Victor Capellan at DANR:
Corporate America, Census box priorities

The new president of the Dominican American Round Table, Victor Capellan will be giving priority to getting corporate America more involved in the organization in order to expand their reach "and get more Dominicans on board".

Capellan visited the DR1 offices in Santo Domingo, accompanied by fellow DANR founder and current Rhode Island State Senator Juan Pichardo, and both shared thoughts on their goals for the organization. They both acknowledged that DANR is a very different organization today. From being a vision and meeting a need, "it has become in many cases more than expected," he points out.

Capellan acknowledged the work of his predecessor, Cid Wilson, whom he said "took a little start up and projected it out there." He commended the fact that the organization grew from a networking organization along the Eastern Seaboard of the US to reaching out to Dominicans in far out places, as far as Alaska. Capellan mentioned his predecessorís trust-building achievements, which encouraged leaders of all organizations to come on board in a crusade where he visited 35 states and Puerto Rico seeking to empower Dominicans to become more active in US civic life.

Current aims are to raise money and bring the Roundtable to its next level, expanding its role in bringing corporate and foundations to invest in DANR. Corporate America wants to market its products to the Latino community, and DANR seeks to increase their role as they strengthen their political ties and then can serve as facilitators for the corporate world that wants to connect with these political leaders.

Capellan stressed that he would also concentrate on strengthening the organizationís internal capacity and its programs, with an emphasis on expanding the Leadership Institute in Washington and internship programs.

The new president of DANR explained the organization now is a central location for people to leverage resources, where there is a Dominican voice in the Latino community in Washington, D.C., joining forces with larger organizations, such as the National Council of the Raza, the leaders in Latino policy in the US and other Latino organizations.

Juan Pichardo explained they are working as a networking organization, and serve as a forum for analysis for the raft of legislation that is being introduced to Congress. Pichardo is also the founder of Quisqueya in Action that seeks to empower Dominicans through education. Working as a coalition, Latinos have a stronger position. "At DANR, we donít lobby, but we get a voice," said Pichardo.

Likewise, on the table for increasing the influence of the Dominican community, are efforts to get a Dominican check box on the 2010 census form. The Census organization is changing the way information is collected and the boxes, and plans are to put together a team to work with the Census people at the 2007 Miami DANR Conference. The team aims to work with the Census people to encourage them to include a box for Dominicans. He said that statistical numbers of Dominicans in the US are similar to those of Cuba that already has a box. Other nationalities with boxes are Mexicans and Puerto Ricans. This effort is important, because numbers equal dollars for those communities.

Capellan explains the phenomenon of first, second and third generation Dominicans wanting to keep in touch with their roots. "More and more as we become a global society, being able to have a link with the Dominican Republic is going to help," he stated. He explained that there already is a financial link with expatriate remittances. "But there is lots in it beyond the emotional ties for Dominicans in the US," he explains. "The tie for the young people is in the advantage of learning Spanish and being bi-cultural, which makes them more marketable. This is practical for anyone who is interested in being part of a global society," he explains.

DANR is all about networking. "The conference is becoming an instrument to showcase what Dominicans are all about and to build a network," he points out.

To keep the ties alive, Capellan and Pichardo say they will continue their visits to the DR making them as frequent as possible. They see it as a way of developing better relationships, "creating synergies with the local young people, and how to get involved to make society better in the DR." "Being Dominican is more than just waving a flag and coming for two weeks to enjoy the open air and the beaches. It is about feeling really proud and knowing the struggles of the families," Pichardo points out.

They have been reaching out to young people on their trips, and connecting Dominican youth in the US with youth here.

"DANR started out as a grassroots effort, and today the work is to bridge the grassroots with professionals and Dominicans in US, connecting Dominicans who are successful in the US with those who are making their way up. You have to look at the whole picture; no matter where we are we are impacting on our people," Capellan explained. He sees DANR as a platform where professionals can step out and become role models and reach out to those that are less fortunate, to encourage them to get an education.

Keeping those ties with the DR is behind it all. It is about a combination of pride, cultural awareness of where you are from, connection to the roots, knowing your people and traditions. It is important in a personís development. ĎI am challenged by knowing that I came from a barrio in Santiago; it helped me to succeed," Capellan tells. "As for the Roundtable, it is being able to leverage the resources out there that we share in both places, with the eight million in the DR and the 1.5 million in the US," he summed up.

DANR at DR1 in Santo Domingo.
Thomas Murray, Dolores Vicioso, Robert Woolford and Leuvis Olivero of DR1 with Juan Pichardo and Victor Capellan (in suits and ties).