Foursome of Westchester Women Honored During Hispanic Heritage Month

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State Sen. Peter Harckham honors four women for Hispanic Heritage Month who have made notable contributions to their communities. Pictured, from left, are Diana Loja, Ruth Ayala-Quezada, Karine Patino and Dinora Pacheco.

Four Latina women in Westchester were honored last Thursday by state Sen. Peter Harckham (D-Lewisboro) for outstanding contributions to their communities in commemoration of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Ruth Ayala-Quezada, Dinora Pacheco, Karine Patiño and Diana Loja were featured at a special ceremony at Sleepy Hollow Village Hall. Hispanic Heritage Month recognizes the accomplishments of the many Hispanic communities throughout the United States.

Ayala-Quezada is the owner of Carmel Taxi in Sleepy Hollow. A native of Peru, she arrived in the United States in 1986 with her parents, who a few years later bought the old Ernie’s Taxi in Mount Kisco.

Having worked for her parents learning how to dispatch taxis while going to school served her well when it came time to open her own business. She has worked with her sisters, and they take turns working and watching each other’s children, Harckham said.

“I’m very proud of my heritage and I’m proud to represent my community, and with hard work, dedication and being humble, you can succeed,” Ayala-Quezada said.

Pacheco was born in the Dominican Republic and her desire to help people led her to become a nurse, including serving on the health care staff of the Dominican president. After immigrating to the United States, she met her husband Freddy and moved to Peekskill.

She co-founded the Peekskill Hispanic Community Corporation, which helps feed families that face food insecurity, conducts certification classes and raises funds for international crises. Pacheco currently serves as its president.

“During the pandemic the organization has fed dozens of families through its dozens of food distributions and it’s volunteered to deliver food door to door to people who were quarantining,” Harckham said.

Pacheco’s dedication was evident when in one of her first roles with the Hispanic Community Corporation she helped find homes for 24 families displaced by fire.

Patino, an attorney specializing in immigration and criminal law, was born to Ecuadorian immigrants in Sleepy Hollow and has lived her entire life in Mount Kisco. She volunteered for Neighbors Link and worked with the old Mount Kisco Police Department in the Police and Community Together partnership that trained about 200 officers in cultural competency.

Patino also joined Putnam County Legal Aid Society in 2017 and served on Westchester County’s Police Reform and Reimagining Task Force. She is running uncontested in two weeks for Mount Kisco village trustee and will become the municipality’s first Latina board member.

Hispanics comprise nearly 40 percent of Westchester’s population but are severely under-represented in many careers, including law and government, Patino said. Hispanic women make up only 2 percent of the nation’s attorneys, she said.

“I hope to be not only a source of inspiration for younger generations, but as a source of support for my community and for the younger generation,” Patino said.

Loja immigrated at 12 years old from Ecuador with her parents. Today she serves as serves as a liaison between municipalities, communities and businesses to connect the public to cultural and educational workshops, social events, government assistance programs and nonprofit outreach.

As a liaison for the Village of Sleepy Hollow, Loja is passionate about providing assistance to residents on such issues as job opportunities, food assistance, shelter and loan applications. Loja launched her own Spanish news media platform to capture some of the pressing issues impacting the Latino population.

“It is for me a privilege to be Hispanic, number one,” Loja said. “This county has diversity of culture.”

Each woman received a special proclamation from Harckham for their achievements.

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