Veronica Isabel Dahlberg was born in Canton, Ohio. She is the daughter of Mexican and Hungarian immigrants who arrived in Cleveland over 60 years ago. Her father was a Hungarian refugee who met her mother in Mexico. She remembers her late parents, who became U.S. citizens: “My dad, a Hungarian immigrant who put on a suit when he voted, and my mother, a Mexican immigrant who joined him every Election Day.”
The family moved to Cleveland’s Buckeye neighborhood, populated by other Hungarian immigrants. From there, they moved to Ashtabula, where they built a home they owned for over 50 years. Her family was active in church and community, promoting Hispanic culture and helping people for many decades. This legacy was carried forward by Ms. Dahlberg, who has been active in the northeast Ohio Latino community for over 20 years.
Veronica is founder and executive director of HOLA Ohio, the organization she founded in 1999, which works to empower Latinos through leadership development, civic engagement and advocacy. HOLA has received recognition for its groundbreaking advocacy over the course of over 25 years.She also established the HOLA Business Association, a group of over 60 Latino-owned small-businesses who provide support. HOLA’s work has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Washington Post, and a three-part series on Telemundo.
In an MSNBC interview celebrating her immigrant rights advocacy for over 20 years, she said, “Over 20 years ago I worked on a two-week university project interviewing farm workers on Virginia’s eastern shore. I was shocked at the working and living conditions for these 5,000 Mexican immigrants picking America’s crops. I saw how pesticides, long hours in the blazing sun, low pay and decrepit housing took a toll on them. I ended up staying eight months trying to learn how to organize the workers to improve their lives, a commitment I carry on to this day.”
She has said that, “A typical day involves fielding calls from desperate immigrants in deportation, finding ways to keep them here with their families, whether through a public action or legal maneuver. I often feel like a circus performer spinning plates — each deportation case is high stakes and requires quick action. I contact elected officials, lawyers and other leaders daily. I drive to immigration in Cleveland, HOLA meetings, sometimes I drive 1,000 miles weekly. I delegate tasks to HOLA volunteers, and consult my mentors to strategize or get moral support.”
Recently, under her direction, HOLA Ohio developed a new, $2 million Hispanic Community Center in Painesville, which opened to the public on Cinco de Mayo, 2022.
She was awarded the Cleveland Cavaliers “DIFF Maker” award for HOLA in 2023, and previously recognized with the Crain’s Cleveland Business Woman of Note, and Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan award, and has been inducted into the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame.
Veronica says, “The biggest misconception about undocumented immigrants is that they are an economic drain on our country, and that immigration reform will negatively change America and all it stands for. As a patriotic American, I have come to appreciate their work ethic, love of family, and can-do attitude. I’ve seen how they are an indispensable part of our labor force and economy. They work hard and live frugally to build their American dream. When given the opportunity to learn and participate, they quickly adopt all that is great about America.”
Veronica Dahlberg will be inducted into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame Class of 2024 by…