Sí Se Puede 2018: Wisconsin’s Most Powerful Latinos, Part 5


    This is the fifth of a five-part series. Part one is available here, part two is available here, part three is available here and part four is available here.

    Dr. Sylvestra Ramirez founded one of the only bilingual physical therapy practices in Wisconsin, Physical Therapy of Milwaukee. Sylvestra was raised on the South side of Milwaukee and graduated from Saint Anthony’s school. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, she went on to complete a Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree and a master’s degree in Women’s Health from Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science. She and her business have earned many awards and honors, including the Business of the Year award from the Wisconsin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in 2014 (just its second year in business), Milwaukee’s Business Journal 40 Under 40 Award, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science: College of Health Professions Distinguished Alumnus of the Year 2016, .Department of Physical Therapy Alumnus of the Year Award for 2016, and in 2017, Wisconsin Outstanding Minority Business Enterprise Award.

    Eugenia Podesta is a connection-maker! With husband Spencer Hudson, she owns and operates the appropriately-named Synergy Coworking on Madison’s West Side. She also serves as a Director on the Economic Empowerment & Entrepreneurship team at Vital Voices Global Partnership, an international women’s leadership NGO based in Washington, DC. Prior to joining Vital Voices, she led tourism development projects in Latin America and served as an advisor on strategy, project design, management, sustainability, and partnerships and business development. She has worked with the UW-Madison LAIP program to provide legal assistance to incarcerated persons and managed public policy and literacy programs for the Hispanic/Latino community with the United Way. In addition, she served as a Spanish instructor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Edgewood College.

    Erika Colón is president of the Greater Milwaukee chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, whose mission is to impact community health and wellness, mentor youth to encourage pursuit of careers in nursing, and to inspire, guide, and promote Hispanic nurses to seek higher education and leadership roles within health care systems and the nursing profession.


    Mariana Rodriguez started the UMOS Latina Resource Center, Milwaukee’s first bilingual center for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, with one other advocate in 2001. In that first year, 75 women came through the doors looking for help. Now, a staff of more than a dozen intervenes to help more than 570 victims in crisis situations each year, providing immediate crisis support, safety planning and emotional support. Additionally, the organization serves more the 250 children and families in the court system providing victim advocacy to ensure victims receive justice and perpetrators are held accountable. In 2012, then-FBI Director Robert Mueller (yes, that Robert Mueller) recognized Mariana with a Community Leadership Award for her fearless advocacy for women and girls.

    José Madera has served in different capacities as an Assistant Dean with the Student Academic Affairs division of the College of Letters and Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the past ten years. He is currently serving as the Director of SySTEM (Synergy in STEM), an initiative that aims to expand historically underrepresented student participation and graduation in the STEM majors within the College of Letters & Science. Prior to that, he served as the Assistant Director of the Academic Advancement Program, a campus-wide academic support program deeply committed to the retention of all students and enrichment of their academic experience at UW-Madison. Born and raised in Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico, Madera developed his musical abilities while performing with groups specializing in Afro-Caribbean rhythms in a variety of cultural and classical events throughout the island. Madera is a founding member of BENTETÚ, Trova Viva and MadiSalsa, one of Madison’s favorite Latin bands.

    Araceli Esparza is a poet and teacher that explores art, writing, and healing. She was born and raised in Madison and her parents were migrant workers from Guanajuato, Mexico, from where she still gathers her strength. Araceli is very active in the domestic violence movement and has also volunteered her time teaching English as a Second Language and works to connect poetry to everyday people through presentations and readings. She is the founder and owner of Wisconsin Mujer an outreach and engagement company and is also a member of the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County. Araceli was named Women to Watch for 2015 by Brava Magazine. This summer she assisted Community Shares of Wisconsin to grow their membership and cultivate their new racial justice initiative. Araceli Esparza also serves as Madison College’s entrepreneur-in-residence where she is helping first-generation college students access their entrepreneurial potential.