Remembering América Calderón

We, at CARECEN, had the privilege to enjoy America’s spirited personality,  learn from her wisdom,  and be inspired by her passion, her love of life and people and her commitment to justice. We were fortunate to have America be part of our team in 2005-2007. She managed both the citizenship & civic participation and housing programs at CARECEN and she certainly left her footprint here.

America established partnerships that are still standing today, such as our collaboration with HIAS Young Leaders, a group of committed volunteers, who regularly engage in conversation practice with our citizenship students. America believed in education and acknowledged the lack of support to immigrant students and parents of school age children in our region. She often led know-your-rights workshops for parents and conducted an SAT prep class along with assistance with applying for college loans during her time at CARECEN.

América Calderón.

América Calderón.

She always stood up to injustice and fought for the vulnerable. She was a great listener and had a true gift of bringing up the best and most powerful in people. She trained dozens of tenants testify before elected officials and to stand up for their right to fair and decent housing. She was a fierce language access advocate and represented CARECEN on the DC Language Access Coalition Executive Committee. She served as an interpreter in numerous community events facilitating access to information, assistance and participation to thousands of Limited English Proficient and Non-English Proficient immigrants.

She was also a tireless advocate for immigration reform. Just last year, America organized the parents she was working with at Thomson Elementary School to lead their own march to join the larger DC march and rally in support for immigration reform. She proudly wore her CARECEN t-shirt that reads “La Union Hace La Fuerza”. She led by that slogan.

Mauricio Alarcon, a friend of CARECEN and former Board member wrote about America in Spanish: “América tuvo por lo menos tres dichas notables: su nombre tan bonito, la suerte de poder servir a las personas que ama, y viajar junto a García Márquez, para contarle de los sufrimientos y peripecias de los que venimos a esta capital, a reinventar nuestras vidas. ¡Que te vaya bien hermana nuestra! ¡Gracias por tu dedicación!

Rina Reyes, CARECEN’s Senior Immigration Paralegal remembers America as “someone whose view of life was always positive. She was always available to give unconditional help and she had a unique sense of humor”.  Anabel Martinez, our Housing Paralegal, remembers her always having a smile on her face. “She took the time to teach me how to knit scarves on our lunch breaks – I’ll always be grateful for that”, she says.

“America taught me so much… I am the community advocate that I am today because of her. And in this past year, she taught me to always enjoy every single moment and keep my head up, no matter what life has reserved for me. Her laugh, enthusiasm and optimism were contagious. After she left CARECEN we stayed friends. She later became my Guatemalan mother. I will never forget our long reflection walks, our bike rides, trips to the beach, and our dates around a pot of ceramics in the making.”, said Ana Negoescu, our Citizenship and Civic Participation Director.

América Calderón, ¡Presente!” , a beautiful testament to America’s work and life, was published by Teaching for Change, where America worked most recently, organizing parents in D.C. Public Schools.

A memorial service and celebration of America’s life will be held on Tuesday, April 29, from 6-8 pm at Luther Place Church, in  Washington, DC.  The ceremony will not have formal eulogies, but will rather be an opportunity for reflection, during which anybody who is moved to say a few words, share thoughts or stories, may do so. According to America’s daughter, she did not want this to be a somber occasion, so please wear something bright, or at least something red, to remember her by.

Instead of flowers, you may contribute in America’s honor to the ArtSmart Summer Camp that she helped organize. Online donations can be made here  or can be mailed to the Luther Place Church, designated for the summer camp.

Luther Place Church

1226 Vermont Ave., NW

Washington, DC 20005


As Garcia Marquez says in “Love in the Time of Cholera”, “it is life, not death, that has no limits”. America will always live in our hearts.


America  Libertad Calderon (1950-2014) passed away last week, after a year long battle with cancer.



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