you got into it Dr. Rafael E. Fuentes: I am a mental health professional and professor in the Tampa Bay area. I have been working as a mental health professional since 2001. I started to work in the field because I completed a degree in psychology, and I wanted to see if I like it. I must say that I have been working now for nineteen years. I love it more and more every single day. It is so amazing to hear people’s life stories. Besides, our community needs more bilingual (Spanish English) professionals. The community needs you.
Latin Times Magazine: In your industry, what would you say separates you from your competition? Dr. Rafael E. Fuentes: Well, I do not feel that I am competing. We are all working very hard to provide the best of the best to our Hispanic and non-Hispanic communities. I think I am just blessed to be recognized at this point. However, I am aware of this beautiful acknowledgment. I witnessed so many wonderful colleagues receiving this acknowledgment in the past. I am sure there is more to come. I am so blessed to witness so many wonderful people giving to the community a lot of love and compassion.
Latin Times Magazine: During Covid-19, tell us about your Biggest Challenge/obstacle and how you overcame it/or are overcoming it Dr. Rafael E. Fuentes: I think the biggest challenge is not to get contagious with the virus and to be able to keep a job. It breaks my heart to know so many people losing their job and unable to feed their families. It is hard breaking to know that some people are emotionally and financially struggling during this pandemic. We must remain hopeful and conquer fear out of these challenges.
Latin Times Magazine: Tell us about your most significant achievement and how you achieved it (Covid or non-related) Dr. Rafael E. Fuentes: I think my most notable achievements was to learn the English language and obtain a master’s degree and doctoral degree in my second language. I was not a fan of the English language; however, I made it happen when I decided to immerse myself in the USA’s couture. This is one of the reasons I decided to move to Tampa in 2001. This Jibarito Puertorriqueño was raised with limited exposition to the language. Often, I hear that all Puerto Ricans must know English. Unfortunately, that is not the case, and there is a misconception about it. As a result, I relate to our Hispanic familia that moved to this country with no or limited English. I often see people complaining and not valuing what they have. I witness so many students with a degree from their country of origin and limiting themselves for the lack of the language.
Latin Times Magazine: What is next for you? What can people expect to see from you? People can expect to see from me a beautiful smile full of kindness and love. I am open to the new challenges of adventures life will give me. I am always working on projects in the community. So, there is a possibility that you will see me continue doing it. Dr. Rafael E. Fuentes: To continue doing what I am doing and trying to be the best version of myself. Besides, to do things with love and not expecting something in return.
Latin Times Magazine: What words of encouragement can you offer? Dr. Rafael E. Fuentes: Enjoy life to the fullest every day and be grateful for what you have. Respect others and respect yourself. Do things with love. That is an essential ingredient to be healthy and be the right person. Listen to your gut feeling. It will help you to stay out of trouble. Lastly, do not miss the opportunity to get an education and learn the English language. Getting an education is one of the best gifts that you can give to yourself.
Latin Times Magazine: Is there anything I didn’t ask that you would like to share? Dr. Rafael E. Fuentes: I would like to share some words of wisdom. Listen to your elders. They mean well and want the best for you. Be respectful to your loved ones and do well. Be careful with karma. It can get back to you. If you play with karma is like playing with fire. You may get burn.
And to conclude, do not victimize yourself. Be proactive and stop blaming the world. If you continue doing it, you will be very successful in not moving forward.
Latin Times Magazine: What is YOUR Comida Latina favorita? Dr. Rafael E. Fuentes: This is such a difficult question because I love to eat. So, I must say the carne guisada (stew beef) with the rice and beans from my mother. I love the quesadillas from my beautiful gente from Mexico and the delicious arepas from my lovely people from Venezuela. After having this delicious food, I must have a nice “cortadito” from my amazing people from Cuba.