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Monivette Cordeiro

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Recent Stories from Monivette Cordeiro

Image: Split Oak Forest by Monivette Cordeiro

Environmental activists rally to save the Split Oak Forest from an expanding toll road



Off the sandy path, Dave Wegman squats near a small burrow hidden behind scrub. “Careful,” he warns, pointing to the white sand circling the half-moon hole like a skirt. Gopher tortoises lay their eggs under the smooth surface, but it looks like no one’s home today. For several months, Wegman and other environmentalists have led treks through the Split Oak Forest Wildlife and Environmental Area, a nearly 1,700-acre preserve on the outskirts of Orlando’s Lake Nona community. Aside from harboring the threatened gopher tortoise species, Split Oak is home to Florida scrub jays, sandhill cranes, Sherman’s fox squirrels, gopher frogs and bald eagles. No hunting, camping or biking is allowed in Split Oak – only hiking and permitted horse riding. …


Image: photo by Daymon Gardner for Dear World, orlandoweekly.com

More than a year and a half after the Pulse massacre, first responders still struggle with the trauma



Every night for the past 19 months, Omar Delgado has had the same exact nightmare. He’s back inside Pulse. He’s dragging someone who’s still alive through blood and glass, away from the bodies strewn across the dance floor under the blinking disco light. Then he hears the puncturing sound of bullets in the air. Another officer screams, “Get down, get down!” He falls down as shots continue to ring, waiting for them to stop and for his body to wake up yelling and screaming. Delgado, a former corporal with the Eatonville Police Department, is now beginning to adjust to civilian life after being let go from his job in December, months after he was proclaimed a hero for responding to …


Photo by Monivette Cordeiro, orlandoweekly.com

Lack of housing in Central Florida for Puerto Rican Evacuees



More than 100 days after Hurricane Maria’s apocalyptic winds tore through Puerto Rico leaving floods, collapsed houses and bodies in its wake, the island remains shrouded in darkness. Half of 3.4 million U.S. citizens on the American territory are living without power three months after Maria made landfall on Sept. 20 – and many will likely remain that way until May. As Puerto Rico’s situation continues to deteriorate, hundreds of thousands of people have escaped to Florida for a respite from the despair. Instead, they’ve fled headfirst into the state’s affordable housing crisis. Local officials and nonprofits have been scrambling to accommodate evacuees who haven’t been staying with family members into hotels and temporary lodgings as they wait for relief. …


Photo by Monivette Cordeiro, orlandoweekly.com

Access to Healthcare for Puerto Ricans in Florida



Glorimarie Rodríguez knows staying behind in Puerto Rico’s darkness would have meant certain death for her 2-year-old son. In the week before Hurricane Maria hit the island, Matthew González was in the hospital with a bleeding ulcer and complications related to his disorder that required surgeries. After the storm, most of the island lost electricity and access to running water, including hospitals. Rodríguez knew Matthew needed the care of specialists immediately, and the chances of finding that during a humanitarian crisis were slim. So like thousands of others fleeing deteriorating conditions, Rodríguez and her toddler boarded a plane to Orlando. Unlike many who have made their way to Florida and remained uninsured, Rodríguez says she was able to get Medicaid …


Image: orlandoweekly.com

Tourism Campaign Declares Orlando’s Signature Dish



Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs gathered the region’s tourism leaders last April to ask a question with no answer: “Does Orlando have a signature dish?” Philadelphia has cheesesteaks. London has fish and chips. But Orlando? Despite being one of the world’s top destinations and home to unrivaled culinary talent, the City Beautiful isn’t known for a particular delicacy – our gastronomic delights in the eyes of visitors include gargantuan turkey legs, Dole Whip and butterbeer. So Jacobs proposed a meeting of the minds – the best local chefs in the city’s burgeoning restaurant industry would gather with our quasi-public tourism agency, Visit Orlando, to create a signature dish. After Jacobs’ call to action, local foodies proposed a number of native …


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 …



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