What is your Hispanic Heritage: Cubana What area of Florida do you live in: Naples, Florida (SWFL)
What is your profession: Attorney at Law and Public Speaker
Meet Alina Maria and other Lideres at the Hispanic Heritage Celebration at 3rd Annual FORD Taste Of Latino Festival!
Latin Times Magazine: Tell us about what you do for a living and how you got into it
Alina Maria: I have the honor of celebrating 25 years as an attorney serving my clients and my communities in the differing and evolving chapters in my career. My greatest influence in my becoming an attorney was my Abuela, Angelita. Abuela would tell me stories about my grandfather, Antonio “Ocho” Garcia-Cuervo, who was a great attorney in Cuba and a community leader and positive impact in people’s lives. Ocho took great pride in his advocacy on behalf of his clients and his contribution to his country. He died in his 40’s but his lasting impact, not only on his loving wife, but those that knew and remembered him is why I choose this career path.
I am also greatly inspired and influenced by the legacy of my grandfather as he too was charismatic, jovial, friendly and a great speaker. Papi would tell me that I am very much like Ocho in my community advocacy and involvement.
It is my hope that, in my continuation as an attorney and now a public speaker, that I too can create a legacy that positively changes our communities and families lives, improve our political and cultural climates to one of collaboration and decorum and most especially to empower women, children and their families to realizing their potential and greatness.
Latin Times Magazine: In your industry, what would you say separates you from your competition
Alina Maria: I am not the stereo typical attorney. My career path has blessed me with opportunities to grow and expand my zone of expertise and to realize my passions and purpose. I began, as so many bright-eyed young attorneys, in private practice. Partnering and managing a small firm from 1999 to 2008, honing my skills as an advocate and litigator, all the while becoming more involved in my community through volunteer organizations, such as the Junior League of Greater Lakeland. It was through volunteering, seeing the positive impact and sheer joy on those we served, that my passion for greater impact in the community blossomed. And in 2009 I was hired as the Executive Director of Heart of Florida Legal Aid Society, a non-profit, where my community involvement, leadership and passion flourished. Collaborating with county government, other non-profits and private businesses allowed for my growth and influence in my community. It also brought me to Southwest Florida in 2014, when I became Executive Director of the local legal aid. After about 3 years with Lee County Legal Aid, I decided that I wanted to reconnect with my initial desire of assisting clients one-on-one and to reevaluate my passion and desires and step into my next chapter.
By being in both Social Justice Advocacy, private entrepreneurship and community leader, gives me the foundation to which a greater compassion and understanding in, not only just doing the work which I am hired, but an opportunity to make lasting change in my client’s lives and to expand my involvement in my community, my state and more.
Latin Times Magazine: During Covid-19, tell us about your Biggest Challenge/obstacle and how you overcame it/or are overcoming it
Alina Maria: Covid 19 has brought about many positive opportunities and blessings, such as reconnecting with old friends and family via zoom, evolving of the legal practice into the 21st century and the growth of my personal development and skills. Covid 19 has been challenging in dealing with loss of friends, isolation from family and dealing with the contradictory news and information.
My greatest challenge was not being able to see Mami y Papi for months. Having older parents and not being able to celebrate Papi’s 88th birthday, or Mother’s Day, etc… and feeling very isolated from my sister and friends. Zoom and Facebook have been great resources in keeping up and speaking with people, but does not replace being in the warmth and security of my family and friends.
In terms of business, being shut down for 2 months, was challenging for the lack of clients and new income but it was a great opportunity for me to add services and modalities in providing counsel and representation. My estate planning practice grew in 2020 thanks to people realizing the importance of planning and ensuring that they themselves are taken care of and securing their families stability. I experienced great results by pivoting my practice by offering virtual services which afforded me the opportunity to expand into other counties in Florida.
I also was able to transform my speaking opportunities from being live on stage, to appearing on Podcasts and on-line venues. Many tools which I will continue to perfect in my practice going forward.
Latin Times Magazine: Tell us about your biggest achievement, and how you achieved it (Covid or non-related)
Alina Maria: I would say that my biggest achievement was becoming the first minority and Hispanic President of the Junior League of Greater Lakeland in 2007/2008. My years with Junior League provided the basis, the learning and growth in various areas withing the organization and community as a leader. This organization opened my eyes to my potential. I learned event planning, budgeting, public advocacy, speaking and leadership through the various roles I took part from chair of a fundraiser, treasurer and financial VP to President. Most importantly, I was part of a larger organization internationally, learning from powerful, like-minded women from around the country and to realize a passion for taking community advocacy and social change. My involvement with the Junior League paved the way for me to become director of legal aid, be an active participant with the United Way of Central Florida and taking leadership roles within the partner agencies of central Florida. And now being an executive board member of Florida Prosperity Partnership, a state-wide organization, whose mission is promoting the financial stability and empowerment of families in Florida.
Latin Times Magazine: What is next for you? What can people expect to see from you?
Alina Maria: After taking a step back these past few years and reconnecting with myself and creating a successful legal business, I am now ready to step out on a grander stage. I am launching a new business which, combining working with groups, advocacy and speaking,
Since I was a little girl, I have been called to speak with people, seeing the good in them and believing in their potential and greatness. Now, especially, when we are at a pinnacle time for women, Latinos and as a country, my becoming more visible as a leader bringing about change for women and children and getting promoting civility, change and collaboration to get to the root causes of disenfranchisement and bring unity through open communication which promotes common sense and refocusing our political and social systems to the true purpose of working for the greater good of our citizens and country and reverse the motion from this divisive, intolerant and hard party line views on both sides of the political aisles.
People can expect to see an empowered feminine leader stepping forward to positively inspire, influence and change people’s lives. Which includes a greater voice in the political realm as well.
Latin Times Magazine: What does being a U.S. Citizen mean to you?
Alina Maria: I am extremely proud, blessed and honored to be a Citizen of these United States especially in our current times. My parents are the embodiment of the American dream. Cuban refugees fleeing Castro’s tyranny in 1962, leaving everything behind to embark on a new and scary journey with no money, three changes of clothes and a baby (my brother) on my mother’s hip. My parents witnessed the lies, atrocities and murders of fellow Cubans who defied Castro (much which has been seen a few months ago by the protests in Cuba). To come to this great nation and, through sacrifices, perseverance, and learning, created an incredible life and opportunities affording myself and my two older siblings to gain great educations, enjoy freedoms that so many other countries do not enjoy.
To be a US Citizen is to enjoy the very freedoms which were created 244 years is extraordinary and a gift. This is the beauty of our country…it was created on an ideal. An ideal of freedom, growth and evolvement. Our Constitution, Our Bill of Rights is a living document which proscribes and transforms to each generation all the while providing the strong foundation and truth of liberty. I’m not discounting the history of our nation, or the struggles and challenges people have endured. But what I am in awe of and extremely appreciative of is the genius of those brave souls in 1776 to come together in a celebration of collaboration to go beyond personal egos and derisions, and uniting in voice, ideals and heroic inspiration the very foundation which we stand on today. An ideal which grows and evolves with time, but the basic tenets are very much intact.
We enjoy freedoms that so many sacrifice life and limb and obtain. We enjoy liberties that, as a people, we should celebrate rather than destroy. When I see our Flag and hear our Anthem, I well up with joyful emotions knowing that I am in the greatest country in great appreciation of the sacrifices of those before us and the loving faith I have in the promises of this great land.
Latin Times Magazine: What is your opinion of the state of affairs in our nation?
Alina Maria: I am passionate about our country and the foundation in which we stand. However, our politicians, those that work for “WE the PEOPLE”, have forgotten their true purpose. Since 2005 I have seen the political climate both in Congress and on state level devolve into a me vs. them attitude, going on party lines and, within the parties themselves, strict obeyance to leadership lines. The divisiveness, antagonistic, unbending totalitarian views are grossly and extremely touted by those same people. We have come to an age that polarization, cancel culture and tyranny of fear is pulling and stretching the very fibers of this country and its people.
I absolutely have faith in this Country and our people. And I believe that we can once again be that great beacon of light! We must look to ourselves, get away from the victimhood and demonizing of one another, and open our dialogues from blame, fear and hate to civility, diplomacy, and collaboration. Looking back through history we see the diplomacy and collaborative spirit in our political figures, though debating a party viewpoint, will come together and set aside their political initial and negotiate, discuss and come together for the greater good. Foster a rational, diplomatic culture wherein WE all bring common sense back to the forefront of government and do right by our citizens and country. It is time for our peoples to unite.
I am a big proponent that our country is in great need of a true united third party, one that brings the vast majority of people tother that believe in the ideals of this nation and want to work together to grow and propel our country into the next century, give our children the very opportunities, liberties and joy many of us had. To allow our children to grow up and realize their own unique zone of geniuses and to follow their dreams and become who they are. To be realize more success than the generations before them, to prosper and to be collectively and individually the greatest examples of what our great nation allows.
Latin Times Magazine: What words of encouragement can you offer?
Alina Maria: The power to create one’s existence lies within each and every one of us. Cultivating and growing love for ourselves first with appreciation of our roots, culture and spice for life will open the way for our true greatness to shine.
Latin Times Magazine: Is there anything I didn’t ask that you would like to share?
Alina Maria: I’m a continuing work in progress and am very grateful for this opportunity. My heritage and my family are the greatest blessings. I have learned a great deal from my past experiences, have been fortunate to experience the great gift of forgiveness for myself and my past and am enthusiastic to step into my light and share my passions and purpose in empowering others.
Latin Times Magazine: What is YOUR comida Latina favorita?
Alina Maria: MMMM….so much to choose from….but I have to go to one that is simplest and my fondest childhood memory: Fresh baked Pan Cubano con mantequilla dipped in Café Con Leche made by Abuela with lots of sugar. YUM!