PBS and NPR for Southwest Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Hispanic Heritage in SWFL: Lucy Maldonado

Rachel Iacovone
Lucy Maldonado

We're now more than halfway through Hispanic Heritage Month, which extends from September 15th through October 15th.
So, in honor of those of Hispanic heritage here in Southwest Florida, WGCU is featuring local Latinos from across the region — from all sorts of professions, genders and backgrounds.
Today, you'll hear the story of a woman whose history led her to her career in finance with Lee County.

Hi, my name is Lucy Maldanado. I am proud to be a Hispanic American.

Hispanic Heritage Month really means that we can reflect back on the values of our community, the values of our diverse culture, and just the smiles and the memories and the food, the laughter, the playing of dominoes, the upbringing of children, the core values of hardworking Americans bringing forth into the community.

My mother, Lucy Cuevas, and my father, Santos Cuevas, both are Puerto Rican. My father passed away when I was 16. My mother will be 80 – God willing – in January, and she is our queen.  I have two children, Adriana and Angel Maldanado, and I am the fiscal manager for Lee County Board of County Commissioners.

I started off this career as a cashier about 17 years ago, and now, I’m the fiscal manager. So, through hard work and devotion and the values that my Puerto Rican parents instilled in me as a child, I was able to succeed.

My father was a strict man.  But, he actually moved down because the doctors told him he had a year to live, and we decided we would, as a family, move to Florida. When we moved down to Florida, it was a bit difficult for my mother because, in New York, everybody kind of spoke Spanish, but in Lehigh, that just wasn’t the case. So, I can remember, as a child, we spoke a lot of English to our mother, trying to kind of teach her. We actually made labels all around the house to guide her and teach her the language. 

My father actually lived for 13 additional years after the doctor gave him his one year of life to live. So, when I was 16, he passed away, and then, two months later, my brother tragically passed away.

Financially, our family was devastated. So, it was mom with three girls – young girls – all in high school. So, me and my sisters, we band together. We went to odd and end jobs. I can even remember selling candy out of my pocketbook, and we just made it work. Mom always taught us that you had to work hard. You had to work hard if you wanted to succeed in life.

Seeing us financially distraught really kind of geared me into the position where I’m in today, which is the fiscal manager for the visitor and convention bureau.

My son, Angel, and my daughter, Adriana – they are given the blessing of my mom caring for them while I’m working. She instills that same philosophy of hard work, devotion, care, helping others without ever expecting anything in return.

She is 79 years old and volunteers every Friday at her church to hand out food to the people that need within our community in Lehigh Acres. She’s just an inspiration. She’s an inspiration to me, to my children, to our family.

I think family is one of the truest core values that Hispanics have. You know, we bond together at the most difficult time, and we lift each other up. We are happy when we succeed, and we respect one another.

Overall, being Hispanic motivates other Hispanics to grow within the community, within their roles. They’ll ask you, “So, what did you do? How did you get here?” And, that’s when you sit down and you explain to them, you know, the core values that we have as Hispanics, they just need to pull from that and bring it forward to succeed in their careers. So, I hope that I do the same thing for my children, so that they can see that hard work, dedication, definitely does pay off in the long run.

Rachel Iacovone is a reporter and associate producer of Gulf Coast Live for WGCU News. Rachel came to WGCU as an intern in 2016, during the presidential race. She went on to cover Florida Gulf Coast University students at President Donald Trump's inauguration on Capitol Hill and Southwest Floridians in attendance at the following day's Women's March on Washington.Rachel was first contacted by WGCU when she was managing editor of FGCU's student-run media group, Eagle News. She helped take Eagle News from a weekly newspaper to a daily online publication with TV and radio branches within two years, winning the 2016 Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Award for Best Use of Multimedia in a cross-platform series she led for National Coming Out Day. She also won the Mark of Excellence Award for Feature Writing for her five-month coverage of an FGCU student's transition from male to female.As a WGCU reporter, she produced the first radio story in WGCU's Curious Gulf Coast project, which answered the question: Does SWFL Have More Cases of Pediatric Cancer?Rachel graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University with a bachelor's degree in journalism.