The Day's Larrañeta is honored as Latina of the Year
New London — Izaskun E. Larrañeta, deputy managing editor of The Day, was honored Thursday as the Latina of the Year by the Hispanic Alliance of Southeastern Connecticut and La Latina Network.
Larrañeta, 41, who is known as "Sassy," is a first-generation American who was born and raised in the Bronx and became the first member of her family to attend college. Her mother, Arminda Larrañeta, is from Quebradillas, Puerto Rico. Her father, the late Francisco Larrañeta, was from Pamplona, Spain.
She accepted her award, including a proclamation from the Secretary of the State's office, during a reception Thursday night at the Hispanic Alliance's headquarters on State Street.
"I would like to say to you that our honoree tonight represents the American Dream at its finest," Deputy Secretary of the State Scott Bates said. "She's a mentor. She's a leader, and she's somebody who fought for everything she's got."
Larrañeta delivered her remarks in English and Spanish, which was her first language. She said that while attending Fordham University, she learned that Latinos can be writers, scientists and entrepreneurs. She said she discovered the works of authors Pablo Neruda, Gabriel García Márquez and Esmerelda Santiago, realized that Latinos already had accomplished more than she was aware and developed an interest in journalism.
"News stories on TV showed my community in a negative light, when I knew that wasn't an accurate picture. I could just sit and complain, or be part of the solution," Larrañeta said.
After achieving her bachelor's degree, she went on to study newspaper journalism at Syracuse University, where she received her master's degree. She joined The Day as a town reporter in 1999 and covered multiple beats, including courts, police and breaking news. She wrote about timely events including eminent domain in New London, the state's last death penalty execution and uncovered a mortgage scam that led to two high-profile convictions in federal court. She has received numerous accolades, including two Publick Occurences awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association.
She was promoted to deputy managing editor in 2016 and oversees The Day's newsroom, guiding reporters and daily coverage.
Larrañeta addressed some of her comments Thursday to Yamilka Medrano, a college-bound New London High School senior from the Dominican Republic who was presented a scholarship by the alliance.
"I want to tell you that you will face many struggles that your non-Latino counterparts won't have to face," Larrañeta said. "Your smarts will be questioned. Your background will be questioned. Your worth will be questioned. In college, you may be the only Latina in the classroom. I know this because I went through it. And guess what? It will be OK. Take whatever negative energy you encounter, and use that as fuel to keep you motivated. Remember, their words are not a reflection of you but are certainly a reflection on them."
Larrañeta accepted the award from Dr. Mariana Salas, a family physician who was the first person to receive the alliance's Latina of the Year award in 2017.
"Izaskun Larrañeta is an accomplished Latina leader and professional whose significant contributions to journalism and our community sets a new standard of excellence for all to aspire," Salas said.
Alejandro Melendez-Cooper, director of the Hispanic Alliance, said he has been impressed by Larrañeta since meeting her when she joined The Day almost 19 years ago. He said Larrañeta is tough and talented but has "a good heart."
Timothy J. Cotter, managing editor for The Day, said that with everything going on in the world today, it is a great time to honor someone like Larrañeta, the daughter of two immigrants who went without many things growing up in an apartment in the Bronx, who learned from her parents the importance of working hard.
"Sassy is an example of why diversity in the workplace and the community are important," Cotter said. "Her life story is much different than most of her co-workers' and she brings that life experience to every conversation and decision in the newsroom. We are a better newspaper because of it."
Larrañeta is married to Brian Gudelski and is the mother of two young children.
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