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Monivette Cordeiro

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Recent Stories from Monivette Cordeiro

Photo by Monivette Cordeiro, orlandoweekly.com

The Puerto Rican Exodus to Central Florida



Two years ago, Betsy Franceschini was getting at least 100 inquiries a day to her Kissimmee office from Puerto Ricans desperate for a better life. Thousands of families fled the U.S. territory in 2015 for the metro Orlando area because of its crushing financial crisis and $72 billion debt. As the director of Florida’s regional Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration office, Franceschini helped new arrivals connect with agencies that could provide help. It was overwhelming then – but Franceschini says it’s nothing compared to the “unprecedented” exodus of Puerto Ricans who are now trying to escape to places like Orlando in the face of deteriorating conditions on the demolished colony in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Florida is expected to …


Image: Photo by Frank Weber, Orange County Government

Orange County votes unanimously to allow medical marijuana dispensaries



In a surprisingly strong move, Orange County commissioners unanimously voted this week to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county. Rules from the Florida Legislature dictate municipal governments only have two options regarding dispensaries – they can either ban them outright or regulate them like any other pharmacy. Mayor Teresa Jacobs called that choice a “poison pill” at a Tuesday public hearing on two ordinances to ban or allow cannabis treatment centers. Jacobs and other commissioners say they were trying to uphold the will of 71 percent of Floridians who voted to expand medical marijuana via a constitutional amendment in 2016. Orange County’s decision breaks the pattern of local cities, including Apopka, Winter Garden and Winter Park, …


Image: Stuart, Azam District 5, Orlandoweekly.com

Three Orlando city commissioners fight to keep their seats and fend off a slew of candidates in a contentious race



If you haven’t been paying attention, next Tuesday is your last chance to vote in the general election for Orlando City Council races. And if you have been paying attention, then you know this melodramatic political tale that one candidate described as “the Jerry Springer” show is finally coming to an end. Orlando Commissioners Jim Gray, Robert Stuart and Regina Hill are all up for re-election, and all have a cluster of competitors after their spots and $58,000 salaries, on the city’s top municipal board. In her first re-election bid, Hill, more than incumbents Stuart or Gray, faces the biggest challenge, going up against six other candidates for the district that goes from Parramore to MetroWest. All three incumbents have …


Image: Disney, Wikimedia Commons

Disney Employees Negotiate for a Wage Increase



Every paycheck Diana Geary gets from her $11.50-an-hour job as a ride operator at Animal Kingdom, the 41-year-old asks herself several important questions: How will she buy groceries? Can she split up this invoice she can’t afford into monthly payments? And who do does she have to call to get that bill pushed back? Like many hospitality workers who toil away for low wages in Central Florida’s tourism economy, Geary can’t afford much on her salary. She and her husband rent with her parents to make it work, though some of her co-workers have it worse – they live in cheap motels behind Disney on U.S. Highway 192 or borrow money from family for basic needs. Geary’s union Unite Here! …


Photo by Monivette Cordeiro,  Darcel Stevens, orlandoweekly.com

By night, Orlando’s drag queens entertain the masses. By day, they lead the fight for LGBTQ rights



By now, the majority of America knows the difference between being told, “Shanté, you stay,” and the heartbreak of “Sashay away.” Drag has been around for centuries, but no one can deny the Emmy award-winning show, RuPaul’s Drag Race, has managed to overwrite the mischaracterization of drag queens as deviants, replacing it with the real-life dreams of queer performers trying to artistically combine the perfect lashes, wig and glittery gown into an iconic look for the gods. But drag has always been about more than just lip-sync performances, expensive makeup palettes and dazzling costumes. For decades, drag activists have been at the forefront of the LGBTQ liberation movement – their eye-catching outfits make the protest march behind them hard to …


Photo by Monivette Cordeiro

Orlando’s Puerto Rican community gathers donations for hurricane relief



Karen Díaz de Suarez’s hands were trembling Sunday when she finally got the call from her brother that he and his family had survived Hurricane Maria. For days after the storm decimated buildings, flooded homes and knocked out power for the entire island, Díaz de Suarez didn’t sleep or eat much while she waited anxiously, to hear from her seven siblings who live in Puerto Rico. When her brother finally called, he said Maria sounded like a monster outside their home. While Díaz de Suarez waits to hear from the rest of her siblings, she and dozens of Central Florida residents were gathering food, water, monetary donations and other supplies in Orlando to send to Puerto Rico. As they worried …


Image: The Pluris plant at Wedgefield ,orlandoweekly.com

A private company wants to charge this neighborhood more for their water, even though some residents refuse to drink it



Pam DiMarzio’s three boys know the drill – when mommy sticks strips of blue painter’s tape over the bathroom faucets, the kitchen sink, the fridge and the shower, it means one thing: Don’t touch the water. DiMarzio and other residents have been fighting for years now against Pluris Wedgefield Inc., a private, Dallas-based company that has provided water to the neighborhood since 2009. Neighbors say the water can be cloudy and reeks of chlorine, and some, like DiMarzio and her three children, will only drink bottled water. After scores of complaints, some local residents were infuriated after learning the private company is actually trying to charge them more for water they won’t drink – Pluris filed documents with the Florida …


Photo: Mayor Teresa Jacobs, flickr

Florida’s opioid crisis is about to get deadlier. Orange County officials plan to fight back



In 2012, Stephanie Muzzy was driving around Orlando looking for the worst neighborhood she could find in search of prescription pills. She didn’t find pills, but the batch of heroin she tried from Lake Downey trailer park plummeted her into the depths of addiction and landed her in the Orange County jail. As the months turned into years, Muzzy was in and out of rehabs in Florida and Nevada, gaining and losing jobs, apartments, cars, cats and boyfriends along the way. Overdose after overdose, Muzzy was able to recover and is currently now on her way to getting better – but the same can’t be said for more than 2,664 Floridians who overdosed on opioids and never woke up during …


Photo via Sabal Trail Transmission, orlandoweekly.com

A Federal Appeals Court Dealt a Blow to the Sabal Trail Pipeline



A federal appeals court dealt a blow to the Sabal Trail pipeline this week after it ruled in a 2-1 decision that regulators did not adequately consider the environmental impact. Two months ago, the 515-mile Sabal Trail pipeline started pumping natural gas to plants owned by Florida Power & Light and Duke Energy Florida. The $3.2 billion project snakes through Alabama, Georgia and down to Central Florida. The pipeline tunnels under forests, wetlands, ranches, rivers and several pieces of private property to sit above the Floridan aquifer, which is the primary drinking source for millions who live in the state. Environmental advocates have long said the pipeline could potentially jeopardize the source of clean water for millions and threaten Florida’s …


Image: Max Gracia’s funeral, courtesy of Willine Gracia, Orlandoweekly.com

Max Gracia died in Orange County jail after being bitten by a police dog. His family wants answers.



The last time Willine Gracia saw her son alive was at the beginning of August 2015. The mother says she took 22-year-old Max Gracia to the courthouse to get his passport because he was soon leaving for airline training. Days later, on Aug. 6, Max Gracia would be arrested by Orlando Police officers who accused him of robbing a convenience store with a gun. Gracia tried to escape by hiding in Lake Mann, but officers sent in a K9 after him. The police dog bit him multiple times before he was captured and taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center for treatment and then the Orange County Jail. Four days after his arrest, detectives told Willine her son was dead, killed …



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