Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas and her staff took time to celebrate the rich and diverse contributions of Hispanic Americans in an event that blended music, dance, food and recognition of the contributions and rising prominence of Latinos in her office and across Chicagoland.
"We just completed the smoothest tax-collection run in the history of this office," Pappas said to the more than 100 celebrants. "It happened thanks to the dedication and long hours put in by hard-working members of our staff. That included the work of Luis Crespo, Mark Garcia, Carmen Porrata, Gladys Urbano, Emma Sandei, Deja Mendoza, Miria Natividad, Lus Ruiz, Joe Cavallero, Esperanza Ortega and Alex Ayala."
Crespo, a member of the information technology staff, was among those chiefly responsible for the most rapid computer posting of payments in the history of the office. Sandei, who was the Treasurer's Office's 1999 employee of the year, has been instrumental in managing the refund department.
Garcia, a member of the general office staff, helped coordinate the deliveries of tax-bill paper and related supplies and equipment for the main office and the six satellites so that office staff could serve the 1.6 million taxpayers without interruptions.
Others, including Urbano and Porrata, managed incoming phone calls, each answering hundreds of taxpayer inquiries.
The Hispanic Heritage Month celebration occurred in the Treasurer's main office while regular business was conducted. Special guests of honor included Cook County Commissioner Roberto Maldonado, Chicago 31st Ward Alderman Ray Suarez and Chicago 26th Ward Alderman Billy Ocasio.
Entertainment included performances by the Chicago-based Las Guitarras de Espana. The event also featured Flamenco dancing and the music of the Continental Mariachis. Food was provided by Lalo's Restaurant and Mimi's Churros, both of Chicago.
"Events and recognition like this demonstrate the growing force that the Latino population represents in our society, our popular culture, our politics and our every-day lives," Ocasio said. "That promises to change because in the future, Latinos are expected to become the largest minority group in America."